Der arme Müllerbursch und das Kätzchen (Poor Muellerbursch and the
East Germany, 1971, 51 minutes, color
Director: Helmust Barkowsky, Lothar Barke
Screenplay: Lothar Barke, Helmust Barkowsky
Music: Gerd Schlotter
Director of Photography: H. Krahnert
Animation: L. Barke, H. Barkowsky, W. Hamacher, M. Lau, S. Hamacher, H. Günther,
H. Kneschke, J. Henker, E. Platz, Ch. Biermann, E. Engelmann, G. Otto
Based on the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm
VHS-PAL, no subtitles
There once was a poor miller, who had no children but three boys to work for
him. The two older and larger ones were lazy, mean, and stupid. The youngest was
hard-working, friendly, and cheerful. When the miller decides that he is too old
to work anymore, he tells each of the boys to go out into the world and find a
beautiful horse. He who brings back the most beautiful horse will inherit the
mill and must care for the miller in his old age.
When the two older boys leave the youngest behind, he meets a magic cat, who
says she will give him a beautiful horse, as long as he can complete three
tasks: first, he has to chop wood with a silver axe; then he must cut down all
the grass in the field by the end of the day; finally, he must chop down trees
and build the cat a home. He returns to the mill to wait for his reward, and not
only does Hans receive the horse, but some even better surprises, as well!
The DEFA animated version of this tale differs only slightly from the Grimms’
version. In the Grimms’, Hans must serve the cat for seven years and complete
any number of tasks during that time, including the ones the cat gives him in
the film. Also the moral of the story is changed. In the Grimms’ tale, Hans is
considered stupid by the other two boys, and his success at the end proves that
even those who may seem stupid can turn out to be quite intelligent in the end.
By introducing an evil character, the green and black cat, who tries to tempt
Hans with an easy way out, the DEFA version focuses on the idea of sticking to
your word. “Versprochen ist versprochen,” or, "a promise is a promise,"
is the moral of this film.