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The story of the Nutcracker

The Nutcracker

The origin of The Nutcracker is loosely based on the E.T.A. Hoffmann fantasy story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, the story is about a girl who befriends a nutcracker that comes to life on Christmas Eve and wages a battle against the evil Mouse King.

One of Hoffmann's stories was adapted by the French writer Alexandre Dumas. It was the tale of a little girl, Marie, and her Christmas toys. Hoffmann's title for it was "Nutcracker and Mouse King."

The story begins on Christmas Eve in the home of Marie and her brother. Drosselmeyer, a friend of the family arrives and gave the children a mechanical castle as a present. However, since the figures inside the castle keep repeating the same actions over and over again, the two children soon tire of it. Marie then notices a nutcracker in the form of a soldier. Marie and Fritz both enjoy opening nuts with the Nutcracker, until Fritz places a nut that is too large and too hard for the Nutcracker to open into the toy's mouth and breaks his jaw. Marie uses a ribbon from her dress to bandage the Nutcracker's jaw and tells him that Fritz will fix him the next day.

That night, Marie sees several mice emerge from behind the wall, including the seven-headed Mouse King. Marie's dolls come to life and start to fight the mice. The Nutcracker leads the dolls, proudly displaying the ribbon which Marie gave him. The mice are about to win the battle and the Nutcracker is about to be taken prisoner but Marie then throws a shoe at the Mouse King. As she does so, she faints and falls against a cabinet, cutting her arm on its glass door. In the morning, Marie tells her parents about the battle between the mice and the dolls but they think that it was just a feverish dream caused by the girl's injury.

Having repaired the Nutcracker, Drosselmeyer comes back to Marie's home. Marie tells him about the battle which she witnessed and Drosselmeyer tells her the origin of the Nutcracker.

According to Drosselmeyer's story, a princess named Pirlipat is tricked by the Mouse Queen into letting her and her mouse children eat some lard (pig fat) which was intended to be used to make sausages for the king's supper. The angry king orders the court inventor, a man named Drosselmeyer, to create traps to kill the mice. After her children are killed, the furious Mouse Queen puts a curse on Princess Pirlipat, magically transforming her into a nutcracker.

There is only one way to cure the princess, a young man who has never shaved nor worn boots has to use his teeth to crack open the nut Krakatuk, hand the nut to the princess to eat, and take seven steps backward without stumbling. The king declares that whoever cures Princess Pirlipat can marry her. Many men try to crack open the nut, all of them breaking their teeth in the process, but Drosselmeyer's nephew succeeds. However, on the seventh step backward, he treads on the Mouse Queen's tail. The curse passes to Drosselmeyer's nephew, who is transformed into a nutcracker. Pirlipat refuses to marry the young man because he has suddenly become very ugly.

At night, Marie hears the Mouse King order her to give him candy and all of her dolls, otherwise, he will bite the Nutcracker to pieces. Marie does what the rodent says but the Mouse King soon demands more. The Nutcracker tells her that he just needs a sword. Marie gives him the sword of one of her brother's toy soldiers. The Nutcracker returns, carrying seven crowns as proof that he has killed the seven-headed Mouse King. He takes Marie away to the doll kingdom, where she sees many amazing sights. However, after she falls asleep in a palace in the doll kingdom, Marie wakes up in her own bed at home. Even though Marie is able to show her parents the Mouse King's seven crowns, they still insist that her visit to the doll kingdom was just a dream and forbid her to talk about it anymore.

Sometime later, Marie is standing on a chair, looking at the Nutcracker in the toy cabinet and remembering the remarkable things which happened to her. She tells the Nutcracker that she would not be like Pirlipat and would love him no matter what he looked like. There is a loud bang and Marie falls off her chair. Her mother then tells her that Drosselmeyer and his nephew have arrived. Drosselmeyer's nephew tells Marie that he was the Nutcracker and that she broke the curse by saying that she would love him regardless of his appearance. Marie and the young man later return to the kingdom of dolls and are eventually married.

In 1892, the Russian composer Tchaikovsky and choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov turned Alexandre Dumas' adaptation of the story into the ballet The Nutcracker as we know it today. Because the ballet is set on Christmas Eve (and the hero is a nutcracker come to life), the products quickly became associated with holiday décor! And now you know the story of the Nutcracker and its link to Christmas.

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