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Literature: The Nutcracker
Original Illustration by E.T.A. Hoffmann.

"The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" (Ger. Nußknacker und Mausekönig) is an 1816 story by E. T. A. Hoffmann, but you probably know it by its shorter title, The Nutcracker (Rus. Щелкунчик, Shchelkunchik) from the frequently-staged ballet by Tchaikovsky, the musical suite derived therefrom, and from that suite's use in Walt Disney's Fantasia. The ballet has also been made into various animated adaptations.

The Stahlbaum children are given a toy nutcracker for Christmas from their godfather Drosselmeier. This nutcracker turns out to be more than he seems; he's really Drosselmeier's nephew transformed by a mouse queen's evil curse. With the help of young Marie Stahlbaum, the nutcracker is eventually able to overcome his foe (the queen's vengeful son), regain his true form, and take Marie to the doll kingdom. After taking a grand tour, Marie falls asleep and wakes up in her own bed. When she tries to tell her parents, they think she's dreamed the entire thing and forbid her to speak of it again. However, Marie goes to her nutcracker in the cabinet and vows she would love him if he were real, even if he were ugly. This breaks the curse, and he asks her to marry him. Marie accepts, and in a year he takes her to the doll kingdom, where she is crowned queen.

The novel was made into a ballet — as well as, at least, two feature length Animated Adaptations.

A fan translation of Hoffmann's original fairy tale can be found here.

The book provides examples of:

  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Young Drosselmeier is the king of the Land of the Dolls. He's probably 14 at the most.
  • All the Little Germanies: The setting - and this story is one of the leading causes of the whole gemütlich reputation of this period and setting.
  • Author Avatar: Drosselmeier has been claimed as a self-portrait of Hoffmann.
  • Author Tract: The story isn't very subtle about its message that beauty and royalty do not equal goodness and virtue.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Ralph Manheim's translation is pretty decent, but he goofs up big time by translating the names of two completely different places into "Candytown." (Specifically, Bonbonshausen and Konfektburg.) And it's not like they were particularly easy to mistake for one another, either.
  • Big Bad: The Mouse King.
  • Break the Cutie: Marie, to a degree, thanks to the Mouse King psychologically tormenting her.
  • Bug War: The residents of Candytown (Bonbonshausen) are seen making preparations for an attack from the mosquitoes.
  • Curse Escape Clause: Two - Princess Pirlipat could escape her curse of ugliness if a young man who had never shaved nor worn boots cracked the nut Krakatuk between his teeth, presented it to the princess with his eyes closed, and took seven steps backward without stumbling. The second is the curse on the Nutcracker: his curse is broken when Marie announces that she would love him even if he were ugly.
  • The Dreaded: The inhabitants of the Land of Dolls believe in a cruel spirit they call Pastrycook (Konditor), who has total power over mankind. Just mentioning his name will quell any uproar, as everyone would suddenly be preoccupied with pondering man's place in the universe.
  • Duel to the Death: It's not described, but this is how the Mouse King dies.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Godfather Drosselmeier.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Averted; Hoffman specifically mentions that Marie isn't afraid of mice, though her mother seems to assume she is. (In fact, she's only afraid of one, and for good reason.)
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: There are what, five of them in all?
  • Everything's Better With Sparkles: The Land of Dolls, ever so much.
  • Evil Matriarch: The Mouse Queen.
  • Gem-Encrusted: The boat/sea chariot Nutcracker and Marie cross the lake on; a room inside Marzipan Castle.
  • Give Me a Sword: And then I'll take care of this stinking Mouse King.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: The Mouse Queen.
  • Gold Makes Everything Shiny: Especially flatware and cooking dishes!
  • The Grotesque: Princess Pirlipat and the Nutcracker. Subverted a bit with Pirlipat in that, after her ugliness is removed, she turns out to be a Royal Brat.
  • Happily Ever After: In the book.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: The only reasonable way Marie could climb a ladder up her father's coat sleeve...
  • Kid Hero: Marie to an extent (she's seven) and most definitely Nutcracker, who becomes king, leads an army, and defeats the Big Bad mano a mano (he's most likely somewhere around 13-15).
  • Level Ate: The Land of Dolls, where buildings are made from various sweets.
  • Living Toys: Possibly the oldest example in the book.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: In the book, it wasn't!
    • Some of the ballet adaptations don't make it a dream either.
    • The Soviet cartoon seems be more ambiguous on this part, but, given that we see Marie's sabots and The Nutcracker's empty shell at the end, it seems the events were real after all.
    • Zigzagged in one of the animated adaptations. After all of the adventures, Marie wakes up in her bed and life continues. Then Drosselmeier shows up — with Young Drosselmeier on tow. Young Drosselmeier tells Marie that yes, everything happened, and in the very end they go together to the doll kingdom. (It should be noticed that in this particular animated movie, 7-year-old Marie is aged up to around 12-13 years old.)
  • Nice Mice: Averted; the mice (or at least the royal family) are a nasty bunch.
  • No Name Given: The names of the king, queen, and court astronomer are never given. The nutcracker and Marie's parents are only known by their surnames.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Marzipan Castle was once threatened by a giant named Sweettooth. The people of Candytown (Konfektburg) bought him off by offering him a precinct of the city and a large portion of Marmalade Grove.
  • Pajama Clad Hero: Marie/Clara goes to the Land of Dolls in her nightie.
  • Power of Love
  • The Quest: Drosselmeier went on one to find the cure for Princess Pirlipat.
  • Revenge: Just don't irritate those pesky mouse nobles.
  • Replacement Goldfish: At the end of the story, young Drosselmeier replaces all of the sugar dolls the Mouse King ate. Small comfort when you remember that the originals were living beings....
  • Royal Brat: Princess Pirlipat and the king.
  • Rule of Three: The Mouse King visits Marie three times before Nutcracker offs him.
  • Sadistic Choice: The Mouse King makes Marie surrender her beloved candies and toys to him, or else he'll destroy the Nutcracker.
  • Supreme Chef: The four princesses of Marzipan Castle.
  • Theme Naming: The Drosselmeier family - we have Christian Elias Drosselmeier and Christoph Zechariah Drosselemeier. In other words, Christ(something) (Old Testament prophet) Drosselmeier.
  • Vague Age: Young Drosselmeier. He probably wasn't any older than fourteen when he was transformed into a Nutcracker, given the facts we have to work with. Then when you account for the fact that upward of seven years must have passed before he was given to Marie, he would logically be in his early twenties. But at the end of the story, Drosselmeier refers to him and Marie collectively as "children" and expects them to play together, so apparently he's still quite young.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: The main villain of a story about dolls, candy, and Christmas? A sadistic seven-headed mouse. His tininess really doesn't make him any less horrifying.
  • The Wise Prince: The nutcracker prince.
  • You Have to Believe Me: After the Nutcracker kills the Mouse King and they visit the Land of Dolls, Marie tries in vain to convince her parents that it wasn't just a dream. To her credit she actually has evidence to show for it (the Mouse King's crowns), but they still find her story too ridiculous to believe.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Marie is the youngest of the three Stahlbaum children.

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alternative title(s): The Nutcracker And The Mouse King
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