by Antonio Pineda
If Marshall Cavendish intended the Story Teller Serials as a marketing ploy to get parents to buy the next issue, it worked. I cannot imagine any child listening to or reading the first episode of Gobbolino and not begging his parents to buy Part 2 to find out what happened next.
The Story Teller Serials were the longer stories spread over several issues. Some were two-parters, such as Gulliver’s Travels and Give it to Zico!, while others generated a few more episodes, with Pinnochio being the longest of them all with seven instalments. Most were adaptations of classic children’s novels while a few were written especially for Story Teller, such as Timbertwig and Give it to Zico!
Without a doubt Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat is the most fondly remembered serial in the collection. The first episode was the very first story to appear in Story Teller and for that reason alone it was very special. I would go as far as to say that Gobbolino is now synonymous with Story Teller. Mention Story Teller and nine times out of ten, Gobbolino would be the first character that would enter someone’s head. It was hardly a surprise when Gobbolino returned in Story Teller 2. Though Gobbolino and the Little Wooden Horse was a weaker serial in my opinion, Story Teller 2 would not have been Story Teller without it.
Timbertwig is not far behind in the popularity stakes, though “series” is probably a more appropriate label than “serial” since the episodes were all self-contained and there was no overarching storyline. We journeyed with Gobbolino over four episodes to help him find a home but Timbertwig was quite happy to stay in Wiggly Wood and have complete episodes with different characters every fortnight. Timbertwig was originally intended to run for just three episodes but the Wiggly Wood resident proved so popular that three more episodes were commissioned: one for the first Christmas special and the final two in parts 22 and 23 of Story Teller 1.
The Naughty Boy and the Kind-hearted Girl
The boys cheered the misadventures of Pinnochio while the girls laughed and cried with Heidi, two serials that on the surface were very different but really had the same theme: home and family. In Gulliver’s Travels, we were transported to the land of tiny people and were reminded of the ugliness and pettiness of war and rivalries. We witnessed more of man’s ugliness in Dot and the Kangaroo as we witnessed the consequences of man’s cruelty to animals.
Story Teller 2 went for the big classics: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, The Wind in the Willows/Toad of Toad Hall and Peter Pan. These four were the crown jewels of the second collection. They are timeless classics that belong in every children’s library. The magic contained in their pages is as essential to childhood as toys, chocolates and cartoons.
Variety, the Spice of Story Teller
Longtooth’s Tail, a two-part story about a walrus – and Viking adventure on the high seas, provided lighthearted entertainment while another two-parter, The Lord of the Rushie River, was the more serious and poignant tale of a girl waiting for her father to rescue her from an unhappy life.
Give it to Zico! was short but sweet, a reminder that we should always reach out for our dreams. I thought that the final serial, Harlequin and Columbine, was a rather strange choice for Story Teller but it gave us a glimpse of Renaissance Italy, complete with comedy and romance.
(Here’s an interesting piece of trivia: Contrary to popular belief, not all issues of Story Teller contained a serial. Parts 24, 25 and 26 of Story Teller 1 did not have a serial. Your guess is as good as mine as to why that was, but if the reason was because Marshall Cavendish could not decide which serial to go for, then I would have been willing to suggest [no, beg ] for The Hobbit or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).
So that’s a delicious range of serials, with different flavours and diverse recipes for adventures. But for once, having many cooks did not spoil the broth for the serials brought drama, excitement and anticipation in ways that the single stories could not. And while so vastly different from each other, they had many things in common too. All of them were beautifully illustrated, charmingly written and refreshingly narrated. They were also accompanied by some of the memorable music tracks in the entire collection.
Marshall Cavendish may have used the serials to generate repeat sales, but can you really imagine Story Teller without the continuing adventures of a certain black kitten with a white paw?
Here is a complete list of the serials:
Story Teller 1
- Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat (Parts 1-4)
- Timbertwig (Parts 5-7 and 22-23)
- Drummerboy and the Gypsy (Parts 5 and 12)
- Dot and the Kangaroo (Parts 8-10)
- Gulliver’s Travels (Parts 10-11)
- Pinnochio (Parts 11-17)
- Heidi (Parts 18-21)
Story Teller 2
- The Wizard of Oz (Parts 1-6)
- The Lord of the Rushie River (Parts 3-4)
- Gobbolino and the Little Wooden Horse (Parts 6-10)
- Toad of Toad Hall (Parts 10-13)
- Peter Pan (Parts 14-16)
- Longtooth’s Tale (Parts 17-18)
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Parts 17-23)
- Harlequin and Columbine (Parts 24-26)
- Give it to Zico! (Parts 25-26)