Germany. Görge, an orphaned pastor’s son, spends his time reading. Books mean so much to him that he seems to live in stories, in a dream world. Because he used to entertain the old miller with stories Görge inherited the mill, which is being run by his guardian, who has now arranged that Görge should marry his daughter Grete to secure ownership of the mill. Although she bends to her father’s will, Grete can’t really get through to the dreamer.
On the morning of the wedding Grete’s former lover Hans returns from war and proposes to her. He hears of her father’s wedding plans with incredulity. When Görge talks about a Princess, who appeared to him in a dream, Hans pokes fun at his rival.
Alone by a stream, the Princess appears to Görge again and emboldens him with a vision of an ideal world. Bells striking twelve, the time of the wedding, bring Görge back to earth. He runs away from his bride and the villagers to make his dreams come true.
Act 2 3 years later. Görge’s plan backfired: he now lives in another village as an unkempt drinker. He only finds consolation in Gertraud, a dead count’s daughter who’s ostracised because of her origins, being suspected of arson and accused of witchcraft.
Disgruntled farmers, planning to rise up against the powerful people »up there«, want eloquent Görge to be their spokesperson. He agrees, to make his dreams come true in this way, but they insist he break up with Gertraud, who’s now being downright persecuted in the village. Görge sees the villagers blind aggression just in time, and the pointlessness of his own fairy tale world. When he refuses to leave Gertraud they both feel the full force of the fired-up mob.
Epilogue A year later. Görge went home with Gertraud, where he came into his inheritance, took over the mill and founded a school. Led by Grete and Hans, who are now married, the whole village thank them for their good deeds. Görge has found his Princess in Gertraud. They dream. They play.