Honoring the Heroine: Arabella

Yes, I know, I am late. I had two really crazy months…this coupled with the fact that I decided to post certain articles I already prepared to a later date for multiple reasons, left me struggling this month. So much that I actually had to forgo my original plan for this month altogether. Since I didn’t manage to finish an article in time for last Saturday, I know have to do one for the Easter weekend to reach my usual quota for this month. And like most blogger I had the desire to do something special for a special occasion. That’s really not that easily to do for Easter, but then a saw the Easter programming and discovered an old favourite of mine: Die Märchenbraut.

But I guess for my English reader, I need to give an explanation first, since we are talking about something typical German. During the 1980s and 1990s, multi-parter were extremely popular, especially for the holiday programming. There were the ZDF-Four-Parter, which were done for the adult audience and were usually based on classic adventure stories by Jack London, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne and so on. And there were short TV-Series for children, a lot of them being Czech productions. Back then, there was a partnership between the WDR and the Barrandov Studios, which resulted in a couple of very well done children series. One of the best series which resulted out of this partnership was “Arabela”, which was shown under the title “Die Märchenbraut” (The Fairy Tale Bride) in Germany. It was immensely popular. Even though it was supposedly a children series, a lot of adults were watching it too.

In thirteen episode the series told the story of Family Maier (I am using the German writings of the names for my convenience), which accidentally encounters the world of fairy tales when Karl Maier finds a magical bell. To summarize the story would be a little bit too complicated, plus, I really don’t want to spoil it, but if you really want the short version, there is a Wikipedia article about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabela_(TV_series)

On paper, it doesn’t really sound as if Arabella is a particularly good female character. She doesn’t fight. Her main motivation is that she is in love with Peter Maier. And the main motivation of the villain, the magician Rumburak, is to possess her. She presents the ideal of a fairy-tale princess, beautiful, graceful and soft-hearted. She even has a sister, Xenia, who is the opposite of her, just to underline how “good” she is. But she is so much more than this.

One guess who is the nice sister

One guess who is the nice sister

For one, she is smart. Early on in the series Rumburak kidnaps her. But she uses his arrogance against him and manages to flee into the real world, taking most of his magical items with her. That is an on-going pattern in the show. Even though she is the “damsel-in-distress” and everyone leaps to rescue her, it is usually her who ends up rescuing everyone else, not by fighting, but by using her charm and her mind.

Two, she is rebellious. Not in the face rebellious, but she knows exactly what she wants and she gets it, not by screaming and protesting, but by just doing what she considers right. There is one scene in which she explains Peter that in the fairy tale world, nobody really asks about love. The prince kills the dragon and gets the princess and nobody asks the princess if she is okay with the arrangement. But Arabella does pick her love interest and she does manage to leave her life as princess behind her.

Three, she is independent. Her whole life she was not only a princess, but a princess who could rely on magic to get whatever she wants. But none of this matters to her. In the end, she is totally happy to live like a normal person, because that is what she always wanted. The only “drawback” so to speak is that she gets this normal life by marrying a commoner in the real world (well, it was the 1980s, what do you expect). The big plus is the way the so called “fairy tale romance” is portrayed in the show. Arabella and Peter do have a “love at first meet” romance (yes, they actually talk with each other, have a perfect day together and know that they are meant for each other, you know, the usual), and there is never any doubt that they are meant to be. At the same time though, the show makes a clear comment on spending your life seeking out this kind of romance or just marriage in general. In its context, real love, when it happens, is the little piece of magic which sometimes changes our ordinary live for the better, but it is not something you can force or should plan your life around.

Usually I would now pick a fitting quote, the best episode aso. But a quote would pose the problem that I would have to translate it, and with 13 episodes featuring an on-going story, it’s necessary either way to watch the whole show (my favourite episodes were always number 6 and 9, though). It’s also difficult to give a recommendation – I think everyone who likes Fairy Tales and Disney would love this one. In fact the Series was so popular in Germany, it spawned a kind of spin-off which I really liked, too, and a sequel series I prefer to ignore. But then, the English audience would be forced to watch this with subtitles, if it is available at all…so, just take this little blog-post as a peak into some really good children programming of the kind, you will most likely never encounter in the English media.  In this sense: Happy Easter!

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One thought on “Honoring the Heroine: Arabella

  1. Pingback: Honoring the Heroine: Rosa | Honoring the Heroines

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