The Storyteller (1987) s01e04 Episode Script

A Story Short

When people told themselves their past with stories explained their present with stories foretold the future with stories the best place by the fire was kept for The Storyteller.
Yesterday, I was telling a marvellous tale of how the moon became round when suddenly, as I reached the best bit I couldn't remember what came next.
I still can't.
And staring at these expectant faces, I thought: "What will I do when there are no more stories in me" "when the well runs dry?" "What use is a storyteller without stories?" And then I remembered a time when that was exactly what happened.
Yes, yesterday I forgot a story.
And that is why I went straight out and gave my supper to a beggar.
Our supper.
Now, of course, this will strike fools as foolish and wise men as wise.
A fool eats his last potato.
A wise man plants it.
Apart from which everyone knows beggars are never what they seem.
You didn't plant a potato, you gave away our supper.
What was he if he wasn't a beggar? He was definitely a beggar.
There was a time, you see when I myself was forced to beg.
A bad time, a bitter cold when a great hunger was on the land and only the rich had bellies.
And I wandered, starving and wretched, and without a home.
Until one morning I found myself in a new kingdom in sight of a palace and in smell of a kitchen.
Drawn there by the sweet aroma of roasting.
And just about to knock, was I, when Go on, get out! And stay out of my kitchen! Good day to you.
I've boiled men for wasting my time.
I'm sure that's right.
Good policy.
Do you have any spare water? What? Just a drop will do.
I have a good stone here and with a little water, we'll make some soup for my friend and me.
Stone soup? Delicious.
I'm not a fool.
You can't make soup out of a stone.
Here's your water.
There's your fire.
Now let's see this marvellous soup.
Thank you.
How long is this going to take? It won't take more than an hour.
That's good.
It's marvellous water.
And our friend, the cook, stands over me for an hour while I consider my soup, a simple stone in bubbling water.
Well? Nearly there, I think.
Done.
Do you have a little salt? Salt! Almost perfect.
Do you have a little stock? Lamb.
I mean, just a drop will do.
Stock! And after stock, greens.
And after greens, potatoes.
In they all go.
Meat? Enough! You'll drown the stone.
Ready.
Now, you must remember this is just a humble stone soup.
Good.
Very good.
Soup from a stone.
Keep it.
It's my gift.
Thank you.
A furious cook drags me before the king.
"Punishment," he rages.
"Death by boiling.
" But all I'm listening to are the sweet gurgles of my full belly.
Answer His Majesty, blockhead.
Pardon? What's your trade, fool? It can be scratched on your gravestone.
I am a teller of stories a weaver of dreams.
I can dance, sing, and, in the right weather, I can stand on my head.
I know seven words of Latin.
I have a little magic And a trick or two.
I know the proper way to meet a dragon.
I can fight dirty, but not fair.
I once swallowed 30 oysters in a minute.
I am not domestic.
I am a luxury.
And in that sense, necessary.
Excellent.
And you can make soup out of a stone.
Excellent.
And a monkey out of a cook.
But Your Majesty And stories? Good stories? Funny stories? Some good, some funny, some indifferent.
Your Highness, the punishment.
Punishment.
Yes.
Your punishment will be that you will tell me a story every night for a year.
And for every story, I will give you a golden crown.
Is that fair? It's my usual fee.
But of course, if you should run out of stories I will hand you over to the cook and his boiling oil, naturally.
Naturally.
My dearie-os, the balmy days which followed.
The plenty.
Much of this, much of that.
Each day an inch on my belly, a story from my head.
Imagine me then: A royal commission, a servant, a feather bed a suit of silk jingling with my gold pieces.
Blissfulness.
After supper, up by the fire, I'd tell my tale to the rapt king.
And he never fell asleep.
What more could an artist want? Food to eat, money to spend, and his audience awake.
Each night a tick on the golden calendar, and a snuggle with my new wife.
That wife.
And a year passed and the final day came.
My last of sweet punishment.
I wake up, full to the brim with life.
My wife, all softness in our bed, the coins spilling over.
And blow me, I can't think of a story.
In a twink, I'm up and pacing the gardens that old crocodile fear leading me a merry dance.
But oh, dear.
My mind is a terrible blank.
Oil, it says, the oil is on the boil.
Husband, we have a visitor.
So I see.
You don't remember me? We shared your stone soup.
Right.
Is something wrong? No.
Is there anything we can do for you? Is it food you're after, or money? Oh, no, sir.
I have both about me.
As it happens, I have 364 gold pieces.
Aye, and I come to wager them against yours.
My husband, sir, is a devil with the dice.
Yes, of course, I am.
But I can't be winning money.
I am playing for higher stakes.
I must find a story before nightfall, else I shall I know, I shouldn't have, but the gold sparkled.
I should have said no, but the gold glittered.
The morning frittered away, my fortune with it.
That's it.
I have no story and I have no money.
- Play on.
- With what? Your wife.
Your wife against my winnings.
- Never! - No! Go on.
Play.
I'm sure you'll win.
I'll not.
I'll not give you up.
I may forget stories, I may lose my fortune, I may boil but I'll not lose you.
Play.
You must surely win.
'Tis not my will.
Two.
What's this? He is now my husband, sir, and I needs must love him.
Then I am broken.
You will not play again? With what? There is nothing more.
I'll stake everything now, wife, everything against your own self.
Third time lucky? Stake myself? Why not? You have it already, anyway.
Two sixes.
Naturally.
Sir, I am your servant on this dismal day.
Am I to be tied up like a dog? No, like a hare.
How clever! "Help!" I'm shouting.
But no noise comes out.
Only a squeal, a squeal only! Darling wife, help me! No, it's no good struggling.
You can't get away, you naughty boy.
You can't get away.
Do you like our games? No, I don't.
Help! Loving every minute.
Good.
Because I have better sport in store.
But not in that shape.
I wonder Don't wonder.
Help me! You choose, madam.
Can you do anything? Anything.
But it must be small for my purposes.
A flea? A flea is possible.
Nice.
I can be popped between the fingers.
Thank you.
If you itch, you can think of me.
The beggar strides off.
Where he carries me, I know not.
This morning, a man blessed, by lunch, a flea.
This does not bode well for the evening.
Unless I find my story it's a boil in the oil.
You get a view on life as a flea.
Outside, it is cold and hungry inside the castle, it is hot and people eat.
Our friend, the beggar, takes us, me and the rest of the fleas, to the kitchen where the oil sizzles, to meet the cook.
The human body is a kitchen for the parasite.
And the cook is a feast.
The other fleas flock to him.
Gold, so tempting.
Greed is the cook's itch, and he scratches.
What's that? That's oil boiling.
It's for a friend of mine.
A buffoon who tells stories, a nothing, a flea.
His time will come.
Put your straws down here.
By all means.
Now, you say you can blow away the middle one but leave the other two where they are.
My gold says I can, a meal says I can't.
- That's cheating.
- Why? - I can do that.
- Then try.
My fingers.
It's not so easy.
Another game.
My fingers! This is simpler.
I'll wager my gold that I can move one ear, but not the other.
That's impossible.
But I'll not try.
Fetch a doctor! Fetch needle and thread.
As you wish.
No, try.
I want that gold.
Try, and curse you.
That's cheating.
He's cheating! No.
I said I'd move one ear and not the other and that is what I've done.
You'll not make a fool out of me.
I'll do it myself.
My ear.
My fingers.
My ear! Poor chap.
What do you mean, "poor chap"? What about me? Poor flea.
Poor chap, indeed.
He only lost a few bits.
I lost everything.
Terrible state.
Sorry.
And then, as night draws up its hood and the hour comes when the king expects his story I find myself carried into the court on the coat of the beggar.
Where's my storyteller? Huh? I want my story.
Sire, there is a man outside, would entertain you.
I don't want entertainers.
I loathe entertainers.
I want my story and I want it now.
Majesty, allow me to present myself, ragbag that I am.
He smells.
I am a beggar, sir.
It is my business to smell.
But I am capable of of fence not simply to the nose.
And I can throw a rope in a special way.
That's clever.
Do something else.
Can he do anything else? I can.
Where's it gone? I want it.
Where's it gone? The prince wants the ball.
Please oblige.
It's at the top of the rope.
Can I get it? He can't climb a rope.
In that case Now he can go up.
Be careful.
What's he doing up there? Come down.
Come down! Where was he? Where was he, indeed? All eyes strain upwards, but the prince has vanished.
The beggar scratches his beard and shrugs and then a bright object comes sailing down.
The ball.
The room is silent.
Nothing.
Then a babble of muttering and whispering, pointing, glares, and indignation growls drowned by the terrifying roar of the king.
To the oil! "Oh, no!" I'm trying to shout for help, but no one hears me.
To go like this? A flea, a nothing.
To sizzle.
No! To the oil! Here you are, rat bag.
Come to the pot, the terrible pot.
Come for a boil in the boiling oil.
Up and in.
- Watch out! - Sorry.
This isn't right.
That's not meant to happen.
It's boiling.
My fingers.
They're back.
My fingers are back! My ear.
It's back.
My ear is back! Where's the ball? What have you done with my ball? Give it back! Look! They pondered, and who could blame them for odds, bods, and strange indeedie the beggar had quite disappeared.
But what about you? Where were you? Where was I, indeed? No longer a flea.
No longer anything.
Here I am above the palace, swirling, an element, nothing more.
And then a sudden drop, hurtling down and the ground rushing up towards me.
I've been dreaming.
None of this happened.
His Majesty wants his story.
Yes.
Wife? Right.
The day is almost over, and I've heard no story.
Sire.
You remember the conditions? I do.
Do you have a story to tell me or not? He hasn't, sire, the pig.
Let me have him.
Is there going to be a boil? I have no story, sire.
Let me tell you what happened to me today.
I woke up.
It was the last day of our agreement.
My wife lay beside me, the sun streaming in, never was a man so happy.
And then, I just couldn't think of a story.
Not a single one.
So I went out into the gardens and then things began to go very wrong.
And so I began to tell the king of my adventures of hares and fleas and mysteries the worst day of my life, my wife's cruelty, the boiling oil.
And what a tale it was, my dearies.
How the tears coursed down the cheeks of the king and the cook and the queen.
And when at last I finished, there was a terrible silence.
And so, Majesty, I have no story to tell.
But that's the best story I ever heard.
And me.
And suddenly, the whole court stood and cheered and clapped my back and made me say again, from start to finish the best story they'd ever heard.
And then, I understood what the beggar had done; He'd given me a story.
When I was a story short, he made me one.
And your wife? She was under the beggar's spell.
I thought so.
Otherwise, it would have been cruel to kiss the beggar to make you into a flea.
She was enchanted.
Definite.
And still is, I suppose.
She was so taken by his magic, she set off in search of him.
I never saw her to this day.
As for the cook, he threw out the pot of oil and kept the stone instead.
Whenever a poor unfortunate came abegging he would make them the most delicious soup.
So that's how a story was lost and then found and is still told to this day, for the king will hear no other.
Only it's changed now.
The wife comes back to the storyteller.
The storyteller becomes king.
You know how it is in stories.
She was a lovely.
Lovely red hair.
Are you hungry? I've got a bone somewhere.
Not much use.
We can make a soup.
We can try.