HomeE. T. A. HoffmannThe Nutcracker and the Mouse King

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. E. T. A. Hoffmann

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by Hoffmann. Illustrated by A. Scheiner

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by Hoffmann. Illustrated by A. Scheiner

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: Christmas Eve
Chapter 2: The Gifts
Chapter 3: The Favorite
Chapter 4: Wonders
Chapter 5: The Battle
Chapter 6: The Illness
Chapter 7: Tale of the Hard Nut
Chapter 8: Continuation of the Tale of the Hard Nut
Chapter 9: The End of The Tale of The Hard Nut
Chapter 10: Uncle and Nephew
Chapter 11: The Victory
Chapter 12: The Kingdom of the Dolls
Chapter 13: The Capital
Chapter 14: Conclusion

The Nutcracker. Illustrated by Artuš Scheiner (1863-1938)

Chapter 1: Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve, the children of Doctor Stahlbaum were not allowed into the family room, let alone the adjoining living room.

Evening had come, and Fritz and Marie Stahlbaum sat huddled in a corner. As was usual on Christmas Eve, no-one had brought in a light, and so they sat in an eerie darkness.

Fritz was whispering to his younger sister Marie (who had just turned seven) how early that morning, he had heard rattlings and poundings from the forbidden chambers, and how he had just seen a small, dark man slipping a large box under his arm across the corridor, and how he knew it was none other than Godfather Drosselmeier.

Marie′s eyes lit up, and she clapped her hands and cried, "Oh, what do you think Godfather Drosselmeier has made for us?"

Now, Judge Drosselmeier was not the least bit handsome. He was small and thin with a face full of wrinkles, and where his right eye ought to have been he wore a black eyepatch. He had no hair at all on his head, and so he wore a cleverly-made white wig of glass threads. In general, Godfather Drosselmeier was a clever sort of man who knew a great deal about watches and clocks and even made some himself. When one of the Stahlbaum family clocks was sick and couldn′t sing, Godfather Drosselmeier would come and take off his glass wig and yellow coat and put on a blue apron. He would then stab all sorts of sharp instruments into the clock. Marie felt sympathy pains, but the clocks weren′t at all hurt. In fact, the clocks purred and sang as joyfully as ever, which made the whole family happy again.

Drosselmeier always had something in his pockets for the children when he came to visit. Sometimes it was a funny little man who rolled his eyes and bowed, sometimes it was a box from which a small bird hopped, and sometimes it was something else. But every Christmas, the judge would go to extra effort to create something spectacular - so spectacular that the children′s parents would put it away for safekeeping afterward.

But every Christmas, the judge would go to extra effort to create something spectacular... The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (1816). Illustrated by Artuš Scheiner (1863-1938)

"What do you think Godfather Drosselmeier has made for us?" Marie anxiously asked.

Fritz said it probably wouldn′t be any different this time. He expected a fortress where soldiers marched and drilled about. Other soldiers would come to overtake it, but brave soldiers inside the fortress would fire booming cannons to keep the intruders away.

"No, no," Marie interrupted, "Godfather Drosselmeier told me of a beautiful garden with a big lake, with beautiful swans swimming around wearing gold necklaces and singing pretty songs. Then a little girl comes to the lake and calls the swans, and feeds them marzipan."

"Swans don′t eat marzipan," Fritz said scornfully. "And Godfather Drosselmeier can′t make a whole garden. Besides, they always take what he gives us away. I prefer what Papa and Mama give us; we can keep those and do what we want with them."

The children continued to guess and wonder. Marie pointed out that her large doll, Madame Trudie, was more awkward than ever these days. She fell on the floor time and again, which put nasty marks on her face and was getting her dress filthy. She′d tried scolding her, but to no avail. Also, there had been the way Mama had smiled when she saw how happy Marie was with the little parasol for Gretchen. Fritz pointed out that his father was quite aware that his stables were missing a chestnut horse and that he was short of an entire cavalry.

The children were certain their parents had bought them many wonderful presents, and that through the blessings of the Christ Child (who looked down upon them with kind, loving eyes), Christmas presents were much better than any other presents. Their older sister Louise added that the Christ Child, who brought them gifts through the hands of their loving parents, knew much better what they would like than they, so rather than wishing and hoping they should remain patient and quiet. This gave Marie pause for thought, but Fritz muttered, "I′d still like a chestnut horse and some hussars."

Night had fallen, and Fritz and Marie huddled together in silence. It suddenly seemed there was a rushing of wings and a distant, but beautiful music. A bright light touched the wall, and the children knew that the Christ Child had flown away on shimmering clouds to other happy children. At that moment, a silvery bell rang and the doors flew open.

"Ah-ah!" The children froze as they stepped on the threshold, but Papa and Mama lead them inside by the hand.

"Come in and see what the Christ Child has brought you."

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