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The Singing Ringing Tree
The Singing Ringing Tree (1957) Film Poster.jpg
Directed by Francesco Stefani
Produced by Alexander Delete
Written by Anne Geelhaar
Francesco Stefani
Starring Richard Krüger
Eckart Dux
Christel Bodenstein
Music by Heinz-Friedel Heddenhausen
Cinematography Karl Plintzner
Editing by Christa Wenicke
Distributed by DEFA
Release date(s) 13 December 1957 (1957-12-13)
Running time 73 minutes
Country East Germany
Language German

The Singing Ringing Tree (German: Das singende, klingende Bäumchen) is a 1957 children's fantasy film from East German studio DEFA. Directed by Francesco Stefani, the screenplay by Anne Geelhaar is based on a variation of "Hurleburlebutz" by the Brothers Grimm.

Plot summary

The story concerns a beautiful but selfish and haughty princess who rejects the proposal of a wealthy prince. She scorns the gifts he offers her, and says that she will marry him only if he brings her the mythical "singing ringing tree". The prince locates the tree in the territory of an evil dwarf, who offers to give him the enchanted tree, on the understanding that, if the princess still rejects him, he will be in the dwarf's power and will be turned into a bear. Because the tree will only sing and ring when the princess falls in love with the prince, she is disappointed in it and continues to reject the prince. The prince is forced to return to the dwarf's lair and is turned into a bear.

The princess sends her father to find the singing ringing tree for her, but he is met by the prince, in the guise of a bear, who gives him the tree on condition that the king returns with the first thing the king sees on his return. This turns out to be the princess, who is now delivered into the hands of the dwarf. The dwarf, seeing the princess's self-centred behaviour, casts a spell to make her ugly. The bear tells her that she will regain her beauty only if she changes her ways. Gradually she is won over by the bear and becomes beautiful again. Despite the dwarf's attempts to keep her and the prince apart, she eventually falls in love with him and the singing ringing tree finally lives up to its name.


In credits order.

  • Christel Bodenstein as the haughty princess
  • Charles Hans Vogt as the king
  • Eckart Dux as the handsome prince/bear
  • Richard Krüger as the dwarf
  • Dorothea Tiesing as the nurse
  • Günther Polensen as the captain of the guard
  • Fredy Barton as the minister
  • Egon Vogel as captain and master of ceremonies
  • Paul Knopf as the guardian
  • Paul Pfingst as Bauer
  • Friedrich Teitge as the gardener
  • Maria Besendahl (Anna-Maria Besendahl) as the herbalist


The film was shot in colour entirely in the studio in Potsdam, Brandenburg, East Germany. There was later confusion as to whether the actor who played the dwarf was named Richard Krüger and died in Strasbourg, or was Hermann Emmrich who died in 1995 and is buried in Prenzlau in north eastern Germany. It is now thought that they were one and the same person.


After its release in East Germany, it sold 5,901,141 tickets in the country of about 17 million. The film was then purchased by the BBC and cut into three parts to create a mini-series which was first broadcast on black and white television from 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. In 1988 it was released on VHS video in Germany and it is now available on a DVD. It is currently available on Amazon Prime.

UK reactions

The TV series, partly due to its foreignness as both fairy tale and for the unfamiliarity of its German production, was 'indelibly carved on the psyches' as 'one of the most frightening things ever shown on children's television'. The release of the DVD version in 2002 spurred renewed interest in it. A Radio Times readers' poll in 2004 voted this programme the 20th spookiest TV show ever.

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