Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory McGuire
Gregory McGuire answers the questions that bubble up as we read and reread classic tales. Wait a minute, what made the Wicked Witch of the West so mean? (Wicked:The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West) What would it be like to be in the blended family of Cinderella? (Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister) And now the backstory to the Nutcracker focussing on the mysterious uncle/godfather Drosselmeier. (I am using Gregory McGuire’s spelling as my recollection is Drosselmeyer.)
The Nutcracker Ballet based on the story by E.T.A Hoffman. For a delicious classic retelling find a copy of Maurice Sendak’s version.
To recap Clara (or Marie in the New York City Ballet version) is given a nutcracker by her Uncle. Her jealous brother Fritz breaks the wooden figure, Drosselmeier fixes it, the party ends and things get fantastical and weird as rats fight with toy soldiers, and an Christmas tree grows 50 feet in the air and the nutcracker turns into a prince.(Close enough) The second act is an amalgamation of dances as perceived from around the world. As I look back to years of Nutcracker Ballet performances, I cringe at the stereotyping of the “dances from different lands.”
McGuire’s hook is “Who was Drosselmeier?” From his NPR “Like most Americans, maybe people around the world, I saw the ballet,” Maguire says. “And one of the things that captivated me about it was that scene where the Christmas tree grows 40,50, 60 feet high, and that seemed to be one of the most magical transformations I have ever seen on the stage, even if the rest of the story seemed to me demented.”
Listen to the whole interview In ‘Hiddensee,’ Gregory Maguire Gets Under The Shell Of ‘The Nutcracker’
From Kirkus Reviews “A splendid revisitation of folklore that takes us to and from familiar cultural touchstones into realms to make Freud blanch. Wonderful”
More about Gregory McGuire http://gregorymaguire.com
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I think I will make this my holiday reading this year!