Tag Archives: Maurice Sendak
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Bedtime Stories: The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
For most, the story of the Nutcracker is a beloved holiday tradition. Dress up fancy and go to the performing arts center or school to watch the popular ballet, whose music from Tchaikovsky is pretty much synonymous with the holidays. For many, hearing the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy will evoke images of Christmasy scenes.
But did you know that it was first a short story by 19th
century author E.T.A. Hoffmann? Written in 1816, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” is the littleknown origin of the Nutcracker ballet. Hoffmann was a fan of the traditional German fairy tales, and their influence is obvious in the story.
On Christmas Eve, Marie and her brother are playing with their new nutcracker toy which becomes accidentally broken. She attempts to fix it and stays up late keeping it company. Suddenly, an army of mice appear. All the wooden toys then come to life and battle the mice. The next day Marie tells her godfather, Drosselmeyer, about the event and he tells her the story of the nutcracker and how he came to be. There are lots of unusual fairy tale goings-on, such as the need to have a princess eat a nut which must be cracked and handed to her by a man who had never been shaved nor worn boots since birth, and who must, without opening his eyes hand her the kernel and take seven steps backwards without stumbling.
In the Hoffmann story, none of this is a dream. The little girl sees it all with her own eyes and even though most adults don’t believe her, it’s a true story. My favorite version of this story is illustrated by Maurice Sendak, known best for his book Where the Wild Things Are. Richly illustrated, the story is both beautiful to look at and to read.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
I had a little blast from the past this morning when my son was given a little box set of Maurice Sendak books, including “Chicken Soup With Rice” and “Alligators All Around”. I had the same box set as a child as well at the Really Rosie record, in which Carole King sang versions of the books. Thanks to the magic of Spotify, I can revisit the musical versions of these songs. For me I cannot disassociate “Chicken Soup With Rice” from Carole King’s musical interpretation. But my demanding son was very disapproving of me every time I drifted into singing the words.
“Pierre” is fun to read; it’s a cautionary tale about a boy who only says “I don’t care”. So, he gets eaten by a lion. It’s also fun because every other line (practically) is “I don’t care” so I just have my son say that line over and over and over. I just hope it doesn’t carry over into real life as well.