Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book Review: The Tale of the Nutcracker

E. T. A. Hoffman, the original author of the Nutcracker story [1], intended this tale to be a departure from the immaculate bourgeoisie fairy tales so prevalent during his lifetime. Thus he incorporated many darker elements, including graphic descriptions of injuries, terrifying images, and ill treatment of children. These elements were watered down by  in his embellished translation (originally called Histoire d'un casse-noisette). And it was further bowdlerized by Tchaikovsky for the libretto to his ballet. So, by the time the story reached a Twenty-first Century audience (us), it had become almost as innocuous as the fairy tales Hoffman meant it to defy.[2]

My verdict: I liked Dumas' retelling of the story better than Hoffman's original. It is much more fleshed out and clearer to follow. He replaces some of the eerie qualities of the Hoffman story and replaces it with clear but intriguing narrative. Dumas wisely abbreviates the three-night telling of the tale of Princess Pirlipat into one night. The battle scene between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King, however, are also unfairly diminished. One thing he really should've changed, though, was having the 9½-year-old heroine marry the 19½-year-old Nutcracker at the end. I have trouble believing such a union was acceptable when either of these authors (Hoffman or Dumas) wrote their respective pieces.


[1] Read my review here.

[2] Zipe, Jack. (2007)"Introduction" in Neugroschel, Joachim, trans., Nutcracker and Mouse King (by E. T. A. Hoffmann) and The Tale of the Nutcracker (by Alexandre Dumas, père), Penguin Group (USA) Inc., New York, NY. ISBN 978-0143104834.

Image attributions:

Nuctrackers is by Strigo, available at soldiers Berlin 2006.jpg. 

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