Sunday, October 18, 2015

Nutcracker of Nuremberg

Nutcracker of Nuremberg. Alexandre Dumas. Illustrated by Else Hasselris. Translated by Grace Gingras. 1844/1930/2013. Pook Press. 172 pages. [Source: Bought]

 In the city of Nuremberg lived a much respected Chief Justice called President Silberhaus, which means "house of silver." He had two children, a nine-year-old boy, Fritz, and a daughter Marie who was seven and a half years old. 

I first read E.T.A. Hoffmann's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816) last year. This year I thought I would read Alexandre Dumas' adaptation of The Nutcracker published several decades after the original.

The book opens with a preface, an excuse for the retelling. The author had taken his daughter to a birthday party. During the party, he made his escape and fell asleep in one of the rooms of the house. The children find him asleep and tie him up. To secure his release, he offers several bribes. The first--for candy--is rejected, as is the second--for fireworks in the park. But the third, well, the third is accepted. The children demand a fairy story. He warns that the story he's about to tell is not his own, not of his own making. But they don't care about originality. They want a GOOD, entertaining story.

In three parts, the tale of the Nutcracker is related to his young audience--who had already freed him. The first part introduces readers to Marie and her family. It is Christmas, of course, and she's taken a special interest in a Nutcracker. Her brother took an interest as well which led to the Nutcracker getting broken. Marie takes on the role of nurse, and this role continues even after the rest of the family has gone to bed. She remains behind in the living room (or equivalent) and reality becomes a bit blurred in what follows. It involves the Nutcracker and the rest of the toys coming to life and doing battle with mice led by a Mouse King. What readers learn is that somehow, someway, Marie gets injured--her hand, I believe--by broken glass. Marie remains in bed recuperating for the second and third parts of the story. Her godfather visits her and tells her the story of "The Nut Krakatuk and the Princess Pirlipate." This is a dark fairy tale of a king, queen, and princess cursed by mice seeking revenge, and, of what was done to try to break the curse. The third part of the story focuses once more on Marie, the Nutcracker, and the Mouse King. Several threats are made against the Nutcracker to Marie by the Mouse King, and several times she tries to appease him. For example, she gives in to his demand for all her candy, for all her dolls, etc. But it is inevitable: The Mouse King must do battle once and for all with the Nutcracker, and Marie, I believe, does find a sword for The Nutcracker. After the battle, the Nutcracker takes Marie away with him to a fantasy land where just about anything is possible....

I liked it. I did. But I'm not sure I loved, loved, loved it.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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