Jim Henson's The Storyteller TV Poster Image

Jim Henson's The Storyteller



Top-notch, if dark, retellings of classic fairy tales.
  • Network: HBO
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1988

What parents need to know

Educational value

While not explicitly educational, this series exposes kids to classic fairy tales and the deeper lessons about courage, friendship, honesty that many of these tales underscore.

Positive messages

Since The Storyteller is based on classic fairy tales, positive messages such as "the faithful are always rewarded" are front-and-center.

Positive role models

The good are always rewarded and the bad always punished in these tales, yet as in all fairy tales, sometimes even good characters use trickery to prevail.

Violence & scariness

Though there is no blood or onscreen battles, this is a very dark show with a lot of disturbing imagery: giant man-eating griffins, a baby dropped over a cliff.

Sexy stuff

Many references to love and marriage, just as in old fairy tales. In one story, "Sapsorrow," the heroine is instructed to marry her own father, which may cause awkward questions.


Villains occasionally utter insults: "You blithering idiot!"

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters are sometimes shown drinking wine with meals, or using glasses of wine in a ceremonial fashion (i.e., a toast).

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Storyteller is one of the finest children's shows ever made ... for those with a taste for darker fare. The anthology series is based on classic fairy tales, from Grimm and other sources, so they have the requisite (usually offscreen) gory endings and harsh lessons. The narrator is fairly creepy and the costumes elaborately grim. For kids who can handle this kind of material this is truly excellent viewing for the entire family.

What's the story?

In a departure from the typically sunny fare produced by Jim Henson's Muppet-oriented studio, this anthology series, which uses live actors and animatronic puppets to tell European fairy tales, is rather dark and mysterious. John Hurt is the narrator, telling stories by the fireside to his faithful talking dog (Brian Henson); the narrator's telling then drifts into showing, with actors and human-voiced puppets playing the parts. Parents will probably recognize elements of the stories (\"Sapsorrow\" is sorta like Cinderella, but not exactly), but many of them are obscure, and not the Grimm versions. However, like Grimm, these fairy tales can be gory and harsh: One character is kidnapped by a troll, another one condemned to be boiled alive in oil. Good always triumphs over evil in the end, but there are often terrible trials to suffer in the meantime.

Is it any good?


THE STORYTELLER is one of the best children's shows, ever. Every aspect of the production is superior. Henson's studio spared no expense, collecting a dream roster of acting talent, giving them snappy dialogue and fantastic stories, and then polishing the visuals until they're positively magic. The makeup and costumes are stunning, every bit the equal of big-budget movies, with actors realistically turned into creatures like a shivering hedgehogs and terrifying trolls.

Speaking of that, The Storyteller's darkness and realism may be too much for young or sensitive kids: characters are put in mortal danger over and over again, and even the show's narrator is a bit creepy and seems to tell of the character's travails with just a little too much relish. But older kids, or ones who can handle a chill, will be stunned silent by the grandeur of these stories. This is a truly magnificent show and should be required viewing for the whole family, or anyone who believes that art and television are mutually exclusive.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the idea that good characters always prevail in fairy tales. How can you tell if a character is good or bad? Is it from what he or she does and says? Do "good" characters look or sound different than "bad" characters in The Storyteller? What about in real life?

  • Main characters often must undergo terrifying challenges, such as stealing a feather from a vicious griffin. Is that what a hero does? What other kinds of things does a hero do? What kind of things do you do in your life that are heroic? What about your mom and dad?

  • Magical beings often help the characters out of tight spots in The Storyteller. Who helps you get out of tight spots? If you had a magical friend, what would she help you do? Can real people rely on luck, fate, or magic when they are in trouble?

TV details

Premiere date:May 15, 1988
Cast:Brian Henson, Jane Horrocks, Jennifer Saunders, John Hurt, Miranda Richardson
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Character strengths:Courage, Curiosity
TV rating:NR
Available on:Streaming

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Parent of an infant, 2, 4, 5, and 7 year old Written bywilted6orchid November 4, 2012

Great for a dark and stormy night with the kiddos.

Saw these when I was a kid and bought them for my children to watch. Love the old fairytales and their moral of the story quality.
What other families should know
Great messages
Teen, 14 years old Written bygilly_boy April 9, 2012

It's good.

I've only seen one or two episodes and I already like it. All I can say is the way he tells his stories is incredible; give it a watch, I think you'll be impressed.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Kid, 9 years old June 24, 2012


ok fantasy with bad effects.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence


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