The Nutcracker (Part 4)

I’ve loved Susan Jeffers’s work as an illustrator ever since I got my hands on her beautiful rendition of Robert Frost’s poem Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. Her period pictures in this version of The Nutcracker are bound to please.  My favorite pages are ones that are broken into multiple scenes giving tiny windows into Marie’s world.  The first part of the story (the party, is fairly similar to the ballet, in that Drosselmeier appears, shows off some amazing dolls and gives Marie a nutcracker which Fritz then breaks.  She falls asleep on the couch clutching the Nutcracker and is sprinkled by Herr Drosselmeier’s magic while mice eagerly look on.  The dream section where Marie and the Prince travel to the land of the sweets is accompanied by some quick mentions of the dancers from the ballet, but many illustrations of ballerinas, bound to captivate little ones who are in love with the dance.

Jeffers mentions in an author’s note that her purpose was both to illustrate the ballet and to create a version short enough to be read-aloud.  She references the Bell/Zwerger version I reviewed earlier this week as one that contains the full story.  I do feel that Jeffers kept an important part of the story when she told the part about Marie’s love for the Nutcracker.  Her love for him in spite of his looks is what breaks the spell and returns him to his princely form.  This aspect of the fairy tale, with its moral of inner beauty is a valuable part of the original to retain.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – The prince takes Marie by the hands.  Marie declares that she will love the Nutcraker even though he is ugly.  He is transformed into the prince of her dreams.  Year pass and they are engaged then married.  Their return to the Land of Sweets is shown in the illustrations and Marie is clearly grown-up.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – Soldiers are armed with swords, guns and a cannon that shoots peppermint candies.  The mouse king has a sword but the other mice are unarmed.  Two soldiers are captured by mice.  The mouse king is felled by Marie’s slipper but there is no talk of him dying; the other mice simply take him away.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – This is one of the least frightening mouse battles I’ve seen, so a good choice for easily frightened little ones.

Keeping some elements from the original (The nutcracker is under a spell) and making other parts that don’t seem to match any version I’ve read (the nutcraker is King of Toyland?)  this version, illustrated by Scott Gustafson is a very mixed up sort of retelling.

In my opinion it had none of the magical fairy tale qualities so well captured by the Bell/Zwerger version which sort of defeats the purpose of using parts of the original tale.  It also elimates the second act dancing that ballet lovers will be waiting for.  It seems no matter what you’re looking for, it’s better done elsewhere.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – Marie grows up to marry Drosselmeier’s nephew.  The nephew had been promised that he would marry a princess.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – All of Dame Mouserink’s relatives are killed by mousetraps.  She threatens that the Nutcracker (inventor of the mousetrap) will be killed by her son with seven crowns.  The king’s soldiers kill Dame Mouserink.  Mice are armed with guns and spears.  The nutracracker has a sword. The toy soldiers fire hazelnuts and lemon drops from their cannons.  The nutcracker claims to have defeated the mouse king, but we are not given more information than that.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – Nothing that is not covered above.

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