The Storyteller (1987) s01e06 Episode Script

The Three Ravens

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.
One day in November, the queen died.
Outside the palace, the leaves fell, lamenting reds and golds falling.
Inside, weeping the king, his three sons, his daughter.
And the people filed slowly by to shed their own tears for the dear queen.
But there was one among the mourners whose eyes were dry.
There was one among the mourners whose heart was ice, whose soul was cold whose smile was sly whose brain raced ahead to the day when the king would want to ease his loneliness.
And the witch, for witch she was fixed her dry eyes on the king and schemed.
Mine.
She schemed.
Mine, all mine.
And you may well weep.
Her scheme was simple and terrible.
She groaned for power, for majesty over all things for the cold ring of gold around her head.
She wanted this until the want ate away her heart and soul.
So she set to work on the king.
The king wouldn't marry a witch.
No, the king didn't even see the witch.
He didn't feel the sun on his face or the rain.
Just this tug of the past, all day, all night.
Memories tugging on his sleeve.
His poor heart, you see, was broken.
But the witch could charm the skin from a snake and she turned all her power on the king.
She wound him in, inch by inch the past tugging him one way she patiently pulling him the other.
Because, he thought, when he looked at her he saw his wife's face.
And indeed he did.
You're back, "he keeps saying.
" She says, "Our little secret.
" That's witchery.
Yes.
It was a spell, and it worked.
I've got something wonderful to tell you.
I've met someone very special.
Children, we're going to be married.
We're going to be happy again.
I hope you'll think of me as your friend.
And then, in time, perhaps as your mother.
Our mother's dead.
I think we mean as a new mother, don't we? Yes.
In time.
Try for me, will you? Yes.
All hugs, all family.
But witch watched and cursed them.
They were her rivals and her enemies, these four grieving and bewildered children.
And a canker grew in her mind, because she would not share.
She wanted it all.
And she sowed a seed of fear in the children's lives.
Stairs gave way, horses bucked wild, balconies crumbled even the toy box was terrible.
Of course, the witch herself was all honey, always honey.
But sometimes the king caught a look and worried she was also the bee.
That's right.
And bees sting.
I hate that witch.
Poor man, then.
Torn in half.
Enchanted by his new queen, frightened for his children.
What could he do? I said I'd take you on a special holiday.
We're almost there.
- A forest? - A magic forest.
Follow the thread.
- Follow the thread.
- Follow the thread.
Hurry up.
It's perfect.
There's a stream.
- And a house.
- It's beautiful.
And sure enough, there it was, pink and perfect.
And the boys larked and larruped as if a great weight had lifted off them.
And their sister sat by the stream and dipped her toes and missed her mother, which she always did when she was happy.
This is your secret place.
No one can find you here without the thread.
I'll visit you each day.
You've brought us here because of her, haven't you? - Our stepmother.
- No, of course not.
But his daughter was right, quite right.
For even as she spoke, the witch, her stepmother sat in her tower and studied horrible spells.
For the children were obstacles between her and power growing, daily growing, like clouds over her.
And now she would discover where they were, her clouds and puff them clean away.
Where have you been? I took the children on a trip, a holiday.
Yes? Anywhere nice? Yes.
Very nice.
- What's that you're sewing? - Shirts.
I'm sewing them all little shirts.
Aren't they sweet? That's nice.
Yes, they'll love those.
You're being very mysterious.
Am I? What about? The children.
Our children.
You want me to be their mother but what mother can tolerate not knowing where her children have gone to? I just want them to have a secret holiday.
It makes it special.
Secret.
Yes, of course.
But what if something should happen to them? Then where would we be? Or happen to you? Still, let that be an end to it.
If you don't want to talk about it, that's your right.
They're your children.
I'm just the stepmother! But the witch had no intention of letting that be an end to it.
The next day, the king rode off and she followed, stealthy as a bat and watched him roll out the magic thread.
And with sly sleight of hand she stole it for herself.
And soon she watched it wind its secret way towards the children.
Shirts she carried and a chill curse she knew by heart.
Have you caught these fish yourselves? How clever.
How did you find us here? - Where's our father? - He's just coming.
Look, I've brought you presents.
Aren't they nice? - I sewed each one by hand.
- Thank you.
Put them on.
Then your father can see them.
But how can their father see them when this thread won't work? When this ball won't roll? Where's your sister? I miss her.
She should be here.
Come along, then.
Your shirt.
And all the while, the king stumbles lost in the forest, and cries out.
Children! "The shirt will hurt, the wings will sting, the beak will shriek, the eyes will cry.
" "The shirt will hurt, the wings will sting.
" - No! - Children! "The wings will sting, the beak will shriek, the eyes will cry.
" Children! "The shirt will hurt, the wings will sting the beak will shriek, the eyes will cry!" And the princess runs.
Runs for help, runs for her life.
My daughter.
Daughter.
Boys! Husband? What have you done? Nothing.
What are you doing here? This is my secret place.
Where are my children? Are the children here? I can't look at you.
Please do.
Please look at me.
- I heard my daughter cry out to me.
- I think you must be unwell.
Are you sickening for something? Let me see.
Let me soothe you.
No.
Get away from me! Boys! Yes, you're upset.
I'll have to think about this.
About what we can do with you.
And for a day and a night the princess ran, stumbled, fled until she dropped.
Dropped into a dead sleep.
And when she woke she saw three ravens before her.
Or perhaps she dreamed it because they spoke to her.
"Sister," they seemed to say.
"We are trapped.
Help us.
" How? How can I help you? " You must keep silent.
"You must not speak to a single soul "for three years, three months, three weeks and three days.
"Only then can the spell be broken.
" Then I shall not speak.
And putting her finger to her lips as a sign the princess promised not to speak to a single soul for three years, three months, three weeks and three days.
The princess, she couldn't speak to anyone? No.
Hello? Goodbye? I'm hungry? - No.
- What about a note? She could write a note.
Nothing.
If she spoke to another soul her brothers would remain ravens forever.
Such was the power of their stepmother's spell.
And so the princess made her home high in the hollow of an old, dead tree and was silent, while weeks and weeks went by.
Until one day, a young prince far from home, stumbles across a stream.
And in that stream he sees a handkerchief float by.
Hello.
Ls this yours? Come back.
Have you been cursed? Is that it? Can you not speak? Don't be frightened.
I won't hurt you.
I'll sit quietly here, beside you.
See? And saying that, he sat beside her and took out his food and offered it to her.
And she was famished and had some.
And soon he set off talking of his past, his present, and his plans.
And all the while, he's thinking, "What eyes.
" All the while he's thinking, "To kiss that mouth.
" And the prince came back every day for a week.
And the princess found she could smile again.
A darling smile.
A smile that wrapped all the way around her heart and his heart and squeezed them tight together.
And the prince gave up speaking, too.
And they were content to simply sit and hug on that smile.
Until one day, he could not contain his thoughts and said them all.
Love, he said, and marriage.
And always and ever.
And they kiss.
And that was that.
So she spoke? Not a whisper.
The prince set her up on his horse and they rode the long ride to his kingdom.
And on the way he spoke of his father, the king and of his beloved mother, who had died.
And the princess wanted to say, "I know.
" She wanted to say, "Mine, too.
" But she couldn't, so she didn't.
And at length, they were there at the gates of the palace and as proud as you please.
Father, Madam? I want you to meet my sweetheart.
His father looked down and so did his stepmother.
- The witch.
- The witch.
But she was married to the other king.
The other king was dead, poisoned.
No.
The witch had a taste for kings now, for countries.
For the princess was a thorn pricking at her ambitions.
The princess could not speak, but she accused with her looks; "Killer of my father, bewitcher of my brothers.
" And the witch knew she must have done with her.
And so the battle began, the good princess and the wicked witch.
But the prince knew nothing of this and married his sweetheart.
And it was true.
The moon was honey for them.
It kicked.
It's moving.
It's kicking me.
And not a minute, it seemed, before there he was.
A son.
A boy.
And the young mother would have given anything everything, to say his name, sing to him, whisper.
But she couldn't, so she didn't.
He has his mother's eyes.
How lovely.
Let's hope he has your voice, my dear.
Look after him, won't you? Hug him all up, little man.
- She does.
- Of course she does.
What? What is it? Where's the baby, darling? The princess didn't know and couldn't speak.
And their baby was nowhere to be found.
And the pain of it intolerable.
Until one night, she went to the garden and dug with her hands, in the ground, a small hole and bending to the earth, screamed with all her heart.
Screamed and screamed her pain into the hole until morning.
And it was better.
And looking up to the sky, she saw her brothers the ravens, circling above her.
"The days pass," they seemed to say.
"Hold to your promise.
" Your father and I are so sad for you both.
- Thank you.
- So sad.
It couldn't be You don't think the princess didn't want the little baby, perhaps, and She loved him.
Of course she did.
Stupid.
Forget I said anything, please? Dearest, where have you been? I looked everywhere.
What have you got on your hands? What's this? Is it earth? Perhaps she's been digging a little hole.
What have you been digging? It must pain you so much she's dumb.
I hate that witch.
I bet she did something to the baby.
No one knew, or no one said.
And when the news came the princess was to have a second baby the joy was muted, quiet.
And two years and two months after the princess took her vow of silence another boy was born to her.
And she would not let this precious son from her sight not for an instant.
Until exhaustion overcame her.
And her eyes stopped fighting, and closed.
And when she woke And now whispers were whispered in the corridors of the castle.
"Two babies disappeared.
" "What kind of mother?" these whispers asked.
"Who loses babies, who will not speak?" "Cursed, " they said, these gossips.
"Bewitched.
" Yes? You know, before, when my first son You know you asked, and I said, "impossible.
" But now Now, I don't know, and I'm frightened.
I know.
I understand.
And she is with child again.
I could not bear Don't worry.
When the time comes, we must watch her closely.
We must love her very much.
But we must watch closely.
Don't worry.
I'm here.
Now, who do I remind you of? My mother.
I know.
And so, three months later, when the baby came Darling, our son, our beautiful little son.
What I should like to do is perhaps to take him with me, somewhere safe.
Somewhere where no one will find him or harm him.
I told you she wouldn't.
Of course.
It's late.
Stay by her until morning, and then we'll see.
Stay beside her until the morning.
He's a lovely.
A lovely.
And so they sat.
Silent, their hearts full to bursting.
Watching their tiny child, its fingers like stars.
And the mother prayed and the father prayed.
But the strain, the tiredness of the birth, washed over them.
Huge waves washing over them, lulling them to sleep.
And for a minute, two minutes, three, they slept.
And then the prince woke.
No! What have you done? What's happened? What's the matter? It's horrible.
I can't believe it.
She's a witch.
My poor babies.
My poor sons.
Yes, she must be burned as a witch! Tomorrow.
Tomorrow she must be burned.
And so it was decreed that three years, three months, three weeks and three days after she had taken her vow of silence the poor, innocent princess would be burned at the stake as a witch.
Why didn't she speak? She can speak now, can't she? No.
Not yet.
Not until the midday.
As they prepared the bonfire the sundial in the courtyard was still far from the midday.
And they came for her and tied her to the stake.
And as the sundial neared the line of 12:00 it was the witch herself who lit the torch and took it towards the bundles of hay and twigs.
And then three ravens flew at the witch wheeling and diving and crashing.
And she dropped the torch and, in a second, was nothing but dust and ashes.
My brothers.
My brothers! And her three brothers, freed from their spell pulled their sister from the stake and hugged her and kissed her.
And now she could not speak for crying.
And there was more.
For now all was restored to her and good held sway.
And the girl who kept faith and had but one face for everyone was rewarded with sons and brothers and a sweetheart and a crown.
And she practiced her smile until it was perfect.
I thought the babies had been killed.
No, the witch had cast them down a well.
But the ravens knew, and caught them up safe and cared for them.
And, so they lived happily Yes, but it wasn't three years, three months, three weeks and three whole days, was it? No, clever clogs.
The princess spoke three minutes too soon.
And because of that her youngest brother kept one wing forever.
But he didn't mind, and nor do I, and nor, my dear, should you.
The tale of the three ravens.
Sit.