by E. T. A. Hoffmann

Other authorsMaurice Sendak (Illustrator), Ralph Manheim (Translator)
Hardcover, 1984




New York : Crown, c1984.


After hearing how her toy nutcracker got his ugly face, a little girl helps break the spell and changes him into a handsome prince.

User reviews

LibraryThing member nbmars
This is not just a hackneyed version of "The Nutcracker" dressed up by the magnificent illustrations of Maurice Sendak. On the contrary, this book (beautifully printed and bound) features the original story written by E.T.A. Hoffmann, later watered down for the famous ballet. While I have always
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loved the ballet in any form, this story is far superior to the traditional one, and captured my attention from the very start. As Sendak wrote in his preface about the version familiar to audiences today:

"[It] is smoothed out, bland, and utterly devoid not only of difficulties but of the weird, dark qualities that make it something of a masterpiece.”

Kent Stowell, the artistic director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet, invited Sendak to collaborate on a new production, and they agreed to adapt the Hoffman version. The translation used in this book by Ralph Manheim is superb – there is nothing dated or stodgy about it, and I found myself unable to quit reading until I had finished the entire story. And as admirers of Sendak know, as an illustrator he is particularly well-suited to capture “weird, dark qualities” and render them as not at all scary but full of whimsy and fascinating detail.

My favorite parts? The character known as the Giant Sweettooth of Candytown (since he is obviously one of my progenitors) and the very last sentiment, which concludes:

"…Marie is believed to be still the queen of a country where sparkling Christmas woods, transparent marzipan castles, in short, the most wonderful things, can be seen if you have the right sort of eyes for it.”

“The right sort of eyes” …. What a marvelous concept!
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LibraryThing member craso
The Nutcracker is a beloved staple of the Christmas season. Each December children and adults enjoy the Tchaikovsky ballet but have you ever wondered where the story came from? There are actually two tales. The original fable is titled "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" by E. T. A. Hoffman.
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Hoffman was a Prussian civil servant who wrote in his spare time. His version is a delightful fairytale told mostly in narrative with very little dialogue. The next story is "The History of a Nutcracker" by Alexandre Dumas. Dumas uses Hoffman's tale as the base and fleshes it out with more dialogue and explainations of the action. His story is written for a more modern audience. Tchaikovsky used Dumas' tale as inspiration for his famous ballet although the Nutcracker in the story looks much different than the one in the ballet. It is hard to choose between the two. I prefer the fairytale to the modern version because it is a quant story compared to the more conventionally written one.
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LibraryThing member debnance
I'm so used to seeing the Nutcracker as a ballet that it comes as a big of a shock to see the story in print.

(And, honestly, I'm not sure that I don't prefer it that way.)

Love the Sendak illustrations. Why not, I suggest, just have them? Skip the words which feel redundant. A wordless book, maybe?
LibraryThing member hrose2931
I went to the Nutcracker Ballet every year as a little girl. It was such a tradition I can't remember not going, but at some point I stopped going. I don't remember how old I was, maybe when I stopped believing in Santa? Maybe later. But schools used to go on field trips to see it I remember. It
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was A BIG DEAL! And I haven't seen it since I was a little girl. But I vaguely remembered bits and pieces of it. A girl in a white dress. A soldier, a battle, a rat soldier. All of it was kind of way back in my mind.

I started with the Prologue for The Nutcracker written by Maurice Sendak in 1984. He dug up the original story of the Nutcracker written by E.T.A. Hoffmann. It was then translated by Ralph Manheim and a whole subplot "The Story of the Hard Nut" was discovered that had never been performed in the ballet. So not only did I get to rekindle my memories of the ballet I remembered, but an entirely new fairytale was revealed to me. And you know how when you read a book, it's always better than the movie?
The same is true for watching a ballet and reading the book. You can read the intentions and feelings, what everything looks like in detail, whereas on a stage you might miss something because you're too far away. So, as always, I liked the book better. I always will.

It starts off right away with a beautifully written story, somewhat dark, set in the past with the Christ Child bringing their presents. And they are very good children indeed as they get many presents. The tree is described in great detail and so beautifully, I want to decorate mine like that. And then Marie finds the Nutcracker and falls in love with it. But she's told she has to share The Nutcracker and her brother Fritz breaks him. All is better when she is given the Nutcracker to care for and she wraps him in her handkerchief. She is besotted with him.

Now you may or may not know the story from there but the King of the Mice wages a battle against the Nutcracker and Marie and her brother's soldiers. Marie is wounded and her Godfather comes to tell her a story, "The Story of the Hard Nut," which he tells her over three consecutive nights and repairs the Nutcracker. "The Story of the Hard Nut" explains why the King of the Mice and the Nutcracker are fighting in the first place, a long history between the two families, err mice and man. It greatly adds to the story and I'm sorry it's been left out for so long.

I always remembered that Clara was the center of the romance in The Nutcracker, but it is dear sweet Marie and her steadfast love of the ugly Nutcracker that brings the story to it's end. She is laughed at by her family as she tells of her journey with The Nutcracker to Marzipan Castle where he is King. She's not allowed to mention it again for fear of her father throwing The Nutcracker and all her other dolls out as well. But all is well in the end.

The pictures are...they are Maurice Sendak. There are a few monsters from Where the Wild Things Are peeking out from behind things. They are as descriptive as a picture can be. I've always loved Maurice Sendak's work and it works so well in this story with the King of the Mice and the Nutcracker especially.
I highly recommend adding this to your Christmas collection. I loved the ending!!

If you'd like to see a few of the pictures from the book you can click HERE and check them out. Clicking on each picture will bring up a larger picture and a description of what's happening in the scene.

Thanks to Danielle at Crown Publishing for the complimentary copy for review.
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LibraryThing member jenspirko
If you only know the story from the ubiquitous ballet, revisit it via this version. Maurice Sendak's distinctive art lends just the right appealingly surreal tone to ETA Hoffman's fairy tale. Like all good fairy tales, there is a thread of darkness and danger along with bright fantasy, and the
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spare storytelling pairs perfectly with the lush illustrations of this version.
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LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
Look at the page count - the only other version I've read was a 28 pp adaptation. I'll have to check how long it was in the original, or how it's meant to be....

ISBN 051755285X

Almost coffee-table size hardcover. Two stories in one, really.

First is the introduction by Sendak in which he complains
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of other adaptations of Hoffmann's story, and talks about what he did for the PNB production. This adaptation is continued throughout the rest of the book in the illustrations. I was not impressed.

Second is the (translated) story by Hoffmann. I loved this. It is long, but it could be faithfully adapted for the stage if stuff like the Sugarplum fairy wasn't added in.

I did youtube some of PNB videos and thought it lovely, but, really, it's a different story.

I strongly recommend you try to find a copy of Hoffmann's work that has no, or at least few, illustrations, and judge the story by that. No matter how many performances you've seen, whether acclaimed or amateur, you don't know Hoffmann's story, and you're missing out.
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
Marie Stahlbaum and her brother Fritz eagerly await the arrival of their godfather and the gifts and toys he will bring them in this classic German Christmas fairy-tale. A clever man with a talent for mechanical inventions, Godfather Drosselmeier brings them a wooden Nutcracker who subsequently
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features in Marie's fantastical dreams that Christmas Eve night, leading the charge against a fearsome seven-headed Mouse King, and then escorting the young girl on a trip to a magical land of sweets, where he himself is prince...

Originally published in 1816, E.T.A. Hoffman's magical holiday tale was adapted by the French author Alexander Dumas, père in 1844, which version was then used in the famous ballet by Tchaikovsky, first performed in 1892. Many readers might be more familiar with the story from the ballet, in which Marie's name has been changed to Clara, and which features a number of scenes in which dancers from different parts of the world present Clara with the treats famous in their region. The Nutcracker & the Mouse King is a picture-book adaptation of the original Hoffman tale however, done by German children's author Renate Raecke, and illustrated by Russian artist Yana Sedova, who has also worked on a beautiful version of Andersen's The Snow Queen. Here Marie has kept her original name, and her adventures in the land of sweets include no dancers. That said, although young readers (especially American ones) might be more familiar with the version of the tale found in the ballet, the story here is quite exciting, full of magical transformations and tense confrontation - the conflict between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King!, the Nutcracker turning into a prince! - sure to please. The artwork, moreover, is simply gorgeous, featuring numerous enchanting details - many of the items on the page are presented as if they were Christmas tree ornaments or mechanical toys - and a vibrant and sumptuous color scheme. Recommended to anyone looking for the original version of The Nutcracker for younger children.
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LibraryThing member sturlington
Read aloud to my son for Christmas. This is the basis for the famous ballet, the story of Marie, who receives a Nutcracker doll for Christmas that subsequently comes to life, battles a seven-headed mouse king, and takes Marie on a tour of a fairyland made of sweets. My son pronounced it "weird, but
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very descriptive, so I could picture it in my head, so I liked it." I thought it was entertaining, but surreal and dreamlike.
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LibraryThing member TheTrueBookAddict
The original story is vastly different from the beloved ballet. I love the ballet. I've seen it many times, but I also really loved this story. I can almost imagine that the recent holiday film, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, had some basis in this original story. I've heard some people were
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in an uproar over the film because it's different from the ballet. Perhaps they have not read this original story? On my end, I'm always open to new interpretations of a story.

I highly recommend this. Wonderful story made even more enchanting by the fantastic illustrations of Maurice Sendak.
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LibraryThing member gmillar
My book is Vol 237 of the "Kings Treasuries of Literature", a series of books designed for teachers to use in their classrooms.
LibraryThing member bobbybslax
Got almost nothing out of this experience. Hopefully the ballet reveals something where this translated written work did not!



IBBY Honour Book (Illustration — 2014)


Original language


Local notes

Sendak's designs for the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Christmas 1983 production.



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