Story Teller 1: Part 5

Part 5 saw the introduction of one of the most endearing and popular characters in Story Teller history: Timbertwig.

Written and illustrated by Peet Ellison and wonderfully read by George Layton, Timbertwig would grace the pages of five issues of Story Teller plus have the honour of being on the cover of the first Christmas issue.

Despite replacing Gobbolino as “The Story Teller Serial”, every Timbertwig episode was self-contained.

Former child star Hayley Mills read this issue’s fable, The Fox and the Crow, the poem O Here It Is, and the fairy story Rapunzel. Drummerboy and the Gipsy was a thrilling tale about a boy’s love for a horse while Virgil’s Big Mistake was a Western adventure which gave reader Nigel Lambert an excuse to put on an American accent.

And oh, Lambert read the second part of Jester Minute rather brilliantly too.

Story Teller 1: Part 4

st1-4And so it happened, as it eventually had to: Gobbolino earned his happy ending in this issue as his wish of becoming a kitchen cat came true. Thus concluded the first ever Story Teller serial and readers had to say a sad and fond goodbye to a much loved character. We weren’t to know then that Gobbolino would return for many more adventures: he reappeared in Christmas Story Teller 2 and 3 and indeed he starred in another (longer) serial in Story Teller 2.
As another tale ended, another began. A new cartoon hero was introduced in this issue: the chequered and stuttering Jester Minute who must battle the creature that gave many children nighmares: Badweb the giant spider. The two-part adventure was read by Nigel Lambert who also narrated hilarious Noisy Neighbours and the catchy rhyme, Rhubarb Ted.
Roy Hudd narrated the comical seasonal adventure, Santa’s Early Christmas, and the more serious Narana’s Strange Journey. Tina Jones read the lightweight fairy story The Princess and the Pea while Marian Hepworth reminded us of the importance of saving for a rainy day in The Ant and the Grashopper.

Story Teller 1: Part 3

st1-3First, a rant. I did’t like the knight for the main picture on the cover of this issue. Looking miserable astride his horse, the knight seemed stuck on the wall. It lacked the action that the Gobbolino picture exuded in Part 2 and the intrigue of the emperor in Part 1.
That said, there was much to like in Part 3. The Lion and the Mouse, one of the most famous of Aesop’s fables, was ably read by Dermot Crowley. The tale of heroic deeds from the small and the weak was as lighthearted as the Child of the Sun was dark and mysterious, the other Crowley-narrated story in this issue.
Versatile actress Susannah York (who I had previously known only as Superman’s Kryptonian mum in the Christopher Reeve movies) read this issue’s classic fairy tale, Hansel and  Gretel; the romantic poem, The Owl and the Pussycat; and the amusing modern tale of Simon’s Canal. She also provided the voice of the princess in the latest installment of Aldo in Arcadia (note: the character of the princess appeared again when Aldo in Arcadia returned for a second three-part series but was voiced by a different actress).
Sheila Hancock was of course the reader for Gobbolino the Knight’s Cat. I remember complaining that this episode had only four pages (and not seven as the first episode) but Gobbolino’s adventures continue to thrill, just as Francis Phillips’ illustrations continued to enchant.

Story Teller 1, Part 2

Story Teller 1, Part 1Let’s face it: Part 1 was a tough act to follow. It was fresh, accessible and exciting – nothing like it had been seen before. But Part 2 was a good follow up, not least because this time little Gobbolino made it to the front cover!

Nigel Lambert, Brian Blessed and Sheila Hancock were the featured readers. Lambert narrated three stories, and he would go on to become one of the most regular readers throughout the partwork’s run.

This issue had a couple of “firsts”. It had the first poem (the lively Bring on the Clowns) and the first Arabian Nights adventure (Sinbad and the Valley of Diamonds). Most later issues would contain a poem (in Story Teller 2, poems were always placed on inside back covers). Similarly, further tales from the Arabian Nights would grace the pages of Story Teller.

Early favourites Aldo and Gobbolino continued their exploits in this issue. The Oriental tale Master Tiger, the fable The Greedy Fox and the present day story of the Last Slice of Rainbow made up the rest of Part 2.

Story Teller 1, Part 1

Story Teller 1, Part 1So here’s the issue that started it all. The blue cover with the big picture of the vain Emperor is now forever etched on many ST fans’ minds. In retrospect, I now think how inappropriate it was that Gobbolino did not appear on the cover, considering how iconic and popular the little cat was to become.

That said, Gobbolino had the honour of being the first ever story to appear in Story Teller (following a two-page spread introducing the series). The story of the witch’s cat’s search for a loving home would go on for three more issues (though, of course, owing to popular demand he returned in Story Teller 2 with further adventures with the Little Wooden Horse).

Sheila Hancock read Gobbolino brilliantly and I feel that she was one of the reasons why the serial became one of the most fondly remembered in the partwork’s history. However, I have to say that my favourite reader for this issue was Bernard Cribbins. He read The Hare and the Tortoise with gusto and his narration of The Emperor’s New Clothes came with infectious enthusiasm and a pinch of cheekiness that was difficult not to like. To this day, Emperor has remained one of my favourite stories.

Another endearing character, Aldo in Arcadia, made his debut in this issue. His comic adventures with his flying vacuum cleaner provided comic relief after the more serious and moralistic Shoe Tree and the thrilling Forest Troll. Nigel Lambert, Robert Powell, and John Brewer did a good job in bringing the characters to life, though I did observe that – unlike with the other stories – you had to look at the magazine while listening to the tape to follow the plot as Aldo was written more as a comic strip than a straight story.

The light-hearted and amusing Red Nightcaps completed the line up for Part 1, making me want to fast forward to the next fortnight so that I could buy the next issue …