Berlin Bookstore Turns Customers into Fairy Tale Heroes | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 29.04.2008
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Berlin Bookstore Turns Customers into Fairy Tale Heroes

Ever dream of becoming a fairy tale princess or knight in shining armor? A Berlin bookstore can make your dreams a reality -- albeit in extremely limited printing runs.

Scene from Disney's Cinderella

You too can become a princess -- at least in your own made-to-order book

"Once upon a time, when the stars had names and the moon spent the boring days thinking how nice it would be to speak to it with the names of the night, a ship reached the Arabian shore ..."

The beginning of the story is printed on a plaque outside, but to find out how it ends, passers-by have to step inside Michael Waeser's store in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood.

Once inside, visitors can select from a collection of especially prepared stories, including the one on the front door, and -- abracadabra! -- their names appear throughout the book in place of the main character.

To help get in their new role, the customers-turned-heroes can try on hats or wigs and look in the mirror to see if the character is a fit.

Waeser first set up shop in November of last year, but had been tossing around the business idea for years after walking by a store stocking odds and ends.

John Wayne as a cowboy

Wild West or big city?

"I stood in front of it and thought, I'd love to go in and buy a story for my niece -- where she's the main character," said Waeser, who is an author himself.

From Westerns to mysteries

In addition to the ready-made stories, it's also possible to order an exclusive, personalized tale. Waeser said he enjoys the broad spectrum of imaginative ideas that have been generated.

"From Grimm fairy tales to excessive Arab style to succinct crime stories -- I really like trying my hand at all types of story telling," he said.

Before the writing can begin, important decisions have to be made. Should the adventure take place in the Wild West with lots of guns and good-looking cowboys? Or should the big city detective get a mysterious case to solve?

On the questionnaire customers fill out, Waeser asks what the personalized story should not include. "No cheap hotels, no sex," is one of the boxes that can be checked, for example.

A child listens with headphones

Personalized books-on-tape are available too

"I read through the specifications, play around with them a bit in my head, and at some point an idea emerges," said Waeser.

Personal book-on-tape

On average, the personalized tales fill between 10 and 40 pages and are completed within a week. They cost 169 euros ($264) and can be recorded as a book-on-tape for an extra 200 euros.

Before placing an order, visitors to the shop can get a taste of what's on offer by listening to sample books-on-tape in the foyer.

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