Germany: East German Little Sandmann (Sandmännchen)

Front view
Front view

General description This popular German children’s TV figure is wearing work clothes from the 20th century.

Dimensions 27 x 14 x 10 cm

Date when acquired 1996

Original Date Unknown

Source Most probably originally made by an East German company.

Flea market in Göttingen, Germany.



Plastic with white painted black button eyes typical of the Sandmännchen. He has short white hair and a very long chin beard. His arms are movable but his legs are rigid. His feet are elongated into the form of pointed shoes. He has only four digits on each of his hands.


Back view
Back view


He is wearing his characteristic red nightcap with its apex pointing towards the front. His beige cord trousers are also typical of the original Sandmännchen. They are held up by cord braces crossed over at the back. His white cotton collarless shirt buttons up at the back. The purple buttons are what I sewed on him when I bought the doll for my son (he was two at the time) as the original buttons were missing. These larger buttons were easier for him to hold onto despite the shirt and trousers having press studs. I presume red would have been better

Most probably the doll had the typical red coat, red cap and black pointy shoes at one time, but they were already lost when I first saw him lying dirty in a cardboard box at the flea market.


None .


Background information

The sandman is a mythical figure that is found in a number of European cultures. He is supposed to sprinkle sand in people’s eyes to help them go to sleep and have nice dreams. The German sandman was first referred to in 1777 by Johann Christoph Adelung, the author of an important German dictionary.

The type of sandman represented here, the Sandmännchen, is the one used in a German children’s bedtime television programme using stop-motion animation. The figure was created by the puppeteer and director Gerhard Behrendt. Interestingly, two versions of Sandmännchen were created in 1959: one in East Germany (Unser Sandmännchen) and one in West Germany (Das Sandmännchen). The one that lasted the longest and is most beloved, even in West Germany, is the East German version. Sandmännchen programmes were made in East Germany until 1989. The West German version was made until 1991. German reunification took place in 1990. The programme was and still is sent every evening at 18.50 finishing at 19.00 on various German television channels, when the Sandmännchen finishes by singing his lullaby to send the children to sleep. This is also the watershed time between children’s TV and adult’s TV. Nowadays, the Sandmännchen even has his own webpage <;


His standard “uniform” of beige cord trousers, black shoes, white shirt, red coat and cape, are often replaced by other clothes depending on the story he is involved in. He has only eight digits (three fingers and a thumb) instead of ten because according to the designer “his hands would have otherwise been too big”.

The evening ritual of story and Sandmännchen’s song (which is difficult to sing but part of German children’s culture) is as follows:

On his arrival, the children sing:


“Sandmann, lieber Sandmann, es ist noch nicht so weit!

Wir sehen erst den Abendgruß,

ehe jedes Kind ins Bettchen muss,

du hast gewiss noch Zeit.”


[Sandman, dear Sandman, it’s not yet time!

First we’ll watch the evening’s greeting

Before every child must go to bed.

Surely, you have time for that.]

The children then settle down to watch a story with the Sandmännchen. At the end, he sings to the children whilst he is leaving:

“Kinder, liebe Kinder, es hat mir Spaß gemacht.

Nun schnell ins Bett und schlaft recht schön.

Dann will auch ich zur Ruhe geh‘n. Ich wünsch euch gute Nacht.”

[Children, dear children, I enjoyed that.

Now, quick to bed and sleep tight.

Then I will also go to my resting place.

I wish you all a good night.]


Source(s) of information (accessed 5th August, 2015) (accessed 5th August, 2015) (accessed 5th August, 2015)




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