Opera and Ballet Stories in Music    

Lesson 18: The Nutcracker and the Mouse King - Chapter 9: Conclusion of the Story of the Hard Nut

by E.T.A. Hoffman

Performer: LibriVox - Sandra Cullum

The next evening as soon as the candles were lighted, Godfather Drosselmeier appeared, and continued his story as follows. Drosselmeier and the astronomer had been fifteen years on their journey without seeing the least signs of the nut Crackatuck. It would take me a month, children, to tell where they went, and what strange things happened to them. I must pass them over, and commence where Drosselmeier sank at last into despondency, and felt a great desire to see his dear native city, Nuremburg.

This desire came upon him all at once, as he was smoking a pipe of tobacco with his friend in the middle of a great wood in Asia. "Oh, Sweet city," he cried, "sweet native city, sweet Nuremberg! He who has never seen thee, though he may have travelled to London, Paris, Rome, if his heart is not dead to emotion, must continually desire to visit thee. Thee, oh Nuremberg, sweet city, where there are so many beautiful houses with windows!"

As Drosselmeier grieved in such a sorrowful manner, the astronomer was moved with sympathy, and began to cry and howl so pitifully that it was heard far and wide through Asia. He soon composed himself again, wiped the tears out of his eyes, and said, "But why, my respected colleague, why sit here and howl? Why should we not go to Nuremberg? Is it not all the same, wherever we seek after this miserable nut, Crackatuck?"

"That is true," replied Drosselmeier, greatly consoled.

Both arose, knocked out their pipes, and went straightforward out of the wood in the middle of Asia, right to Nuremburg. They had scarcely arrived there, when Drosselmeier ran to his brother, Christopher Zacharias Drosselmeier, puppet-maker, varnisher, and gilder, whom he had not seen for these many years.

The watchmaker told him the whole story of the Princess Pirlipat, Lady Mouserings, and the nut Crackatuck, so that he struck his hands together, over and over again with astonishment, and exclaimed, "Ei, ei, brother, brother, what strange things are these!"

Drosselmeier then related the history of his travels. How he had passed two years with King Date, how coldly he had been received by Prince Almond, and how he had sought information to no purpose of the Natural Society in Squirrelberg. In short, how his search everywhere had been in vain to find even the least signs of the nut Crackatuck.

During this account, Christopher Zacharias had often snapped his fingers, turned about on one foot, winked, laughed, clucked with his tongue, and then called out, "Hi—hem—ei—oh!—if it should!" At last, he tossed his hat and wig up in the air, clasped his brother around the neck, and cried, "Brother, brother, you are safe!—safe, I say. For I must be wonderfully mistaken if I have not that nut Crackatuck at this very moment in my possession!" He then drew a little box from his pocket, and took out of it a gilded nut of moderate size. "See," he said, "this nut fell into my hands in this way. Many years ago, a stranger came here at Christmas time with a sack full of nuts, which, he offered for sale cheap. Just as he passed my shop, he got into a quarrel with a nut seller of this city, who did not like to see a stranger come hither to undersell him, and for this reason attacked him. The man put down his sack upon the ground, the better to defend himself, and at the same moment, a heavily-laden wagon passed directly over it. All the nuts were cracked in pieces except this one, which the stranger, with a singular smile, offered me, for a bright dollar of the year 1720. I thought that strange, but as I found in my pocket just such a dollar as the man wanted, I bought the nut, and gilded it over, without exactly knowing why I bought the nut so dear, or why I set so much store by it.

All doubt, whether this nut was actually the long-sought nut, Crackatuck, was instantly removed, when the astronomer was called, who carefully scraped off the gold, and found upon the rind the word Crackatuck, engraved in Chinese characters. The joy of the travelers was beyond bounds, and the brother the happiest man under the sun, for Drosselmeier assured him that his fortune was made, since he would have a considerable pension for the rest of his days, and then there was the gold which had been scraped off. He might keep that for gilding.

The mechanist and the astronomer had both put on their nightcaps, and were getting into bed as the latter commenced. "My worthy colleague, good fortune never comes single. Take my word for it, we have found, not only the nut Crackatuck, but also the young man who is to crack it, and hand the kernel to the princess. I mean nobody else than your brother's son. I cannot sleep. No, this very night I must cast the youth's horoscope." With these words, he threw the nightcap off his head, and began straightway to take an observation.

The brother's son was in truth a handsome, well grown young man, who had never been shaved, and who had never worn boots. In his early youth he had on Christmas nights gone around as a Merry Andrew (clown), but this could not be seen in his behavior in the least, so well had his manners been formed by his father's care. On Christmas days he wore a handsome red coat trimmed with gold, a sword, a hat under his arm, and a curling wig. In this fine dress he would stand in his father's shop, and out of gallantry crack nuts for the young girls, for which reason he was called the handsome Nutcracker.

On the following morning, the astronomer was in raptures. He fell upon the mechanist's neck, and cried, "It is he! We have him! He is found! But there are two things, worthy colleague, which we must see to. In the first place, we must braid for your excellent nephew a stout wooden queue, which shall be joined in such a way to his lower jaw, that it can move it with great force. In the next place, when we arrive at the king's palace, we must let no one know that we have brought the young man with us who is to crack the nut Crackatuck. It is best that he should not be found for a long time. I read in his horoscope, that after many young men have broken their teeth to no purpose, the king will promise to him who cracks the nut, and restores to the princess her lost beauty, the princess herself, and the succession to the throne as a reward."

His brother, the puppet-maker, was highly delighted to think that his son might marry the Princess Pirlipat, and become a prince and king, and he gave him up entirely into the hands of the two travelers. The queue which Drosselmeier fastened upon his young and hopeful nephew, answered admirably, so that he made a series of the most successful experiments, even upon the hardest peach stones. As Drosselmeier and the astronomer had sent immediate information to the palace, of the discovery of the nut Crackatuck, suitable notices had been published, and when the travelers arrived, many handsome young men, and among them some handsome princes, had appeared, who trusting to their sound teeth, were ready to undertake the disenchantment of the princess.

The travelers were not a little terrified when they beheld the princess again. Her little body, with its tiny hands and feet, was hardly able to carry her great misshapen head, and the ugliness of her face was increased by a white cotton beard, which had spread itself around her mouth, and over her chin. All happened as the astronomer had read in the horoscope.

One youth in shoes after another, bit upon the nut Crackatuck until his teeth and jaws were sore, and as he was led away, half swooning, by the physician in attendance, sighed out, "That was a hard nut."

When the king, in the anguish of his heart, had promised his daughter and his kingdom to him who should affect the disenchantment, the handsome young Drosselmeier stepped forward, and begged for permission to begin the experiment.

And no one had pleased the fancy of Princess Pirlipat as well as young Drosselmeier. She laid her little hand upon her heart, and sighed deeply, "Ah, if this might be the one who is to crack the nut Crackatuck, and become my husband!"

After young Drosselmeier had gracefully saluted the king and queen, and then the Princess Pirlipat, he received the nut Crackatuck from the hands of the master of ceremonies, put it without hesitation between his teeth, pulled his queue very hard, and crack—crack — the shell broke into many pieces. He then nicely removed the little threads and broken bits of shell that hung to the kernel, and reached it with a low bow to the princess, after which he shut his eyes, and began to walk backwards.

The princess straightway swallowed the kernel, and behold! her ugly shape was gone, and in its place appeared a most beautiful figure, with a face of roses and lilies, delicate white and red, eyes of living, sparkling azure, and locks curling in bright golden ringlets.

Drums and trumpets mingled their sounds with the loud rejoicings of the people. The king and his whole court danced, as at Pirlipat's birth, upon one leg, and the queen had to be carefully tended with Cologne water, because she had fallen into a swoon from delight and rapture.

Young Drosselmeier, who had still his seven steps to perform, was a good deal discomposed by the tumult, but he kept firm, and was just stretching back his right foot for the seventh step, when Lady Mouserings rose squeaking and squealing out of the floor. Down came his foot upon her head, and he stumbled, so that he hardly kept himself from falling.

Alas! What a hard fate! As quick as thought, the youth was changed to the former figure of the princess. His body became shriveled up, and was hardly able to support his great misshapen head, his eyes turned green and staring, and his mouth was stretched from ear to ear. Instead of his queue, a narrow wooden cloak hung down upon his back, with which he moved his lower jaw.

The watchmaker and astronomer were benumbed with terror and affright, while Lady Mouserings rolled bleeding and kicking upon the floor. Her malice did not go unpunished, for young Drosselmeier had trodden upon her neck so heavily with the sharp heel of his shoe that she could not survive.

When Lady Mouserings lay in her last agonies, she squeaked and whimpered in a piteous tone. "Oh, Crackatuck! hard nut—hi, hi!—of thee I now must die! — que, que—son with seven crowns will bite Nutcracker—at night—hi, hi—que, que—and revenue his mother's death—short breath—must I—hi, hi—die, die—so young—que, que—oh, agony!—squeak!" With this cry, Lady Mouserings died, and the royal oven-heater carried out her body.

As for young Drosselmeier, no one troubled himself any farther about him, but the princess put the king in mind of his promise, and he commanded that they should bring the young hero before him.

But when the unfortunate youth approached, the princess held both hands before her face, and cried, "Away, away with the ugly Nutcracker!"

The court marshal immediately took him by the shoulders, and pushed him out of doors. The king was full of anger, because they had wished to give him a Nutcracker for a son-in-law, and he put all the blame upon the mechanist and astronomer, and banished them forever from the kingdom.

This did not stand in the horoscope which the astronomer had set up at Nuremberg, but he did not allow himself to be discouraged. He straightway took another observation, and declared that he could read in the stars, that young Drosselmeier would conduct himself so well in his new station, that in spite of his deformity, he would yet become a prince and a king, and that his former beauty would return, as soon as the son of Lady Mouserings, who had been born with seven heads, after the death of her seven sons, had fallen by his hand, and a maiden had loved him, notwithstanding his ugly shape. And they say that young Drosselmeier has actually been seen about Christmas time in his father's shop at Nuremberg. As a Nutcracker, it is true, but, at the same time, as a prince.

This, children, is the story of the Hard Nut, and you know now why people say so often, "That was a hard nut!" and whence it comes that Nutcrackers are so ugly.

The Counsellor thus concluded his narration. Maria thought that the Princess Pirlipat was an ill-natured, ungrateful thing, and Fred declared, that if Nutcracker were anything of a man, he would not be long in settling matters with the Mouse-King, and would get his old shape again very soon.

    Opera and Ballet Stories in Music    

Lesson 18: The Nutcracker and the Mouse King - Chapter 9: Conclusion of the Story of the Hard Nut

by E.T.A. Hoffman

Performer: LibriVox - Sandra Cullum


Read the chapter and listen to the musical selection for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read the synopsis.
  • Review any vocabulary terms.
  • Read about the composer.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


This lesson features chapter 9 of E.T.A. Hoffmann's story 'The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,' along with the entirety of the Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a.


  1. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in 1840 in Votkinsk, Russia. Examine his picture.
  2. Zoom in and find Tchaikovsky's country of birth on the map of Europe below.
  3. Tchaikovsky took piano lessons starting at age five and wrote his first composition, a waltz in honor of his deceased mother, at the age of fourteen.
  4. Although as an adult Tchaikovsky first worked as a civil servant, he found his way back to music, enrolling in the Saint Petersburg Conservatory.
  5. Tchaikovsky worked as a music professor and a composer and was eventually voted into the French Académie des Beaux-Arts.
  6. Tchaikovsky died in 1893 at the age of 53, possibly from cholera due to drinking bad water.


Activity 1: Recite the Ballet Information

  • Recite the name of the composer and the name of the ballet.

Activity 2: Narrate the Story

  • Narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 3: Identify the Movements

A 'movement' is a principal division of a longer musical work, self-sufficient in terms of key, tempo, and structure.

There are eight (8) movements in the core Nutcracker Suite performance. Listen for each and try to identify them (the listed times will help at first and later instructors might randomize the movements). The titles of each movement are listed below.

  • Overture (time 0.00)
  • March (time 3.24)
  • Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (time 6.11)
  • Trepak (Russian Dance) (time 8.25)
  • Coffee (Arabian Dance) (time 9.32)
  • Tea (Chinese Dance) (time 12.53)
  • Dance of the Reed Flutes (time 13.57)
  • Waltz of the Flowers (time 16.14)