Goodness. It’s only six days to Christmas! Time for a look at a modern take on a classic tale.
A Nutty Nutcracker Christmas
image courtesy of chroniclebooks.com
I found this book while browsing in a remainder shop – and it seems it’s not easy to track down online either. Which is a shame as it’s quite an interesting take on the traditional Nutcracker and the Mouse King tale.
Briefly, the original Nutcracker story was written in 1816 by ETA Hoffman and tells the tale of a young girl – Marie Stahlbaum – whose favourite Christmas toy (the Nutcracker) is first broken by her brother Fritz and then later comes to life. The Nutcracker battles the evil Mouse King and wins before taking Marie off to a magical kingdom full of dolls. You might be most familiar with the name through either the popular, seasonal ballet or Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s music (accompanying the ballet).
This version follows the traditional tale loosely but updates it with modern touches. For instance, Fritz breaks the Nutcracker and is punished by having his video game, based on the Evil Mouse, taken away. However, he enters a magical world, where he meets the Nutcracker… who turns out to be Marie in disguise. She and Fritz defeat the Mouse King thanks to Marie’s bravery and Fritz’s knowledge of video games and head off to the magical kingdom. The illustrations are beautiful and magical, full of elegant lines and enchanting pastels.
I read the story to my reception year class today and they seemed to enjoy it. When I asked them whether they thought the Evil Mouse might defeat the Nutcracker and Fritz, they solemnly said no, because there was only one of him and more of them (a logical conclusion!). When I asked who their favourite characters were, the Nutcracker was the overall winner (particularly with girls – therefore a good role model!) while Fritz had a few votes. Even the Evil Mouse scored a vote, but interestingly when I asked why they had chosen him, you could see doubt creep into the child’s eyes because they had voted against their peers. I encouraged the child’s choice, saying that often the ‘baddies’ in books make for interesting characters.
In some ways, the modern touches felt odd to me when I was reading this out – a video game in such a traditional tale?! But it did work for a modern audience and the children were none the wiser. The decision to have Marie as the heroic Nutcracker was a good one and breathed new life into a lovely classic.
Last year, Holly, her dad and I were lucky enough to get tickets to see the Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House as part of the Paul Hamlyn Fund, which funds a special performance each year so that those who normally could not afford to go to the ballet can experience it. It was a truly wonderful experience – you can read about it in our post from 21 December 2013. If you can make it to a performance it is definitely worth it!