The Nutcracker…sweet!

December 18, 2009 § 1 Comment

Since both The Nutcracker ballet, and ghosty story telling, have become part of the Yuletide tradition in the hearts of many, especially in mine, I thought a combination of these two would Yuletidey fun, and actually rather Romantic. Not only did Germany give us the Christmas Tree (thanks Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, you ruled in many ways!) , it also gave us E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776 – 1822), one of the most important figures of the Romantic movement, especially in Germany and Europe. Hoffmann, author, musician, composer and draftsman was the author of many tales often labeled as ‘horror’ or ‘fantasy’ but which are more of an uncanny and unsettling nature than anything else, including The Nutcracker and the Mouse King in 1816.

The suite for ballet which Tchaikovsky composed in 1892  was based not on Hoffmann’s German original, but on a translation into French by Alexandre Dumas the elder. Though charming, the ballet and the stories derived from it, bear little resemblance to Hoffmann’s macabre, brilliant tale. The original text of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King is not available online but I can strongly recommend a reading of some of Hoffmann’s other tales at The Literary Gothic.

Many of Hoffman’s major supernaturalist tales are collected in The Best Tales of Hoffmann, edited by the renowned expert on supernaturalist fiction E. F. Bleiler and published by Dover.

I always think of M.R. James as the heir to Hoffmann’s style of uncanny tales, and since there have been no audio adaptations of Hoffmann that I’m aware of, in English at any rate,  I’d to share some creepy tales from M.R. James (1862-1936). I think these radio adaptations of James stories recorded especially for Christmas by the BBC are nicely done. They introduce devices not included in James’ originals to better tell the tale through the medium of radio drama but they still convey the original sentiments. Click on the little play button to listen if you dare!!

The Tractate Middoth from M.R. James’ More Ghost Stories

Lost Hearts from M.R. James’ Ghost Stories of an Antiquary

Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad from M.R. James’ Ghost Stories of an Antiquary


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