When I was a kid, we used to rent videos from the library, particularly a Showtime TV series from the early 80s called Faerie Tale Theatre. They were fairy tales (or faerie tales), as you might expect, with scripts embellished to add humor and characters played by various 80s famous people. At the beginning of each tape was an advertisement for all the other tapes in the series. Our library had a dozen, maybe two, of these tapes, and so I saw that ad many times. It did its job well, making me yearn to see all the other episodes not in stock at our little county library. All I ever saw of these lost episodes were the little bits shown in the ad to lure you in. So while I knew that Geppeto said he was tired of the seafood diet in general and the Giant at the top of the beanstalk thought that pillaging was kind of pointless, I never saw the rest of those stories.
Thanks to the magic of Netflix, I can now watch all of the episodes from the comfort of my own living room. So I saw the other things Geppeto said, as well as James Coburn playing an Italian gypsy.
One episode that I never saw but was always particularly curious about was "The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers." Obviously, the painfully long title made it stand out, but what the heck did it even mean? What were the shivers? Should I be leaving home to find out about them as well? I went many many years, wondering what the shivers were, and I never found out, even after I left home.
Just last week, I came to that episode on my queue, and I found out about it. For one thing, it's based on a German folk tale collected by the Brothers Grimm. It's about a dude who didn't know what fear was, which made him do all sorts of crazy things like climb wobbly ladders. The original title is "The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was," which is an equally ridiculous title, but at least it doesn't leave you wondering what the story is about. If a title could serve as cliff notes for the actual story, then you ought to at least leave with some understanding of the tale.
In the Faerie Tale Theatre version, the guy leaves home (as promised) and goes to spend three nights in a haunted castle. He meets lots of scary ghosts and demons and plays nine-pin against some zombies, using a skull as the ball and some leg bones as the pins. Still, he does not know fear. For surviving the three nights in the castle, he wins a kingdom and a pretty lady. Then the pretty lady starts talking about weddings and babies and curtains, the guy starts shaking, and lo and behold, he learns about the shivers. Because a man who bowls with zombies can still develop a fear of commitment.
Ladies and gentlemen, that irked me. It irked me more when I told Josh about it, and he laughed. To punish him, I talked about curtains for a good half hour.
I've also been watching episodes from Jim Henson's The Storyteller, which also tells folk tales, but with scary puppets (griffins, demons, death personified). The third or fourth episode was called "Fearnot," and whaddya know, it was again "The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was." I went fifteen years worth of sleepless nights, wondering what the shivers were, and here I find out twice in a week. It was similar enough, there was again the bowling game, though there was also an inexplicable scene with some sort of water monster who ended up leaving the cursed lake to go to Ireland. However, in this story, the boy learns about the shivers when he thinks his true love is dying. He is scared for her life, not for his free-wheeling bachelor lifestyle. I choose to believe that his version is closer to the original story, since I have a hard time believing that old folk tales really go through a whole story for what is essentially a cheap laugh. But maybe I'm just projecting my feelings. Maybe there was a reason Jacob Grimm never married.