One, two, three, and here we go
Time to start the story show
Stories hot and stories cold
Stories new and nine days old
Sing about a cow that flew
Up above the sky of blue
And if you need stories—
(Storyteller) Follow me! (spoken) Come on, everybody, listen to what I’ve got to tell ya.
One, two, three, and follow me
Time to set your fancy free
You’ve got lives that must be told
I’ve got stories good as gold
One about a magic frog
One about a wicked dog
And if you need stories
(Storyteller) Follow me!
(Storyteller and bunnies sing “Follow me” while individual bunnies sing one line each)
(baby bunny) Tell about a little mouse fast asleep in his mummy’s house
(Twitch) Tell about a flitterfly—he flew so high that he touched the sky
(unnamed bunny) Tell about a piggy-wig with a nose too small and a tail too big
(Snort, offscreen) Tell about a funny toad cracking jokes till the rooster crowed
(Lugsy) Tell about a scary fox—they locked him up in an old fox box
(Be-Bop) Tell about a be-bop-de bear running around in his underwear
(all bunnies) Tell about a golden bird, and tell us one that we never heard
(Storyteller, spoken) Follow me! Come on, everybody!
Music by: Philip Balsam, lyrics by: Dennis Lee, musical Director: Don Gillis
“The Story Show” from The Tale of the Bunny Picnic
This song is the first time we hear from the character of Be-Bop, and we should pause to talk about him. As a kid, I just thought his sunglasses and scat-talk made him the “cool” bunny of the bunch. As an adult, I can now see Be-Bop the same way I’ve learned to see the crows in Dumbo and say “Ohhh. Aw, crap.”
Yes, dear ones, Your Fave is Problematic. My fave is problematic. Even the sweetest, most innocent bunny-filled Henson piece is not without its token Black stereotype. And that really sucks.
But the way to move forward with a piece of art that’s problematic is to acknowledge that the problem exists, why it’s a problem (spoiler alert: making the token Black character cool doesn’t make the tokenism OK, it just makes it fetishizing), and how future artists can do better. For further reading, see “How to be a fan of problematic things.” I’ll also refer you to the last episode of Season 1 of my new favorite podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, “Special Edition: Owl Post and Professor Stephanie Paulsell.” There’s an important discussion of how sacred texts should not be perfect, because perfection can lead to evangelical fanaticism. Instead, if we see the imperfections in what we find sacred, it allows us to dig in to reach a deeper understanding. It allows us to generate new material of our own.
Now, on with the story show!
The character of the Storyteller always appealed to me when I was a kid (aside from his weird, guttural laugh). There was a special kind of magic in his bicycle-powered puppet stage accessorized with ribbons, a tea set, and other curiosities. I loved how the bunnies gathered together in joyous anticipation, having waited the whole year for this moment.
He’s only one of several storytellers in the Henson productions. Just to name a few, there’s the librarian-like Storyteller Fraggle with a crush on Traveling Matt; Mother Goose telling a new story each episode to her three fluffy goslings in a voice like the smell of lilacs; and of course the gnomic, captivating Storyteller sitting at the hearth fire with his observant dog.
I’m sure these characters played no small part in how I grew up viewing storytelling as magical and crucial work. It may very well have contributed to my becoming a storyteller.
As I was mulling over this song, wondering what I would say about it, I thought about all the different the things the bunnies asked to hear about—the piggy-wig, the funny toad, the golden bird. I thought, “What if I wrote a story that had all of those things in it… Oh, crud. Of course I have to do it.” The moment the thought popped into existence, it became a promise.
As a kid, I wondered what the words were to a line in the chorus, and my brain filled that blank with the phrase a beauty story, which didn’t quite make sense. It was only years later as an adult, listening carefully to write down every word, that I understood it as if you need stories.
I understand. I know what it is to need stories. And if you’re here, chances are you do, too.