An East German Icon Hits the Arab World | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 08.09.2006
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Culture

An East German Icon Hits the Arab World

Starting this autumn, Germany's popular Little Sandman will children in the Arab world to sleep with enchanting tales and magic dust.

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Little Sandman is based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairytales

Since 1959, a puppet-like munchkin with a long beard called Sandmännchen or Little Sandman, sent a goodnight message to East German young children every evening before the nightly news broadcast.

Based on a character by Danish fairytale scribe, Hans Christian Anderson, Little Sandman was an East German icon, who marched with the young pioneers, traveled in space and drove a Trabant, the clunker of a car ubiquitous in the former German Democratic Republic.

He was a beloved fairytale character who put the little ones to sleep with his fantastic adventures and magic powder. Considered a propaganda tool in the West before reunification, the BRD broadcast different Little Sandman episodes than in the East. After reunification, the eastern version was adopted by German television nationwide.

Al Jazeera to broadcast Sandman

Der Sandmann Sandmännchen

Little Sandman has journeyed to the Middle East before

Starting this autumn, Little Sandman will enchant children in Arab world as well with bedtime stores and magic dust on the Qatar based television channel Al Jazeera.

And it won't be Little Sandman's first journey to the region -- back in 1979, his flying carpet had already landed in Baghdad.

Little Sandman is also featured in a host of other languages--Norwegian, Serbian, Hebrew and even Latin to name a few -- but he is little known in the English speaking world.

The modern Sandman can even be wicked

Still, in modern folklore, the character of a sleep-inducing character such as a sandman has not always been an angelic munchkin who induces sleep by sprinkling sand on the eyes of children.

For example, the Russian master spy in John Le Carre's novel, Smiley's People, is nicknamed the "sandman." As George Smiley explains it, "he has a way of putting to sleep whomever gets too close to him."

Also, in the American TV show, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, the main character uses her magical prowess to give the school headmaster nightmares for putting her in detention, while in the Real Ghostbusters, the 1980s cartoon, a renegade sandman goes on a lunatic rage and puts folks in Manhattan to sleep for 500 years.

So whether Little Sandman will induce sweet dreams or nightmares is something that children in Baghdad, Kabul or Abu Dhabi can decide for themselves. In any event, Sandman's coming to town.

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