My original plan was to take a look at the remaining Jim Henson Hour specials but I am unable to find copies of them. So, instead, let us finish off The Storyteller. The previous episodes I looked at were a real treat, introducing us to unfamiliar but intriguing fairy tales. However, the remaining episodes seems to be alterations of folk tales that we have all grown up with.
Up first, is "Hans My Hedgehog."
Of course, my favorite story of all!
Okay, so a hedgehog riding a rooster probably won't seem very familiar to you as a classic tale. But, as we go through the story, you'll find that this is nothing more than a variation on "Beauty and the Beast."
We begin with a "be careful what you wish for" type of situation wherein a barren woman wishes she could have a child, no matter how ugly it may be. Unlike the Beast, who is a human cursed, Hans is born, already half-human, half-hedgehog.
Unlike most hedgehogs, the prickly fur of the creature can be soft at times. Still, people mock and ridicule the creature when he's young, and fear him as he grows older. Hans tries to maintain manners, but his beastly nature often gets the best of him, and after his father kicks him out, he must set off on his own...via rooster.
As was the fashion at the time.
As we enter into Beauty-Beast territory, we find a lost, wandering king who must take shelter at Hans's hideaway during a storm. Hans is a courteous, though hesitant host and the king offers Hans any reward he desires. Hans decides that the first thing that the king sees upon returning to his kingdom shall be the gift. The king, assuming the first thing he'll see would be his dog coming to greet him, agrees. However, when the king returns home, his daughter instead races ahead of the dog, and Hans claims his new prize.
The king later decided to outlaw stupid fairy-tale rules to avoid similar issues in the future.
Hans is quite mean towards his new bride, and she dares not get close to him, lest he prick her. However, she discovers that at nighttime, Hans sheds his prickly skin and becomes a man. When he leaves to wander the gardens as a human, she touches his fur and finds that it is soft.
I...can't quite tell is this is a metaphor for something.
Hans the Man catches his bride caressing the fur the next night, and tells her that if she tells no one about this ability for one more night, he can become fully human. The next day, however, the princess lets it slip to her parents and her mother tells her to destroy the skin in the fire in order to make the change permanent. The following night, the princess burns the fur and Hans writhes in agony before...well, he becomes a permanent human so I guess it all worked out?
It hurts so good!
And so, the Beast has become human and he can live with his beauty happily ever after! Comparing this story to the more well-known version creates a confusing message in the point of the story. In the original, the Beast was being punished for his evil ways and he had to prove that he was capable of being loving in order to become human again. Hans was always a beast, and he seemed resigned to the fact that he could never change.
Perhaps this was to imply that all men have a beastly side to them and, if his wife can confront him when he is at his weakest (in the bedroom), she can soothe him into a docile, tolerable human being. I wouldn't put it past these old folk tales to have such an outdated message, but it's hard to tell whether that was the angle The Storyteller was aiming for.
At any rate, it's a cool, though muddled twist on a familiar tale and it's making me excited for the stories that shall follow.