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Nutcracker and Mouse King, and The Tale of the Nutcracker

by E. T. A. Hoffmann, Alexandre Dumas, Alexandre Dumas, Alexandre Dumas, pere

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Showing 5 of 5
I know that The Nutcracker is a 'Christmas classic' but I was not entirely sold on it. Maybe I was introduced to it too old, without a knowledge of the ballet or the story itself. I did, however, prefer Dumas' retelling over Hoffman's original as I felt it flowed better and was easier to grasp - however this could be the fault of the translator.

2.5 stars. ( )
  crashmyparty | May 14, 2014 |
It's always fascinating to find the true story behind a tradition. I've always wondered where the nutcrackers story came from and why the ballet was always so popular. I never in my mind thought that it originated from a fairy tale, nor that one of my favorite authors, Dumas, had written his own take on it not too many years later after

E.T.A. Hoffman wrote the original and overall I thought it was not too hard to follow, but in the end I was happy to know the story but wasn't overly impressed to see how this had inspired a tradition.

Once I started the second story it was easier to grasp since I just read the first part, but the writing lent itself to follow far more easily and I was able to really understand the entire storyline and characters throughout. The only thing was that in the end I still felt this was an interesting good story but nothing spectacular.

Considering the times when this book cameout there wasn't so much like it for fairy tales for kids and grown ups and I can see how this became popular over the years. From now on anytime I see a nutcracker during Christmas whether it being on a bookshelf or a storefront, I will smile and remember the skirmishes between the nutcracker and the mouse king and always think twice when my kids tell me with such authority their belief in a dream they had had.

Overall a very strong 3.5 rating but for the fact it has inspired such a tradition I have given it a 4 star rating. ( )
  capiam1234 | Aug 14, 2013 |
It's always fascinating to find the true story behind a tradition. I've always wondered where the nutcrackers story came from and why the ballet was always so popular. I never in my mind thought that it originated from a fairy tale, nor that one of my favorite authors, [a:Alexandre Dumas|4785|Alexandre Dumas|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1279049943p2/4785.jpg], had written his own take on it not too many years later after

[a:E.T.A. Hoffmann|54429|E.T.A. Hoffmann|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1190292376p2/54429.jpg] wrote the original and overall I thought it was not too hard to follow, but in the end I was happy to know the story but wasn't overly impressed to see how this had inspired a tradition.

Once I started the second story it was easier to grasp since I just read the first part, but the writing lent itself to follow far more easily and I was able to really understand the entire storyline and characters throughout. The only thing was that in the end I still felt this was an interesting good story but nothing spectacular.

Considering the times when this book cameout there wasn't so much like it for fairy tales for kids and grown ups and I can see how this became popular over the years. From now on anytime I see a nutcracker during Christmas whether it being on a bookshelf or a storefront, I will smile and remember the skirmishes between the nutcracker and the mouse king and always think twice when my kids tell me with such authority their belief in a dream they had had.

Overall a very strong 3.5 rating but for the fact it has inspired such a tradition I have given it a 4 star rating. ( )
  smcamp1234 | Aug 14, 2013 |
While Hoffmann's piece is prone to a strange disjointed jerkiness to the prose, Dumas's, though better flowing, removes all the darker and pedagogical-related undertones in favour of an overly-long, overly-syrupy interpretation.

Verdict: Read the first, skip the second. ( )
  g026r | Jan 20, 2012 |
Penguin was able to turn the short classic Nutcracker and Mouse King (1816) into a standalone volume by adding a scholarly Introduction, and a later re-telling The Tale of the Nutcracker by Dumas (of Three Musketeers fame) which composes half the book. Most importantly the translations are new, although that doesn't always mean better, but it seems OK to me.

The most important insight from the Introduction is that Hoffmann wrote the story as a critique of the middle-class in Germany in the early 19th century - serious, ridged, strict and conformist (not only German, the same could be said for 19th century Victorian culture). Children are stifled and kept in emotional check, expected to act like mini adults. For Hoffmann, freedom from this condition can be obtained by means of the imagination. In the story, time and again we see reality and fantasy merge as the children escape from the ridged confines imposed by their parents and strict social convention by way of make believe. Once the perspective of Hoffmann's critique is seen, the story takes on a new dimension, certain passages make more sense and the story seems less "weird" or dark. It is more than just a fairy-tale about toys that come to life, but a serious work of art about people.

As for the Alexandre Dumas' version in the second half of the book, I found it to be inferior to Hoffmann; I didn't want alter my memory with the retelling, so I quit it early on. I may return another time as I understand it was influential in the ballet adaptation.

--Review by Stephen Balbach, via CoolReading (c) 2008 cc-by-nd ( )
1 vote Stbalbach | Sep 19, 2009 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hoffmann, E. T. A.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dumas, Alexandremain authorall editionsconfirmed
Dumas, Alexandremain authorall editionsconfirmed
Dumas, Alexandre, peremain authorall editionsconfirmed
Neugroschel, JoachimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zipes, JackIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143104837, Paperback)

The original stories behind everyone's favorite Christmas ballet

It wasn't until the 1950s that seeing The Nutcracker at Christmastime became an American tradition. But the story itself is much older and its original intent more complex. This eye-opening new volume presents two of the tale's earliest versions, both in new translations: E.T.A. Hoffmann's Nutcracker and Mouse King (1816), in which a young girl is whisked away to the Land of Toys to help her animated nutcracker defeat the Mouse King, and Alexandre Dumas's 1845 adaptation, The Tale of the Nutcracker, based on Hoffmann's popular work. Irresistible tales of magic, mystery, and childhood adventure, these timeless delights and fresh interpretations about the importance of imagination will captivate readers of all ages.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:28 -0400)

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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