An Enduring Enchantment: The Fairy Tale in the DDR, from the Brothers Grimm to ‘The Singing Ringing Tree’

Issue: 
Spring 2019
Author(s): 

The Marchen/Fairy Tale films produced by the state DEFA studio in East Berlin have proved to be among the DDR’s most enduring cultural achievements. This article examines at the ways in which the works of the Brothers Grimm were brought within an explicitly socialist pedagogy and how official Marxism attempt to comprehend and refashion folk and fairy tales. It is argued that this was most surely accomplished through the creative partnership of Anne Geelhaar, an East German writer, and Francesco Stefani, a West German director. Their creation, in 1957, of the apparently timeless but in reality entirely new tale of ‘The Singing Ringing Tree’ – despite an element of official opposition – has enjoyed enduring popular success and, through its inclusion within the BBC’s ‘Tales from Europe’ managed to circumvent and transcend the suspicions and stereotypes fostered by the Cold War.

Twentieth Century Communism 16 cover