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Series / The Singing Ringing Tree

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The Singing Ringing Tree (German: Das singende, klingende Bäumchen) was a children's film made by East German studio DEFA in 1957 and shown in the form of a television series by the BBC. It was a story in the style of The Brothers Grimm, directed by Francesco Stefani.

The film was purchased by The BBC and cut into three parts to create a mini-series which was first broadcast 19 November 1964 to 3 December 1964 as part of Tales from Europe, with an English-language voice-over track (not dubbed, however, the original soundtrack was simply faded up and down). It was repeated many times through to 1980.

One reviewer (Roger Thomas at has summed it up thus:

"Imagine a Fairy Tale conceived by Wagner and directed by Fritz Lang, with nods in the direction of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and German Expressionism, and you'd be close."

Here's the Glorious Technicolour opening, to give you a flavor of what it's like.

The singing ringing tropes:

  • Beauty Equals Goodness: The Princess is temporarily cursed with ugliness to reflect her inner nature and regains her beauty when she learns to become a better person.
  • Break the Haughty: The Princess' basic character arc.
  • Deal with the Devil: The evil Dwarf will give the Prince the Singing Ringing Tree but if the Prince then fails to win the Princess, the Dwarf will own his soul. The Prince recklessly states that if he fails "you can turn me into a bear" and the Dwarf takes him at his word.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The Prince's first attempt to court the Princess is to give her a large golden box filled with pearls. She disdainfully tips them all over the floor and complains that any rich man can give her a box of pearls and she expects more effort from a suitor. There was no need to be so rude about it but the idea that someone who hopes to win your heart needs to make more effort than just a financial one (especially when you're already rich yourself) is hard to argue with.
  • McGuffin: The titular tree.
  • Nameless Narrative: No-one is named, there's just The Prince; The Princess; The King and The Dwarf.
  • Punished with Ugly: What the Princess is temporarily cursed with. She gets better, following her redemption.
  • Unkempt Beauty: The princess after her transformation probably doesn't look any worse, at least to modern viewers. (Whether this is due to limited production values or was intended as a stealth Aesop is unclear.)
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The King presumably recovers from grief when his daughter returns home safely but his fate isn't made clear. The giant fish is also left stranded when the Dwarf drains the lake and although the lake refills after his defeat the fish isn't seen again.