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Today is fairy-tale day. Not least because many German families have a tradition of watching at least one fairy-tale film together over Christmas. The film of choice is generally Three Gifts for Cinderella, a joint Czechoslovakian/East German production. Filmed in 1973 and now a classic, this is probably the best-known fairy-tale film produced by DEFA, the East German state-owned film studio. This article however concerns a different film by DEFA – and one that is no less exciting.

A film about the peasant's wise daughter
Wie heiratet man einen König (How to Marry a King), a film by Rainer Simon, appeared on the big screen in East Germany in 1969. At that time, fairy tales could be regarded as the sandpit for young film directors. And so the young Rainer Simon was given the task of turning Grimm's tale of the peasant's wise daughter into a socialist fairy tale for children.

But is it a fairy tale?
Simon, who had a background in documentary cinematography, chose to avoid the excesses of the fairy-tale genre. Instead, with his cameraman Claus Neumann and the use of mediaeval props, he produced a more “adult” fairy tale on the woman's role in marriage and the relationship between husbands and wives. Simon used the film to take part in the evolving discussions of female emancipation in society.

Fears that children would be bored by the theme of Wie heiratet man einen König, a love story between a peasant's daughter and a king, fortunately proved unfounded: East German audiences of all ages enjoyed the film.

Wie heiratet man einen König is still well worth seeing. Perhaps some of our readers would like to watch it this Christmas. If so, we are sure that you will enjoy it.

Take the chance to win a copy
This article relates to the "DEFA Children's Films: Not just for Children" chapter of the De Gruyter textbook entitled DEFA at the Crossroads of East German and International Film Culture.

Take the chance and win a copy of the textbook by sending an email to socialmedia [ at ] degruyter.com. Don't forget to mention the number of the Advent Calendar Door in the subject line. The winner will be notified by email until January, 10, 2015.