The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

Romance, adventure, and imagination overflowed my senses as I read E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The overwhelming sensations embodied within this one short novel—a book which the multitalented Hoffmann had originally written for children—caused The Nutcracker and the Mouse King to become my new favorite story. It would be my pleasure to tell my reader why.

I must first warn my reader to avoid all adaptations of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original tale. While these other stories may contain their own sort of beauty in illustrative word choice and artwork, I find that the original story makes the adaptations pale in comparison. I chose a copy of the story printed in the year 2021, but written by the original author E.T.A. Hoffmann and translated by Mrs. St. Simon who was one of the first translators.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King – Summary

Youngsters Maria and Fred wait for the moment when they may exit their gloomy chambers and enter the dazzlingly decorated room that contains all their Christmas gifts. When the moment arrives, they are not disappointed with the gifts from their thoughtful parents. Godfather Drosselmeier’s doll house with dancing figurines was not so well received, even though the item was very finely created.

Sweet Maria, after playing with some of her new toys, soon finds her attention drawn to a solidary, little man with a head much too large for his slim legs. Her parents inform her that it’s a Nutcracker, and it was intended to be used by all their children. Maria instantly falls in love with the Nutcracker, much to the amusement of her elders. Even when Fred puts the Nutcracker to use and breaks several of its teeth, Maria tries to “nurse” the Nutcracker back to health.

Several nights later, as Maria and Fred play with their toys before bed, Maria finds herself alone with her Nutcracker. A terrifying scurrying is heard in the walls. Much to her fright, Maria witnesses the battle between her beloved Nutcracker and the Mouse King. But thanks to her quick action, Maria saves the Nutcracker from certain death.

More nights follow where the Mouse King calls upon Maria and demands for her to give up her sugarplums, candies, and picture books—all to save her beloved Nutcracker. Maria complies for a time, until she and her brother Fred supply the Nutcracker with a new sword. The Nutcracker, who turns out to be much more than a mere toy, defeats the Mouse King and brings Maria to his Kingdom—a land of sugarplums and nuts and cheerful citizens who dance and shout.

When they return, no one believes Maria about the Nutcracker’s true form, except for Godfather Drosselmeier who informs the children of the Nutcracker’s true past. Due to all of the disbelief, Maria learns to be silent about the Nutcracker, but continues dreaming about her adventures for quite some time afterwards.  But the time would come when Maria would no longer remain silent, bringing about change for a seemingly impossible situation.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King – Analysis

I cannot intelligibly write about the perfect finesse needed in writing a romantic adventure. I can, however, state that I believe E.T.A. Hoffmann used just the right amount of horror, hope, longing, and victory in The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The description of the Mouse King could possibly cause nightmares for children, but without it, the Nutcracker’s victory would not have seemed so overwhelmingly good.

Writing this tale must have taken an immeasurable amount of imagination on E.T.A. Hoffman’s part. I found myself speechless by the word choices used to help me as the reader understand the Nutcracker’s kingdom. I can only wish to write with such knowledge and imagination—and read more work from E.T.A. Hoffmann for practice.

As for the main characters, a person would have to be a brute to dislike young, sweet Maria and the brave, attentive Nutcracker. It’s a classic romance unmarred by the treacheries of adults. It’s a story every young girl can relate to and hope to experience someday. If I had read this tale in my youth, I would have likely swooned over the Nutcracker myself!

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King – Conclusion

If I were to detract any points from this tale, then it would be from the battle between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Since Maria did not witness the final battle, the reader did not either. However, I will not deduct points for this lack because the tale is, after all, a children’s story. And E.T.A. Hoffmann obviously knew much about writing for children’s eyes.

Score: 10/10

I wholeheartedly love this children’s tale. It has replaced the novel I favored in my youth. Therefore, I recommend The Nutcracker and the Mouse King to all children, both actual children and the young at heart. It fills the girl’s need for romance, and it satisfies the boy’s need for adventure. It opens the mind to new and heartwarming images. Overall, it is a tale that was written well and makes for great reading.