(Das Zaubermännchen)

GDR, 1960, 71 min, color
In German; English subtitles
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)
Production Company


The classic Grimm's fairy tale with socially critical overtones in its analysis of work and exploitation. 


A boastful miller pretends that his daughter Marie can spin straw into gold, and so she is locked into a room full of straw and ordered to spin it into gold by the next morning. A little man appears and offers his help in exchange for Marie's necklace. The greedy treasurer makes Marie spin twice more until the only thing she has left to give the little man is the promise of her first-born child.


The delighted king marries Marie, but when their child is a year old, the little man returns to claim his payment. Because he likes the kind-hearted Marie, he allows her to save her child if she can guess his name in three days. In the DEFA version, Marie enlists the help of her husband and the entire kingdom to discover the little man's name, and it is her faithful friend Hans who happens upon the little man in the woods and saves the day.


DEFA's Rumpelstiltskin differs from the Grimms version in that it broadens the cast of characters to include many additional minor characters as well as a kingdom of extras. These new figures act as go-betweens and create a more complicated system of transgressors instead of the traditional division between good and evil. Rumpelstiltskin creates contrasts between hard-working Hans and the lazy Miller, as well as the treasurer who craves gold and Rumpelstiltskin who craves things of emotional rather than monetary value. This version also allows for character growth and development, as the King learns to treasure his family above his riches and Marie learns to assert herself in times of stress.  


The most telling difference between the Grimm Brothers and DEFA, however, is the newly-sympathetic portrayal of Rumpelstiltskin himself. He is no longer a strange and devious creature who desires a human child for an undisclosed reason. Rather, he wants to save the child from the corruption of money. Indeed, money is the true villian in the DEFA version and all those who are deemed "good" in the end must be those who value money less than family, friends, and the welfare of those in the kingdom.


DVD Bonus Features:

Also available for purchase: the Rumpelstiltskin teaching guide!

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