The True Bride

Last Update: 30 October 2000
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Jim Henson's The Storyteller originally ran on HBO in the United States between 1987 and 1989, and in the UK on Channel 4. Some episodes also ran as the second half of the Jim Henson Hour on NBC in the US.

All nine episodes of The Storyteller were written by Anthony Minghella, the writer and director of the Oscar-winning Best Picture The English Patient. Combining live action and puppetry, the shows featured such top actors as John Hurt (as The Storyteller, the narrator of the series), Brenda Blethyn (Best Actress Oscar nominee for the 1996 film Secrets and Lies), Jonathan Pryce, Joely Richardson and Miranda Richardson. Brian Henson puppeteered the Storyteller's dog. The music was composed by Rachel Portman, who received an Oscar for Emma, while the executive in charge of production was Duncan Kenworthy, whose credits include the hit miniseries Gulliver's Travels and the feature film Four Weddings and a Funeral.

The debut of The Storyteller on HBO produced a flood of critical reviews. The San Francisco Examiner called it "daring and fresh," and "a wonderful half-hour." UPI hailed the show as "enchanting and spellbinding," while the Los Angeles Daily News termed it "a witty, romantic and visually stunning treat for the entire family."

The True Bride, taken from an early German folk tale, concerns itself with Anja, the daughter of a cruel troll who delights in handing her impossible tasks, and then beating her when she fails to complete them.

One day, the Troll commands Anja to stuff sacks full of feathers. But when he returns, he finds she has done it, miraculously. Annoyed, he gives her another impossible job: to empty a pond using a spoon filled with holes. Again, when he returns, he finds the task done.

Unknown to him, a mystical lion has been doing Anja's work for her while she sleeps.

Now furious, the Troll commands his daughter to build a palace by nightfall, using only the rocks in the surrounding fields. Desperately, Anja asks the lion for help again, and falls asleep, waking up to discover a magical palace in the distance.

The Troll is astounded, and he travels to the palace with Anja. After chaining her up he discovers a sumptuous meal set on a table, and starts to gorge himself, then goes searching for wine. He opens a door -- and tumbles to his death at the bottom of a dark cellar.

The mystical lion appears to Anja and admits his complicity: "I made the palace; I also made the door."

Anja is now transformed into a beautiful princess. Word spreads around the country, and suitors flock to see her. A year passes, and one day Anja looks out of her window and sees a man working in her garden. They fall instantly in love with one another.

"And why not?" The Storyteller asks. "She was a servant turned princess - why not a gardener turned prince?"

Their wedding day beckons and the Prince sets off for the village - but he doesn't return. Heartsick, Anja goes to look for him, and soon finds herself wandering, lost, in the snow. The mystical lion reappears and puts her on his back and transports her to a far-off land. He gives her three packages containing gifts.

Soon, Anja meets her beloved, riding a horse - but he doesn't recognize her! And then Anja sees a Troll - not her Troll, but another - his daughter, the Trollop! ("Twice as ugly and twice as foul.") The Trollop is riding off with the Prince!

Anja's resolve strengthens and she sets off after them. On the way, she meets some townspeople who tell her the Prince is under the Trollop's spell. So Anja hatches a plan. The Trollop loves gifts. So Anja takes out the first of her packages, and pulls out an endless stream of silken scarves. The Trollop is lured out of her castle.

On the street below, Anja tells the Trollop these gifts cannot be sold, only exchanged, and reluctantly the Trollop agrees to let Anja spend the night with her Prince. But alas, when she goes to the Prince's bedroom, Anja discovers he's been given a sleeping potion, and he won't wake up.

The next day, she brings out her second gift - an endless supply of gold coins - and persuades the Trollop to let her spend a second night with the Prince. Again, she finds him drugged; worse, she has been told that the Trollop's power over him is so great that he no longer has any memory of his past life.

Fortunately for her, the Trollop's prisoners have overheard her loud lamenting, and when the Prince is out walking the following day, they call to him and tell him about his visitor.

Anja's last gift is an endless supply of glittering jewels. That night, when she arrives for her final vigil, the Prince wakes up and tells her not to cry.

Anja kisses him, and the evil spell falls away. At the same moment, all of the precious gifts disappear from under the hands of the Trollop. Furious, she runs upstairs, only to discover the lovers have gone as well.

She chases them into the countryside, but the mystical lion puts Anja and the Prince on his back and carries them home, then tosses his mane and slips away.

But they're still not safe! The Trollop has found her way into the palace! She hears Anja and her beloved behind a door - hurls the door open - and plummets to her death in a deep, dark cellar.

Anja and the Prince live happily ever after, produce lots of children, and keep a stone statue of the lion which, they tell the children, can come to life at any time if needed. The children, of course, do not believe them.

The True Bride was filmed in March 1988 at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood.


John Hurt ................ The Storyteller
Sean Bean ................ Prince
Jane Horrocks ............ Anja
Frederick Warder ......... Troll/Trollop
Alun Armstrong ........... Troll's Voice
Sandra Voe ............... Trollop's Voice
Brian Henson ............. Storyteller Dog
Colin Hurley ............. Prisoner 1
Robert Hamilton .......... Prisoner 2
David Greenway.....
Robert Tygner............. The Lion
Mak Wilson.........
Michael Kilgarriff ....... Lion's Voice
And Fantasy Characters from Jim Henson's Creature Shop.



Produced by...............  Duncan Kenworthy
           ...............  TVS Films
Written by................  Anthony Minghella
          ................  from an early German folktale
Directed by...............  Peter Smith
Costume Design ...........  Ann Hollowood
               ...........  Polly Smith
Creative Supervisor ......  John Stephenson
Music ....................  Rachel Portman
Transmission dates........  1988 (NBC) (Jim Henson Hour)
                            23 July 1989 (Channel 4 UK)
Running time .............  30 minutes


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