- Virginia Johnson
On Christmas Eve, a young girl dreams her beloved toy comes to life. He becomes her Nutcracker Prince and dances his Clara through the land of sweets and defeats the wicked Mouse King. Perhaps you've seen the ballet-- it's so popular that many ballet schools make it their featured holiday production year after year. The music is amazing—from the wild Russian dance to the slow and mysterious Arabian dance. It all flows together to create a magical night of exhilarating performances.
And yet, there is more to the Nutcracker than Peter Tchaikovsky's beautiful ballet. The story was taken from E.T.A. Hoffman's book, The Nutcracker (Nussknacker und Mausekonig). Hoffman was a German of brilliant imagination, whose fantastic stories and operas are an important part of European literature. His original book is fascinating and gives many more details about the plot, such as why the Nutcracker and the Mouse King were enemies.
Were the nutcrackers so popular in Hoffman's 19th-century Germany? Indeed, they were, and not only with children. The traditional nutcracker can be a homely, almost scary carving. His gnashing teeth cracked open nuts so greedily that woodcarvers would have fun by making them in the image of whoever was seen as the big, bad boss of the time. Sometimes he'd be carved as a politician and sometimes as a soldier. Leaders such as Napoleon were turned into Nutcrackers. Today, nutcrackers come in all forms, from the traditional soldier to legendary kings to the Wicked Witch of the West! Did you know the nutcracker has a cousin? The smoker or rauchermen, was and is used to burn incense to bless the house and keep away the evil spirits during the longest night of the year in Germany.
The Nutcracker ballet has been performed in America for more than 60 years.* We've come to think of it as part of an old-fashioned Christmas. The Nutcracker's music is perfect for holiday parties or just practicing for dance class, and we have lots of it to check out. If you missed seeing a local production or just want to see it again and again, the library has the Nutcracker on video. Below are places on the Web to have fun and learn more about nutcrackers.
George Balanchine's The Nutcracker (DVD - 1997)
A new movie version of a timeless Christmas fantasy set in motion when a young girl receives the gift of a nutcracker.
Mary Engelbreit's Nutcracker by Mary Engelbreit
In this retelling of the original 1816 German story, a nutcracker under a terrible spell is given to young Marie as a Christmas gift, and when she helps him defeat the Mouse King, breaking the spell, he takes her to visit kingdom.
The Nutcracker by Michael Hague
In this adaptation of the original 1816 German story, with elements from the ballet, Godfather Drosselmeier gives young Marie a nutcracker for Christmas, and she finds herself in a magical realm where she saves a boy from an evil curse.
The Nutcracker by Janet Schulman
One Christmas after hearing how the toy nutcracker made by her godfather got his ugly face, a little girl helps break the spell and watches him change into a handsome prince.
The Nutcracker by Stephanie Spinner
In this retelling of the original 1816 German story, Godfather Drosselmeier gives young Marie a nutcracker for Christmas, and she finds herself in a magical realm where she saves the nutcracker and sees him change into a handsome prince.
The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-loving Brothers Created A Holiday Tradition by Chris Barton
An illustrated account of how "The Nutcracker" ballet became an American tradition traces the efforts of three vaudeville siblings who staged their own production in the early 1900s after being introduced to the ballet by Russian immigrants.
Nutcracker Crafts, Treats, and Games
Make a nutcracker out of a simple clothespin.
Free Printable Nutcracker Craft
Print out a nutcracker craft, easy to make.
Nutcracker Sweet Pie
Chocolate, nuts, and butter make this a rich and tasty treat for the holidays.
Nutcracker Ballet - Children Resources/Crafts
Resources for Nutcracker Balley craft projects and more.
The History of the Nutcracker Ballet
More History of the Nutcracker Ballet
The History of Nutcrackers
The famous German manufacturer Steinbach gives the history and lore of the nutcrackers. Includes details of how they are made.
Nutcracker Ballet Story and History Lesson
Parents and preschool teachers will find ideas for teaching and crafts in this free, three-page lesson plan.