Nutcracker and Mouse King

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A classic nutcracker on a Post charity stamp (1971)

Nutcracker and Mouse King is a short story by E. T. A. Hoffmann , published in Berlin in 1816 . In this art fairy tale , included in the collection The Serapion Brothers , the author portrays the children Friedrich and Clara of his friend Julius Eduard Hitzig in the fairy tale children Marie and Fritz . Hitzig's older daughter Eugenie also appears as the older sister Luise in the fairy tale.


Marie, daughter of the medical councilor Stahlbaum, discovers a nutcracker on the gift table on Christmas Eve . Brother Fritz cracks nuts so hard with the new Nuremberg wooden doll that the doll loses its teeth. Marie takes the damaged nutcracker into her care and places him next to Fritzen's army of hussars. It is made up of toy soldiers and stands in the showcase .

The siblings were not only given presents by their parents, but also by their godfather Droßelmeier, a senior judge who, in addition to jurisprudence, also does watchmaking and makes all kinds of mechanical toys. On Christmas Eve, when everyone has long since gone to bed, Marie begged her mother to stay up for a few minutes with the presents. Suddenly the imaginative child feels as if there was movement in Fritz's hussar army under the command of the nutcracker. The other side, an army of mice under the command of the Mouse King, a seven-headed monster, comes out of their loopholes on the living room floor. The commanders of the hussar army do not lack guts and tactical skill. To Marie's horror, the hussars show cowardice before the enemy. The girl prevents the nutcracker from threatening defeat by throwing her "slipper at the right time" at the advancing mice.

The nutcracker's enmity against the Mouse King goes back to the mother of the royal rodent. As Droßelmeier told Marie at her insistence, Frau Mauserinks, queen of the Mausolian kingdom during her lifetime, once ate the bacon from the king of the human kingdom . As a punishment, the king decided to expel Mrs. Mauserinks from his palace. He commissioned Droßelmeier with the action. Ms. Mauserinks, however, this old witch, stayed and “ugly” the “angelic” Princess Pirlipat in the cradle into a “shapeless, staring” child. When Droßelmeier and the court astronomer, after a fifteen-year search, found the means with which he could successfully disenchant Pirlipat, namely the extremely hard nut Krakatuk, a young man had to be found who had never been shaved, never wore boots, the nut in front of his eyes Pirlipats could crack and then walk seven steps back with closed eyes. Droßelmeier's nephew fulfilled these conditions, but on the last step backwards he stepped on the shooting woman Mauserink and accidentally killed her. Before her death, Mrs. Mauserinks had given birth to her seven-headed son, the Mouse King. The dying mouse had quickly transformed Droßelmeier's nephew, this nice, well-formed youth, into an ugly little nutcracker, that tooth-sick Christmas present that Marie would like to foster again. Marie shows no understanding for Pirlipat's ingratitude towards the Nutcracker, as the young man who had disenchanted Pirlipat should get the princess as a wife as a reward. Instead, Pirlipat had the nutcracker thrown out of the palace.

The transformation of the "misshapen" of the nutcracker back into its original shape is tied to two conditions: the mouse king must fall at the hand of the nutcracker and a lady must grow fond of the nutcracker because of its ugly shape. Marie, gifted with the power of love, does her own thing: she re-arms the nutcracker and then follows the conqueror of the Mouse King into the puppet kingdom. There, by the lemonade stream that flows into the almond milk lake, they learn to love each other. Thus, both conditions are fulfilled: the nephew gets his "not unpleasant shape again", returns after a while and makes a proposal to happy Marie, which she accepts, making her queen of the puppet kingdom.

Literary form and commentary

The addressees of the fairy tale are addressed directly: “Listen up, children!” First, Marie “experiences” the battle of the nutcracker against the mouse king. Second, the godfather Droßelmeier tells the two listening children Marie and Fritz the background story. With this, Marie realizes that the nutcracker is the godfather's bewitched nephew. In the third and last section, Marie follows the nutcracker into the doll's kingdom, firmly convinced that the bewitched will become a beautiful young man again, whom she could marry. And that's how it actually happens.

Karl August von Hardenberg and August Neidhardt von Gneisenau praised Hoffmann's “Feldherrntalent” in 1816 when he described “the great battle” and “the nutcracker's losing”. According to Rüdiger Safranski , Hoffmann operated in Nutcracker and Mouse King in the “still closed fantasy world of childhood”. According to others, he is said to have repressed as well as processed the complex of his external ugliness in the fairy tale. Under the heading “ Initiation sspuk” Heimes gives a short psychoanalysis concerning the “sexual identity formation” of Maries. On a later treatment of the material by Alexandre Dumas the Elder. Ä. is based on Tchaikovsky's world-famous ballet The Nutcracker .


  • In 2009 the story Nutcracker and Mouse King appeared for the first time as a radio play (arrangement: Step Laube ; production: TonInTon-Audioproduktion Berlin; publisher: Romantruhe Audio).

Film adaptations



  • ETA Hoffmann: Nutcracker and Mouse King. In: Poetic works in six volumes. Third volume. 692 pages (with comments from GS, pp. 643–691). Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin 1958, pp. 250–321.


  • ETA Hoffmann: Nutcracker and Mouse King. First edition, reprint. Insel-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 2004, ISBN 3-458-19216-6 ( Insel-Bücherei 1216).
  • ETA Hoffmann: Nutcracker and Mouse King. Fairy tale. With notes and a follow-up remark. Second edition. Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-15-018503-3 ( Reclams Universal Library 18503).


  • ETA Hoffmann's title vignette from 1816 (copy from the Bamberg State Library ) can be found after p. 1199 on Fig. 3 in E. T. A. Hoffmann: Die Serapions-Brüder. Edited by Wulf Segebrecht . German classic publisher in paperback. Volume 28. Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-618-68028-4 (corresponds to: Wulf Segebrecht (Ed.): ETA Hoffmann: Complete Works in Seven Volumes , Volume 4, Frankfurt am Main 2001).
  • E. T. A. Hoffmann: The Nutcracker. Illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger . Newly told by Susanne Koppe. NordSüd Verlag , Zurich 2016, ISBN 978-3-314-10354-4 .

Secondary literature

  • Helmut de Boor , Richard Newald: History of German literature from the beginnings to the present. Volume 7: Gerhard Schulz : The German literature between the French Revolution and the Restoration. Part 2: The Age of Napoleonic Wars and Restoration. 1806-1830. Beck, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-406-09399-X .
  • Rüdiger Safranski : ETA Hoffmann. The life of a skeptical fantasist. Second edition. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-596-14301-2 .
  • Gero von Wilpert : Lexicon of world literature. German authors A - Z. Fourth completely revised edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-520-83704-8 , p. 284.
  • Alexandra Heimes: Nutcracker and Mouse King . In: Detlef Kremer (Ed.): ETA Hoffmann. Life - work - effect. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2009, pp. 287-297, ISBN 978-3-11-018382-5 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer: Hoffmann, ETA: Nußknacker und Mausekönig ,, accessed on July 11, 2019
  2. ^ Petra Wilhelmy, Der Berliner Salon , p. 704 f.
  3. Source, p. 667, 11th line v. O.
  4. ^ Safranski, p. 390.
  5. Safranski p. 409.
  6. Schulz, p. 439.
  7. Heimes, p. 293 above and p. 295, 19th line v. O.
  8. The Nutcracker and the four kingdoms in the Internet Movie Database (English)