Arabela is a highly successful and charming children's television series produced in Czechoslovakia and aired between 1979-1981. The series was directed by Václav Vorlíček and it spans 13 half an hour-long episodes.
The premise of the series is that the world is split into two interconnected parts: a world of humans and a world of fictional stories. While our world is organized into countries, the world of fictional stories is organized into kingdoms, with the medieval-looking Kingdom of Fairy Tales playing an important role in the story. By creating tales and characters, the human world unknowingly helps the other world expand and grow. While travel between worlds is possible through magic, the denizens of the world of fiction tend to avoid going to the human world and thus humans remain blithely unaware of the truth.
Enter Mr Karel Majer, an ordinary man who works minor jobs in television. One day, while he was working as an extra on the set of a film, he unearths a magic bell which summons the sorcerer apprentice Rumburak, who has the duty to fulfil the wish of whoever rings the bell. Remembering the disappointment of his son and his friend when he failed to get them a prize by shooting the mark at a fair, Mr Majer asks Rumburak to teach him how to shoot. The sorcerer agrees and takes him to the forests of the Fairy Tale world, where Mr Majer accidentally shoots the wolf from the Little Red Riding Hood story. This upsets the balance of the kingdom, as Little Red Riding Hood now lacks a character to reenact her story with, and is rendered purposeless.
When King Hyacint, the ruler of the Kingdom of Fairy Tales finds out about what happened, he punishes Rumburak by stripping him of his apprenticeship and turning him into a wolf, with the specific instruction to take the place of the wolf from the story. Enraged, the sorcerer rebels against the royal punishment and concocts a plan to take over the entire kingdom and marry the king’s youngest daughter, the lovely princess Arabela.
Owing to the success of the series, the director created a sequel named Arabela Returns in 1993, but it failed to gain the popularity of the original. Part of that was the decision to have Arabela and Petr play supporting roles and some inconsistencies related to characterization. Taking place ten years after the events of the first series, the story focused on Rumburak enchanting Arabela's unborn twins, which led to them being born as old men instead of babies. Arabela and her now-husband Petr must travel in-between worlds to fix the damage caused by the evil sorcerer and return their children to normal.
Also, Rumburak got his own movie in 1989. It shows his life after being exiled into the Human world at the end of Arabela, a crow by day and human by night.
The series plays around with many fairytale and character tropes and boasts some really pretty costumes. It was very popular in the '80s with Eastern European and even German viewers, and many people who were young in that period of time remember it fondly.
This television series provides examples of:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Rumburak is this for Arabela.
- Accidentally Broke the MacGuffin: A thief by the name of Fousek gets his hands on two of the wishing rings and, unaware of their power, has them melted.
- Anachronism Stew: Robots, guns and cars exist in the neighbouring Kingdom of Novels, ruled by Fantômas.
- An Aesop: Xenia insists on marrying a prince she doesn't love (or even know very well) because she wants to be queen, and this ends up with both spouses despising each other and being absolutely miserable.
- Art Initiates Life: Turns out stories created by humans turn to reality in a different world.
- Animorphism: Rumburak is turned into a wolf by King Hyacint against his will, as punishment for getting the Little Red Riding Hood wolf shot. He and his witch friend can willingly turn into crows, however.
- The Big Bad Wolf: An inhabitant of the Fairy Tale Kingdom as part of Little Red Riding Hood's story.
- Big Fancy House: The seat of the royal family is a beautiful castle. There is another castle in the fairytale kingdom, which Rumburak eventually turns into his headquarters, but it is in dire need of repairs.
- Big, Thin, Short Trio: Rumburak's henchmen: Pekota (Big), Bletoka (Thin) and Mekota (Short).
- Black Sheep: Xenia is the rotten apple of the royal family, a fact underlined by her theme colours: while the rest of her family wears mostly white and gold, she wears black and dark blue.
- Book Ends: The series begins with the unearthing of a magical bell by Mr Majer, and it ends with his family's dog burying the same bell after Petr and Arabela's wedding in the final episode.
- Brick Joke: Honzíček and Mařenka's piano teacher is a spinster desperate to find a husband. As she leaves Honzík's house after a lesson, she says that she would be willing to marry the devil himself. Several episodes later, she ends up in the fairytale kingdom and marries a devil by the name of Blekota. They end up being quite happy together.
- Butt-Monkey: Prince Vilibald. First, he is ordered by the king to rob the inhabitants of Sleeping Beauty's castle instead of doing what he usually did, namely awakening the princess. Then he is more or less coerced into marrying princess Xenia and spends the rest of the story being criticized and insulted by her for his meek character.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: The show's premise is that the popular fictional stories and fairy tales come to life in another world, and can be affected by what humans believe.
- Collared by Fashion: Xenia wears one here.◊
- Color-Coded Patrician: The royal family of the Fairy Tale Kingdom wears gold and white mostly, with the exception of Xenia.
- Costume Porn: Worn by the royal family, but most of the costumes in the series are very detailed and well made.
- Court Mage: Mr Vigo, although it seems to be more of an Informed Attribute, since we never see him performing any magic.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Rumburak's initial punishment. Nothing implies that he actually wanted the wolf from the story to get killed, as he might have simply confused him with a regular one. For this, he was stripped of his apprenticeship, turned from a human into an animal (all the while keeping his intellect) and forced to fill in a part for an undetermined period of time. Possibly forever.
- Distinguishing Mark: Rumburak uses the wishing ring to transform his ally the Wicked Witch into the Queen - the two look identical with the exception of a rather large mole above the fake queen's mouth.
- Doppelgänger: The witch takes on the appearance of the Queen and impersonates her in order to further Rumburak's goals.
- Evil Plan: Rumburak's master plan is to put the entire kingdom's safety at risk and force the King to offer half of it and Arabela's hand in marriage to whoever solves the crisis. He would then swoop down and claim the prizes. Didn't quite work out.
- The Fashionista: Xenia, especially when it comes to modern clothing.
- Fourth-Date Marriage: Arabela and Petr marry after knowing each other for only a couple of weeks (at most). Same with Xenia and Vilibald.
- Gingerbread House: This is the Fairy Tale Kingdom, after all.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: Having been charmed by what she found in the human world, princess Xenia takes advantage of her father's absence and begins "modernizing" the kingdom of fairy tales, much to the dislike of its inhabitants. It doesn't help that she doesn't understand things like pollution, so she cheerfully requests that the forests and waters of the kingdom be filled with trash, and even has a factory specifically designed to convert perfectly good objects into trash.
- Good Wears White: The titular princess is sweet and wears gold and white. Her sister Xenia wears dark clothes and is a Royal Brat.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Arabela.
- Happily Married: All the couples in the series, except Xenia and her husband.
- Heir Club for Men: Implied to be the case in the kingdom. Xenia marries a prince only because without him, she would never ascend to the throne.
- Henpecked Husband: Blekota, although he seems pretty happy with his wife. Poor Vilibald on the other hand...
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: Rumburak's general attitude when he finally captures Arabela.
- Innocently Insensitive: Xenia, to her sister Arabela. She loves her in her own way and she means well, but some of her comments come across as this. For example, when saying goodbye to Arabela after her wedding in the final episode, Xenia says that she will send her the clothes that she doesn't wear anymore. Fortunately, Arabela knows that Xenia meant it as a gesture of kindness and doesn't get upset.
- Ironic Name: Xenia is Greek for hospitable. She is anything but.
- Jerkass Has a Point: When Xenia brought Prince Vilibald (now reduced to a thief and miserable because of it) in front of the King and Queen and announced that she is marrying him, her father opposed the match on the grounds that Prince Vilibald is a thief - which led to Xenia immediately pointing out that Vilibald started stealing the jewels and money of the inhabitants of Sleeping Beauty's castle because the King ordered him to.
- Karma Houdini: Princess Xenia never gets as much as a slap on the wrist for what she did to the Fairy Tale Kingdom in the absence of her father.
- Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Arabela and her older sister Xenia, respectively. While Arabela is pure-hearted, unfailingly polite and kind, Xenia is ambitious, bossy, mean, rude and selfish. The show further emphasizes this by making them polar opposites in everything: Arabela wears mostly white and gold and is blonde and curly-haired while Xenia is a sleek-haired brunette dressed mostly in black. Even their stance on love is contrasting: Arabela marries for love with no regards to money or station, while Xenia essentially bullies a prince into marrying her because he was the only prince in the kingdom and she can't be queen without marrying one.
- Losing Your Head: One of Rumburak's henchmen is Pekota, a large, headless knight. He usually holds his head in his hand.
- Meaningful Name: The name Arabela means beautiful, loving, lovable or graceful. It fits her perfectly.
- Navel-Deep Neckline: When going out to eat at a restaurant in the human world, Xenia wears a jumpsuit with a plunging neckline.
- No Name Given/Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Queen of the Fairy Tale Kingdom is only known by her title.
- Noble Fugitive: Arabela becomes this when she flees into the human world to escape Rumburak.
- Old Maid: Miss Milerova, Honzik's piano teacher. She is so desperate to get married that she says she'd marry the devil if she could. She ends up doing exactly that.
- Parental Favoritism: The king says outright that Arabela is his favorite child.
- The Plan: Knowing the connection between how the beliefs of children affect the population of the fairy tale kingdom, the main antagonist Rumburak concocted a plot to become the ruler of the aforementioned place by traveling to the human world and hijacking a popular fairy tale reading television series. Children were told that the characters in the stories did bad things instead of good ones, such as robbing people instead of saving them. Rumburak knew that it was only a matter of time until King Hyacint would be forced to order his subjects to act out on the new version of the stories, plunging the kingdom into chaos... and leaving the king with no choice but to offer half his kingdom and the hand of princess Arabela as a reward for whoever restored balance. Rumburak then planned to swoop down and claim the rewards for himself, being within his power to stop messing with the TV series.
- Prince Charming: Vilibald is the prince from Sleeping Beauty's tale. He is handsome and devoted to Sleeping Beauty and shows anguish and outrage at being forced by the King to become a common thief.
- Rich Bitch: Xenia, in spades.
- Ring of Power: Three of them, actually. They can transform people into animals, objects or even other people and they can summon objects out of thin air.
- Royal Brat: Xenia, especially when her parents aren't there to keep her in check.
- Sibling Rivalry: Averted. Despite all her insensitivity and selfishness (and her being the unfavorite in the family), Xenia has a good relationship with Arabela and the two are never involved in any kind of competition.
- Shout-Out: To numerous fairy tales, through characters or magical objects (white snake, flying trunk, wishing rings, magic bell, magic wand, crystal ball, traveling cape etc.)
- Speaks Fluent Animal: Arabela, after eating a piece of a white snake (a reference to the fairy tale with the same name).
- Talking Animal: The wolf from the Little Red Riding Hood story.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Xenia, once King Hyacint goes to the human world to search for Arabela. She goes from a somewhat mischievous and vain girl to a complete tyrant.
- Uptown Girl: Petr is a normal student and his beloved Arabela is a princess.
- Unwanted Spouse: Xenia is this for Vilibald. Although in love with Sleeping Beauty, the prince was pressured into marrying Xenia because she is the king's daughter, and appears to have genuinely tried to get along with her, but her personality and behavior made that impossible. They end up hating and despising each other.
- Wicked Witch: Two, actually. One is Rumburak's ally and the other is the witch from Hansel&Gretel.
- Youngest Child Wins: Arabela, of course.