The Nutcracker


 "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" is a German tale (Nussknacker und Mausekönig) a story written in 1816 by Prussian author E. T. A. Hoffmann, in which young Marie Stahlbaum's favorite Christmas toy, a Nutcracker, comes alive and after defeating the evil Mouse King in battle, carries her away to a magical kingdom inhabited by dolls. In 1892, the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov turned Alexandre Dumas's adaptation into the ballet Nutcracker.

The Nutcracker ballet is, for many, an annual tradition.

The story begins on Christmas Eve at the Stahlbaum house. Marie, seven, and her brother, Fritz, sit outside the parlor speculating about what kind of present their godfather, Drosselmeyer, who is a clockmaker and inventor, has made for them. They are at last allowed in, where they receive many splendid gifts, including Drosselmeyer's, which turns out to be a clockwork castle with mechanical people moving about inside it. However, as they can only do the same thing repeatedly without variation, the children quickly tire of it. At this point, Marie notices a nutcracker and asks to whom he belongs. Her father tells her that he belongs to all of them but that she will be his special caretaker since she is so fond of him. So she, Fritz, and their sister, Louise, pass him amongst themselves, cracking nuts until Fritz tries to crack one that is too big and hard and his jaw breaks. Marie, upset, takes him away and bandages him with a ribbon from her dress.

When it is time for bed, the children put their Christmas gifts away in the special cabinet to keep their toys. Fritz and Louise go up to bed, but Marie begs to stay with the nutcracker a while longer, and she is allowed to do so. She puts him to bed and tells him that Drosselmeyer will fix his jaw as good as new. At this, his face seems momentarily to come alive, and Marie is frightened, but she then decides it was only her imagination.

The grandfather clock begins to chime, and Marie believes she sees Drosselmeyer sitting on it, preventing it from striking. Mice begin to come out from beneath the floorboards, including the seven-headed Mouse King. The dolls in the toy cabinet come alive and begin to move, the nutcracker taking command and leading them into battle after putting Marie's ribbon on as a token. The battle goes to the dolls at first, but they are eventually overwhelmed by the mice. Seeing the nutcracker about to be taken prisoner, Marie takes off her slipper and throws it at the Mouse King. She then faints into the toy cabinet's glass door, cutting her arm badly.

Marie wakes up in her bed the following day with her arm bandaged and tries to tell her parents about the battle between the mice and the dolls, but they do not believe her, thinking that she has had a fever dream caused by the wound she sustained from the broken glass. Several days later, Drosselmeyer arrives with the nutcracker, whose jaw has been fixed, and tells Marie the story of Princess Pirlipat and Madam Mouserinks, also known as the Queen of the Mice, which explains how nutcrackers came to be and why they look the way they do.

The Mouse Queen tricked Pirlipat's mother into allowing her and her children to gobble up the lard that was supposed to go into the sausage the King was to eat at dinner that evening. The King, enraged at the Mouse Queen for spoiling his supper and upsetting his wife, had his court inventor, whose name happens to be Drosselmeyer, create traps for the Mouse Queen and her children.

The Mouse Queen angered at the death of her children, swore that she would take revenge on Pirlipat. Pirlipat's mother surrounded her with cats that were supposed to be kept awake by being constantly stroked; however, the nurses who did so fell asleep. The Mouse Queen magically turned Pirlipat ugly, giving her a vast head, a wide grinning mouth, and a cottony beard like a nutcracker. The King blamed Drosselmeyer and gave him four weeks to find a cure. In the end, he had no remedy but went to his friend, the court astrologer.

They read Pirlipat's horoscope and told the King that the only way to cure her was to have her eat the nut Crackatook (Krakatuk), which must be cracked and handed to her by a man who had never been shaved nor worn boots since birth, and who must, without opening his eyes give her the kernel and take seven steps backward without stumbling. So the King sent Drosselmeyer and the astrologer out to look for both, charging them on pain of death not to return until they had found them.

The two men journeyed for many years without finding either the nut or the man, until finally they returned home to Nuremberg and found the nut in possession of Drosselmeyer's cousin, a puppet-maker. His son turned out to be the young man who needed to crack the nut Crackatook. Once the nut had been found, the King promised Pirlipat's hand to whoever could crack it. Unfortunately, many men broke their teeth on it before Drosselmeyer's nephew finally appeared. Nevertheless, he cracked it easily and handed it to Pirlipat, who swallowed it and immediately became beautiful again. Still, Drosselmeyer's nephew, on his seventh backward step, stepped on the Mouse Queen and stumbled, and the curse fell on him, giving him a large head, wide grinning mouth, and cottony beard; in short, making him a nutcracker. The ungrateful and unsympathetic Pirlipat, seeing how ugly he had become, refused to marry him and banished him from the castle.

While she recuperates from her wound, Marie hears the Mouse King, son of the deceased Madam Mouserinks, whispering to her in the middle of the night, threatening to bite the nutcracker to pieces unless she gives him her sweets and dolls. She sacrifices them for the nutcracker's sake, but then he wants more and more. Finally, the nutcracker tells her that he will finish off the Mouse King if she gets him a sword. She asks Fritz for one, and he gives her the one from one of his toy hussars. The next night, the nutcracker comes into Marie's room bearing the Mouse King's seven crowns and takes her away with him to the doll kingdom, where she sees many wonderful things. She eventually falls asleep in the nutcracker's palace and is brought back home. She tries to tell her mother what happened, but again she is not believed, even when she shows her parents the seven crowns, and she is forbidden to speak of her "dreams" anymore.

Marie sits in front of the toy cabinet one day while Drosselmeyer repairs one of her father's clocks. While looking at the nutcracker and thinking about all the wondrous things that happened, she can't keep silent anymore and swears to him that if he were ever really real, she would never behave as Pirlipat did and would love him whatever he looked like. At this, there is a bang, and she faints and falls off the chair. Her mother comes in to tell her that Drosselmeyer's nephew has arrived from Nuremberg. He takes her aside and tells her that by swearing that she would love him despite his looks, she broke the curse on him and made him human again. Then, he asks her to marry him. She accepts, and in a year and a day, he comes for her and takes her away to the doll kingdom, where she marries him and is crowned Queen.

Nutcracker Ballet -Full Performance - Russian State Ballet & Opera House

Russian State Ballet and Opera House on YouTube
Published Jul 12, 2020
1:27:51 viewing length


In March 1863 a seventeen year old native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, slipped away from his home on Brattle Street, hopped aboard a train and headed for Washington D.C. to join Mr. Lincoln's Army. He was by no means the first or the last youth that simply couldn't stay home while so many of his peers were off participating in the great adventure of the Civil War, but he may have been the most prominent runaway from Boston and possibly New England that year. His name was Charles Appleton Longfellow, and his father was the great poet and literary scholar, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.


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