Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Cantus the Minstrel


Performed by…Cantus
Jim Henson 
First appearance…
Fraggle Rock Episode 118: “The Minstrels” (1983)

Most recent appearance… Fraggle Rock Episode 512: “The Honk of Honks” (1987)

Best known role…
Fraggle sage, leader of The Minstrels, obliquely obvious persona.
Memorable quote…
“There are no rules, and those are the rules.”
Cantus is the unflappable leader of a band of traveling minstrels that pass through Fraggle Rock spreading their message of the power of music and song. Whenever the Minstrels are present in Fraggle Rock, celebration occurs. Wembley once noted that Cantus only arrives when “something exciting happens,” and that has indeed always been the case.
Cantus, as the leader, does most of the speaking for the Minstrels, offering words of confusing wisdom that in the end become the obvious way of solving a problem. Cantus appeared once in each of Fraggle Rock’s five broadcast seasons (which were then shortened to four seasons when released on DVD–combining seasons 4 and 5).
In his first appearance, Cantus and the Minstrels enter playing “Let Me Be Your Song.” Cantus explains that he plays a magic pipe given to him by a mysterious and invisible… a mysterious and invisible… well, I don’t remember. It was so mysterious and invisible. He shows that his pipe is capable of playing not only Fraggle music, but Doozer music too. This prompts him to tell the Fraggles that a medley will be held the next day with Red as the medley leader. He instructs each Fraggle to find their song to sing in the medley–the sound deep inside each of them.
In the second season, Mokey longs to become a Minstrel and join Cantus and the others. They perform “Music Makes us Real (Ping!)” and Mokey is convinced that this is her destiny. Cantus allows her to follow along and attempts to bring out her Minstrel qualities. Mokey has trouble hearing her inner “ping” however, so things get difficult fairly quick.

In “The Bells of Fraggle Rock” Cantus appears to celebrate the Festival of the Bells with the Fraggles. Gobo foolishly decides to journey to the center of the Rock to find The Great Bell. Despite Cantus’ warnings, Gobo pushes on, almost risking all of his friends in the process.

Cantus met Junior Gorg in his fourth season. He comes to Junior on the Night of the Blue Moon and instructs him to blow the Royal Kazoo to prove that the Gorg prince is worthy of one day becoming a great Gorg king. He does this through the song “Ball of Fire” and with a little help from Gobo and the rest of the Fraggle Five.

In his final appearance, Cantus gives Gobo the responsibility of blowing the Honk of Honks. Gobo can’t seem to construct a horn that is “honk” enough to be the Honk of Honks–after every failed attempt Cantus would chastise the young Fraggle and criticize his poor listening skills. Cantus hasn’t been seen since “The Honk of Honks” and with Jim Henson such a part of who Cantus is, it’s unknown if he’ll return for Fraggle Rock: The Movie.

It has often been said by friends and coworkers of Jim Henson’s that Cantus was a strong branch of Jim’s personality. Jerry Juhl, especially, spoke very highly of Jim and Cantus. In an interview on a Fraggle Rock DVD set, Jerry mentioned that Jim was Cantus and Cantus was Jim. Jerry had such a strong fondness for Jim and Cantus’ relationship that he and his wife Susan Juhl named a cove off their property in California Cantus Cove.
“Listening is the first step and the last step.”
“We see with our eyes. We know with our hearts. Outside… Inside.”
“I fear I’m losing my impeccable calm.”
“But, you’ve heard enough. Now, it’s time for you to listen. Go and find your songs.”
“No time is wasted time.”
“It’s part of it, but not all of it.”
“I should’ve brought my mittens.”
“All is all. Is is.”

CANTUS FRAGGLE SONGS “Let Me Be Your Song” – Season 1, “The Minstrels” “Our Melody” – Season 1, “The Minstrels” “Music Makes Us Real (Ping!)” – Season 2, “Mokey and the Minstrels” “Lose Your Heart (And it’s Found)” – Season 2, “Mokey and the Minstrels” “Ball of Fire” – Season 4, “Junior Faces the Music” WHY DOES FRAGGLE ROCK NEED CANTUS THE MINSTREL? Cantus brings music to the Rock. No more really needs to be said. Music is such a huge part of Fraggle Rock that a character who fully embodies the spirit of music is extremely important to the show and its message. Cantus also embodies the spirit of Jim Henson. A man whose life was a song, whose message of singing and dancing and making people happy is one Cantus could easily live by as well. Although Cantus only appeared in five episodes throughout the entire run of the series, Fraggle Rock needs Cantus is a very profound way. Just his spirit is the spirit of Jim Henson–and any sort of Fraggle Rock production needs that. I don’t know if I would support recasting Cantus for the Fraggle Rock movie since he was so much a part of Jim, but I would support having him there in spirit. So I leave you with the words of Cantus the Minstrel…

“Play me wide, play me long, let me be your song.”

8 thoughts on “Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Cantus the Minstrel

  1. One of the guidelines I live my life by comes from Cantus. When Mokey questioned what would happen if she didn't hear the song in the cave, Cantus calmy replied, “Nothing.”

    Wise words indeed.

  2. Cantus was my favorite Fraggle as a kid, and a personality that echoed loudly in my own developing mind. I actually found this page & site today, because I was doing a Google search for the names of specific Cantus episodes… so I could pick up those DVD sets first.

    Still miss you, Jim.

  3. Danny,
    Nobody ever answered your question, I don't think! But I've heard that it is an oboe, and I've found that to be the most believable answer. Just listen to a good, clear oboe instrumental and I think you will see what I mean!

  4. Danny & Mekrie,

    The sound of Cantus' Magic Pipe is a synthesized oboe. I know oboe music very well; my father played oboe and English horn for the Atlanta Symphony for over 40 years, so I heard it when he practiced at home. However, the Magic Horn sounded a little “off” to me, so I asked my mother (another symphonic musician) about it. She told me that it didn't sound quite right because it was synthesized rather than played live.

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