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November 9, 2017

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The Nutcracker Series: The Backstory

November 28, 2017

 

Ever wonder how the Nutcracker became, well, the Nutcracker? The answer comes from E. T. A. Hoffman's original version of the story "Nutcracker and Mouse King". In the original story, The Mouse Queen and her seven sons and all of their relatives consumed all of the King's bacon, causing him great grief. In anger, the King demanded that the royal clockmaker -- one Christian Elias Drosselmeier -- vanquish the mouse clan from the castle. Drosselmeier invented some very clever, tiny traps baited with bacon. The Mouse Queen, Frau Mouserink, was too clever to be caught. But all of her seven sons and many male and female relatives were shamefully executed. In grief and despair, Frau Mouserink fled the castle and vowed revenge.

 

As it happened, the King and Queen had a beautiful child, Princess Pirlipat. One night, all of the Princess's attendants mysteriously fell asleep. When they awoke, Frau Mouserink was hovering over Pirlipat in her cradle. They managed to keep her from being chewed in half, but when they saw her they realized that the Mouse Queen had placed a spell over the Princess. "Instead of her golden locks with a red and white face and an angelic head, a thick, deformed head now perched on a twisted, teensy-weensy body. The small azure eyes had turned into green, gaping, gawking eyes, and the little lips had pulled from one ear to the other."

 

The King and Queen were in despair. But Herr Drosselmeier with the court astronomer determined that the spell could be broken if the Princess consumed the flesh of the Krakatuk Nut. The Nut had to be chewed up in front of the Princess by a man who had never shaved and never worn boots. With closed eyes, he had to hand the Nut to the Princess for her to consume and then take seven steps backward before opening them. After much searching, the Krakatuk Nut was finally located.

 

Though many young men tried to break the Nut and win the Princess's hand, none was successful until at last Drosselmeier's nephew attempted the feat. He broke the Nut with ease and handed it to the Princess with closed eyes. The Princess swallowed the kernel. Immediately she was transformed into an angelic young woman. In the meantime, Drosselmeier's nephew sought to complete the task by taking seven steps backward before opening his eyes. However, on the seventh and final step, a spiteful Frau Mouserink ran behind him and tripped him. His eyes opened before he could complete the task. Immediately, the nephew was transformed into a misshapen creature. Nobody noticed what had happened to the young man until Princess Pirlipat reminded the King of his promise to give her hand in marriage to her savior. But when the young man stepped forward, Pirlipat recoild in horror and scorned him.

 

The King banished both the clockmaker and his nephew from the castle. The astronomer, however, predicted that despite his deformity the young Drosselmeier would become a prince and eventually king. However, his deformity would only vanish if he killed Frau Mouserink's new, seven-headed son and a lady fell in love with him despite his defects.

 

And that is how the Nutcracker came to be.

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