Here’s something I’ve never said in public.
Cantus the Minstrel is my favourite Jim Henson character. Ever.
Yes, even above Kermit the Frog and Rowlf the Dog…which is saying something because I love both of those characters to death and back.
The magical thing about Cantus is that from his very first few seconds, he immediately takes you to a new place, beyond reality and beyond Fraggle Rock.
If you have never encountered Fraggle Rock before, go ahead and watch this. If you have seen this before, watch it again anyway. It’s certainly worth revisiting.
Between that gorgeous music and that mind-capturing presence Jim provides him with, Cantus is a golden character from a golden moment in Henson history. I’m no expert in puppet design, but even I can tell you that his design is essential to his personality. He is definitely a Fraggle, but he’s different. He’s far taller than the average Fraggle and no one else possesses the same type of hair (feather) style. In regards to the height, I’d be willing to say that height indicates age, however I think it has more to do with presence. If a Fraggle wants access to his wisdom, they must look up to meet him eye to eye.
Character-wise, there is so much we don’t know about Cantus, but that just works in his favour. I believe there’s a part of him that rather enjoys being mysterious. Cantus certainly has the classic wit and playfulness that automatically came with being a Jim Henson character. Along with his wisdom, he’s also in touch with the magic of the Rock through his connection with music and can wield it in subtle ways when he playing his horn. Cantus’ obtuse method of speech when in conversation often confounds the Fraggles he addresses, but that’s exactly the point. Cantus will only say what a Fraggle needs to hear.
Look at the way he handled Gobo during The Bells of Fraggle Rock and The Honk of Honks. Cantus knew that Gobo is far too stubborn to break out of his hardheadedness once he has his heart set on something, so he passes along a riddle and waits it out until Gobo is in a good mind-space to reinforce the message. In The Honk of Honks when Cantus catches Gobo just outside of the hole to Doc’s Workshop, Cantus is clearly annoyed with the Fraggle, but he still gives Gobo a chance to work things out for himself. I like to think that all the wisdom Cantus has gained over the years came about from his own life experiences, so that’s he way he prefers to educate others.
A connection I love to make between Jim and Cantus is that whenever the puppeteer or Fraggle showed up for the show, it was always a special treat. Jim was mostly hands-off for this show, so on the occasions that Jim directed an episode and/or performed Cantus or Convincing John, it’s always wonderful because you just know he was on set to have some fun. The same goes for Cantus; he tends to show up whenever there’s an important celebration to be held. Just like the puppeteers when Jim showed up, the Fraggles are always overjoyed to see him again.
Yes, Cantus certainly is my favourite Jim Henson character. Even with what little information we know about him, I can’t imagine Fraggle Rock without it’s roving marvellous, musical Minstrel. There’s not much more I need to say then I believe that Cantus brought out the best of Jim’s traits as a performer and became the renowned sage he is because of it.
It’s more than likely that I’ll be bringing up Cantus in the future in a more in-depth fashion. For now, let’s all go and discover a new appreciation for music…