Άμπρα Κατάμπρα

by Γεράσιμος Χρυσοβιτσάνος

My story

It was in the early 80s (probably 1983 or 1984) that Story Teller was advertised on TV in Greece. As soon I saw the advert, I begged my parents to buy it but there was a problem … the price. Each issue cost 350 drachmas, too expensive for a family with three children. So the deal was to buy only the issues that contained the Gobbolino stories (parts one to four). However, later my father was able to buy a few more issues: parts 18, 19, 25 and 26. Fortunately, I had access to the rest of the series through our neighbours’ children who could afford to buy the whole collection.

collection

As the years passed, I lost my Story Teller collection, but the complete series come to my hands many years later, while I was studying for my master’s degree. There was a moment when I remembered everything from the 80s: toys, games and … the Story Teller. I could dimly remember the name of the publisher: Orfanidis Publications. I searched online and I discovered that they had republished the partwork in a different format: as a series of hardback omnibuses (each book a compilation of five of the original issues) with CDs (see below). I bought the reissued collection but I also wanted the first edition with the soft beautifully illustrated cover. I was fortunate to acquire this complete with the two binders.

I remember myself repeatedly listen to the stories. I think I can narrate some of them by heart even now. There are some phrases that my brothers and I quote to each other even today as jokes. The phrase “Remember now, keep away from the canal!” from Simon’s Canal was told by the Greek reader in such a funny and characteristic way that it became a beloved expression even for my mother!

It’s definitely very hard to choose my beloved story from the partwork so I’ll talk about two of them. The first is a classic Heidi; the actress who read it was so deeply touching that it is almost impossible to stay indifferent to the tale. The second one is The Flying Piggy-bank, a funny but informative story from which I learned that banknotes are Chinese invention.

The Original Edition

The Greek edition of Story Teller is called Άμπρα Κατάμπρα (Abracadabra). Paramythas would have been a more accurate translation of “story teller”. Unfortunately, the word paramythas was already in use as the title of a popular TV serial. Only 26 issues were published in Greece, which means we never got Story Teller 2.

IMG_5064

Greek celebrities who narrated the stories included Aliki Vougiouklaki, Kostas Rigopoulos, Katia Dandoulaki, Alekos Alexandrakis, Kakia Analyti, Kostas Karras, Nikitas Tsakiroglou, Zanos Dania, Sotiris Moustakas , Xenia Kalogeropoulou, Chrysoula Diavati and Martha Vourtsi. Aliki Vougiouklaki, the national star of Greece, narrated Gobbolino. The supervisiion and the direction of the cassettes were commissioned to another well-known actor, Stefanos Linaios.

The photos above show the back page of the penultimate issue, part 25 (left) and the back page of the final issue (part 26). The final issue announced that the entire series will be on sale again but with an increased cover price (450 drachmas).

The Re-issued Collection

Much to the delight of the Greek fans, in 2008, the series was re-released as hardback books with CDs instead of cassettes.

ampra-katabra-flat

A TV commercial accompanied the launch of the reissued collection:

The UK vs the Greek edition

Άμπρα Κατάμπρα was very similar to the UK edition, with an almost identical story listing and the same artwork, as shown in this picture:

greekcol

The photo also shows that unlike the UK edition, the cassettes did not come in their own plastic cassette cases with inlays.

There were minor changes. In parts 7, 23, 25 and 26 some stories from the UK original were replaced, including Little Spook of Spook Hall, Mr Miacca and Captain Bones. The reason I can think of is that those stories might were been considered unsuitable for children or that Greek children may not be familiar with their themes (such as in The Faery Flag).

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