The Storyteller (1987) s01e05 Episode Script

Hans, My Hedgehog

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.
Story imagine a cold night and a dark night a night like this one.
And imagine a bed with a farmer and his wife fast asleep snuggling up for warmth.
And in this bed, the farmer, shivering, reaches out for his wife.
But instead of a head, he finds a foot because his missus is rubbing noses with their dog who sleeps every night at the end of the bed.
What kind of dog? I don't know.
A dog, some kind of dog.
Some kind of dog? Terrific story.
Should I bark? Oh, no! - Just for tonight.
- Don't be dense, woman.
One night won't hurt.
It might work.
Sleeping upside down? What good's that going to do? - Midwife said it sometimes helps.
- You're not going to get a child.
If you want company, get a widow woman up from the village.
Now come up this end.
I'm proper frozen.
But the farmer's wife didn't want no widow for company she wanted a baby.
And she'd wanted this child for what seemed a lifetime until she couldn't bear to watch the lambs born or the calves come, or the eggs hatch.
It hurt her so.
And she drove the farmer mad with her cranky books and her cranky charms and remedies.
This stings! That's good.
- That's good? - I'm making you a nice tonic and all.
To be drunk night and morning.
I want a child.
I wouldn't care if it were a strange thing made of marzipan or porridge if it were ugly as a hedgehog.
I want a baby to wrap in a bundle and sing to and snoodle with and hug to bits.
Now, to say you wouldn't care when you want something is a dangerous thing.
That woman wanted a baby so bad she couldn't care what she got.
If she got a hedgehog, she'd bring its snout to her breast.
Ears twitch that shouldn't be listening.
And no sooner said than done, she got her wish, the farmer's wife.
She's all swollen stomach, and thinks it's the baths he took or the sleeping upside down.
But in fact, of course it's the saying you wouldn't care what you got what gets you jiggered.
As everyone knows what heard a proper story.
She has her boy, and straightaway there he is little ball, as ugly as sin with a pointed nose and sprouting hair everywhere.
Hedgehogs do not have hair they have quills.
But this hedgehog baby had quills as soft as feathers.
And his mother held him to her breast and wrapped him in a bundle and snoodled him and hugged him to bits.
And she gave him the name Hans.
"Hans my hedgehog," she called him.
Yes, the mother loved her baby all right.
But not everybody did.
- It's a hedgehog.
- What is this? We're a laughingstock.
- We're going home.
- What about our chores? That's the end of parading ourselves in public.
Don't cry, my sweet.
He don't even cry like a proper baby.
Can't you shut that squealing? And the farmer grew to hate his son, Hans, the hedgehog boy.
Out in the field, he chopped and scythed and bundled and milked.
But all the while, the shame of what had befallen him turned a knot in his heart.
One moment the rage welling up in him, the next, tears.
Huge tears splashing his boots.
And time passed by.
Day following day, week chasing week.
And the hedgehog boy grew up.
- Beastie! - Critterchops! - Prickleback! - Hoghead! Grovelhog! And Hans my hedgehog learnt he was strange and he learnt he was ugly, and he learnt to be sad and he learnt the name that was given him.
Grovelhog! That's enough! Out! Out! Husband! From now on, you'll eat out there with the other beasts! Hans! Come home! Hans heard them, but he wouldn't answer.
He lay there all night, his rooster for company and thought and thought, until he thought a hole in the ground.
And his mother couldn't sleep and his father wandered the dark hours a great needle in his heart.
In the morning, weary, the farmer returned.
By the step, asleep, was his son, the grovelhog.
I've trudged all night for you.
You'll not eat for a week of my food.
Father, I want you to do some things for me.
You what? I want you to go to the village and have me a saddle made for my rooster so I can ride him.
And I want some of your sheep and some hens and some pigs.
Do you now? Fancy fine.
I know which ones I'd like.
And they would be happy to come with me.
Come with you? Come with you where? Where I go, which is away.
Which is to somewhere where I can't hurt anyone and no one can hurt me.
And when are you planning this gad to away and somewhere? When I have the saddle.
Thou can't go nowhere.
What would your mother say? Her who dotes on you? Father, all night I lay outdoor to understand why you don't love me.
And I've thought until I've thought a hole in the grass.
And now it's all right.
When I have the saddle, I'll go.
And the farmer felt ashamed.
And he brought home a saddle for the rooster and he herded up the animals his son had asked for and he told his wife, "Pack a packed lunch" and all the while the grovelhog sat on the stoop and waited.
When all was done, he went to his mother and she kissed him and then to his dad and hugged him.
And the farmer knew for the first time how soft he was.
They watched him until he was a faint smudge in the distance.
And his mother felt a crack in her heart like a tiny pencil line.
And each day after, the pencil line got thicker and thicker.
And one day, not long after her heart split in half and she died.
Twenty years later, a king got lost in a great forest.
And after he got lost, he got more lost until he was so lost, he began to tug his ear which is a sure sign of big trouble when he heard a sound which was a bitter sound and a sweet sound all at once.
Which began like hello and ended like goodbye.
And tugging his ear like billy-o he followed the sound until he came to a clearing.
And the palace the king saw before him was the most extraordinary palace in your whole born.
I am very lost and I'm very hungry.
And somewhere, back there a long time ago, I was a king.
But now, so lost and so hungry you would knock at a beast's house? Well You are welcome in my house, sir, and at my table.
And the king sat at the grovelhog's table and ate of the greenest greens and the sweetest sweets and the juiciest juices.
How very, very kind.
And after, his host took up the bagpipes and played old songs, which were bitter and sweet all at once and began like hello and ended like goodbye.
And before he could think, "I'm full now and found" the king was asleep.
This king woke up the next morning after a night of the kind of dreams you only dream about.
And he opened his eyes and almost yanked off his ear because he found himself under a tree which certainly wasn't where he'd fallen asleep and more confusing it was a tree from which he could see the edge of his kingdom.
And he began to dance as only kings once lost and then found can dance.
A jig, a jiggle-joggle and a leap I've heard this story and you're telling it all wrong.
What happens is the king wants to give the grovelhog a reward for all his help, and so he says: "Name anything.
" And the hogthing says: "Give me the first thing to greet you when you arrive in your kingdom.
" And the king agrees because he knows the first thing to greet him will be his faithful, flop-eared Wagger the royal dog.
So the king says yes.
And the hogthing says: "I'll collect my reward in a year and a day.
" And off he goes on his ridiculous rooster.
But things don't go as he planned, do they? And it's not Wagger who gets there first.
And the king lets go of the princess of sweetness and cherry pie and his face clouds over.
But then he shrugs and turns back to his daughter and dog and walks away for a year and a day.
Here we are, dearios, in the king's great hall.
And lo and behold, a handsome storyteller has been summoned to court to entertain the royal family.
Now, of course, the king here has been counting the days off his calendar and it is a year ago today, you see since he made his rash promise to the grovelhog.
And tomorrow, you'll remember, is the day when the grovelhog is due to arrive to collect his reward.
I'm very good at this.
Get rid of him! Fool! Idiot! Throw him in the dungeon! Feed him inch by inch to my royal sharks! And what they won't eat, give to his dog! No, help! Put me down! Your Majesty, a huge army appears at the gates! - Does it? - Not men, but animals, sire.
Told you.
I heard you! Let them in.
Get off! Give a fellow some space! I want to hear this.
- Do you remember me? - I do.
A year and a day have passed since last we met.
Will you keep your promise to me? I will! He will? Do you know of me, lady? I do, sir.
You saved my father and he owes you his life.
Do you know of his promise to me? He promised you the first thing to greet him on his return.
And what was that? Me, sir.
I am yours.
Then I want you to be my wife and come live with me in the forest.
I want you to be my princess of sweetness and cherry pie.
I want to catch you up and sing to you.
I want you to love me.
Yes, sir.
Do you find me very ugly? No, sir.
Not so ugly as going back on a promise.
Come on, shift yourselves! There's a royal wedding and you're all to be pardoned though I don't know why, I'm sure.
Come on! And I don't know about wedding.
Up there, it's more like a funeral.
A wedding.
I might even be asked to tell a story or two.
Who knows? It's on days like these, that artists come into their own.
We are gathered here today The most unhappy wedding party you ever saw.
And that night, in her bedchamber, it was a terrified princess who lay waiting for her new husband to join her.
And lying there half sweetness, half cherry pie the princess could hardly credit what she'd seen.
But creeping to the window, she looked down and there, sure enough, a man moving among the animals in the quiet rain.
And she found herself going to the abandoned coat of hair and quills and touching it soft and warm and remarkable.
And the first rays of morning woke her from dreams of waterfalls and ice cream.
And there she was in her bed.
And by the embers, the grovelhog, back again, beast again.
And so, had she dreamed all this peeling off of skin? Surely she must have.
But that night, the same scene her husband standing over her as she pretended to sleep.
The tender touch on her arm, not prickly, but so smooth she felt an ache when he left her.
And she found herself going to the skin and lying against it.
And how comfortable she found it.
And she felt drowsy lying there by the fire, so peaceful.
She felt herself drifting off and knew she mustn't but really couldn't help herself.
Sir, I woke and you had gone.
And left behind you your coat of quills.
Which would you have for husband? The man or the creature? I have a husband, sir and he is what he is.
No more and no less.
Then forgive him, madam, if he returns to his skin.
For I'm enchanted and cannot leave it.
But if you say nothing of this for a third night then loyal love will break the spell forever.
I promise.
But we all know about promises, don't we? And secrets.
What use are they when no one knows about them? When they twist and turn and tickle in our stomachs? When they're tickly little fish wriggling into our conversations? Now, you see, the princess had a mother and mothers have this way of catching secret-fish and promise-fish.
They eye us with wise eyes and all our rivers are glass to them.
Just so with the queen, who that morning at breakfast sees a daughter skip to the table eat, when for days no appetite.
- Hungry? - Yes.
Laugh, when for days no laughter.
- Sleep well? - Yes, thank you.
Not troubled by the creature? No, Mother.
And please don't speak of him as a creature.
Listen, Daughter last night your father and I went to a wise woman and told of your tragedy.
And she knows of these creatures, these grovelhogs and knows the remedy.
He is enchanted, you see.
I know.
I mean, I knew that he must be.
Something like that.
Yes, I see.
He's enchanted.
He's told you, hasn't he? No, really, he hasn't.
I just knew he must be.
And does he take off his skin? No.
He doesn't.
The only way to break the spell is to throw the skin into the fire.
Cast the skin into the flames and he will be free of it.
- That's not the way.
- So, he has told you.
That night, the third when everything happens as before the princess is haunted by her mother's advice.
And oh dear, oh dear Husband, please! Please don't go Daughter! And there she sat the princess of sweetness and cherry pie weeping into the fire.
And she would let no one see her, not even me and I was her favourite.
No, she thought and thought, until she thought a hole in the hearth.
Until she knew what she must do.
She went to the blacksmith and got from him a pair of iron shoes.
And that night, when all slept, she slipped out of the palace and set off to wander the world in search of her husband.
She walked and walked until she wore out the first pair of shoes.
And still no one had set eyes on the grovelhog.
And she got a second pair of shoes and began again never stopping, always hoping.
And the second pair of shoes wore out.
And still she walked, always looking, always hoping to hear a music both bitter and sweet beginning in hello and ending in goodbye, but nothing.
Till one day, weary and wretched she came to a stream and lay down by it.
And saw in the water's mirror her hair was now quite white.
And she sorrowed for her red hair and her husband.
Both lost forever.
To the health of that most beautiful woman who could not keep her promise for one more day.
Husband? How did you find me? I have walked the world to find you and have worn the soles of three pairs of iron shoes.
My hair is no longer red but I come to claim you.
And catch you up and snoodle you and hug you to bits.
And so the princess who could not keep her promise won back her husband through looking without hope of finding and holding on for dear life.
And in time, her hair grew red again and there was another wedding all over.
And we were both invited.
And I told the best story there is to tell.
A story which begins in hello and ends in goodbye.
And for a gift she gave me a shoe worn to nothing.
And here it is.