The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann

Title: The Nutcracker.
Writer(s): E.T.A. Hoffmann.
Illustrator(s): Sanna Annukka.
Publisher: Ten Speed Press.
Format: Hardcover.
Release Date: September 11th, 2018.
Original Release Date: 1816.
Pages: 91.
Genre(s): Fantasy.
ISBN13: 9780399581526.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.


There it is, standing tall and proud, right on top of that blazing yet cozy fireplace, solemnly guarding the plate of cookies and cup of milk in a dimly lit living room. It is difficult today not to imagine the famous Nutcracker the moment that he is mentioned. Popularized through countless adaptations in a myriad of mediums, most notably the classical ballet conceived by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky based on Alexandre Dumas’s adaptation of Prussian author E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original story, the character’s ceremonious design and terrifying facial features is effortlessly recognizable amidst Christmas decorations and presents. However, this nut-cracking doll’s story is not always known or remembered the same way by many. As a fairy tale dating back to 1816, it’s easy to overlook how its legend truly came to be.

What is The Nutcracker about? On Christmas Eve, seven-year-old Marie and her brother Fritz await the arrival of their godfather Drosselmeier and the gifts that he’s to bring them. Witnessing first-hand his incredible ingenuity as an inventor, they quickly play around with his latest creations before growing tired of it all. That is until little Marie noticed a curious nutcracker doll among the presents that she immediately falls in love with. What she didn’t know is that soon she will be transported into the middle of a war beyond her understanding but this unimaginable and magical world would soon bring forth what her heart most desired.

“Like Marie, you can find all manner of wonderful things there, if you only take the time to look.”

E.T.A. Hoffmann

As much as I’d have loved for this fairy tale to tug at my heartstrings, compel a tear of joy at its resolution, and rave at the crystal clear message of not judging others by their appearance, I can genuinely say that there was none of that achieved in so little words by author E.T.A. Hoffmann. From its unevenly paced narrative, inevitably staggered by the story within its story, to its final moments that require an incredible amount of suspension of disbelief, there’s so much of this tale left on the reader’s shoulder, requiring us to let ourselves immersed in this young girl’s wild imagination and her conviction of it all. While there’s clearly no time to truly connect with these characters, especially with such stiff characterization, it remains an intriguing adventure that allows readers to acquaint themselves with iconic characters such as the Nutcracker and the seven-headed Mouse King.

What made this short fairy tale much more enjoyable, however, is the hardcover edition containing numerous contemporary and abstract drawings by Finnish illustrator Sanna Annukka. With the unique clothbound format and the artwork that accompanied the story, the adventures of little Marie seemed much more captivating than they really were. Although the narrative may seem flawed, once you set off on this short trip to this magical little world, there are some merits worth noting but a pretty edition of the book can make all the difference this time around. While I might not be heeding the tale’s message, for once, you’ll have to judge this book by its cover or content yourself with Tchaikovsky’s ballet.

The Nutcracker is an unremarkable yet classical fairy tale following a little girl’s love for the iconic wooden doll that inadvertently brings it to life.



16 thoughts on “The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann

  1. I had no idea this was anything other than a ballet. And if you had asked me, I would have said some russian wrote it right before killing himself or something, hahahahaa 😀

    However, from your description I feel safe in saying I probably won’t ever try it or feel the need to explore the ballet’s historical story…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s a lovely cover! I’ve seen the classic ballet and also a modern street dance adaptation, which was absolutely amazingly! Not sure I am tempted to pick up the book, even if the illustrations were good.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had no idea of the history of this story and how it went from one person and form to another. What I always think of when I see nutcracker are all the wonderfully detailed wooden nutcrackers in Germany. Some of them were absolutely incredible. But I don’t know how many people actually put them to use. They seemed too beautiful as artwork to risk damage trying to crack any nuts with them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know about all that too until now and if I hadn’t accidentally found this cheap copy of this beautiful edition of the book, I probably would’ve remained clueless about it for a while since I’m not particularly fond of the Nutcracker or anything. If anything, the character always reminds me of those classic stop-motion Christmas movies that played again and again on TV as a kid. I do agree that the wooden figurines can be quite beautiful sometimes but most of the time I encounter the cheap ones around Christmas more than the precious and skillfully-crafted ones hahah


  4. Great review, Lashaan! I had no idea this was initially a book, as I had only heard of the ballet! It seems like a nice fairy tale to read though, and it doesn’t surprise me that it was hard to really get into the story given the number of pages! I’m sure the artwork inside was beautifulm judging by its cover!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Juliette! I’d love to check out a pro-ballet performance off this story just to tick it off my own bucket list of classic things to do someday. As for the book, it’s so short that it wouldn’t hurt anyone to try it out. If you cut out the art inside and make use of the space more efficiently, you’ll probably get like 25 pages of text hahah

      Liked by 1 person

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