Jim Henson’s fertile imagination brought to life many worlds, some so rich that artists and writers continue to explore them and create new stories within them. Archaia has been working with the Jim Henson Company to produce some gorgeous books, extending Henson’s reach and giving us more ways to enjoy his creativity. Here are two more books, both recently published, inspired by Henson’s earlier work.
The StoryTeller was a TV show from the late 1980s — I don’t really remember seeing it myself, but it featured an old man and a talking dog (a puppet performed and voiced by Brian Henson). The old man would tell stories, which were then acted out with puppets and actors. Many of these were tales were obscure, at least to Western audiences. Now there’s a StoryTeller book, written and illustrated by a variety of authors and artists, carrying on that tradition of storytelling. One tale, “The Witch Baby,” is based on an unproduced screenplay drawn from a Russian folk tale. All the others are based on various folk tales and fairy tales from different cultures: Japanese, Scandinavian, Appalachian and a few others.
A couple of them were familiar to me: “An Agreement Among Friends,” for instance, is a Romanian folk tale about why dogs chase cats and cats chase mice. Some are told in a pretty straightforward way, and some are embellished. Aesop’s fable about the milkmaid and her pail, adapted by Colleen Coover, becomes more and more elaborate as the milkmaid’s plans get more and more grandiose. But all of them are beautifully illustrated, and because each one is drawn by a different artist, you get to experience lots of different art styles over the course of the book. There are nine stories altogether, and it’s a great read. Kind of makes me want to go watch the original TV series now.
The second book is about The Dark Crystal, and it’s the first of a planned trilogy. Brian Froud, the conceptual designer of the original film, was involved in the creation of this book, The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths. It’s a prequel to the film, and goes into detail about some of the events only hinted at in the mythos of the movie.
As promised by its title, the book relates the origins of the world of Thra, and we get to see Aughra’s entrance into the world. Mysterious visitors known as the Urskek arrive and build the crystal fortress, but Raunip, Aughra’s son, can see something in them and in the crystal that his mother cannot. The story of their origins is a fascinating one.
If you’re a fan of The Dark Crystal, you’ll love this book. The text is written by Brian Holguin and illustrated by Alex Sheikman and Lizzy John, and the artwork is delightful. There are a couple sections that are mostly text, too — excerpts from epic poems from the world of Thra, or legends passed along by the Gelflings. “How the Gelfling Maid Got Her Wings” is one of them.
The hardcover volume also includes the short story that Archaia published for Free Comic Book Day last year, introducing Raunip and hinting at the things to come. I didn’t want the book to end, but I guess now I’ll have to wait until Volume 2 arrives.
For a taste of what’s in the book, here are two sample pages provided by Archaia — the first shows the framing story, a mysterious traveler who tells us the creation myths; the second is a scene from the birth of Aughra.