Opera and Ballet Stories in Music    

Lesson 20: The Nutcracker and the Mouse King - Chapter 11: The Victory

by E.T.A. Hoffman

Performer: LibriVox - Sandra Cullum

Not long after, Maria was awaked one moonlight night by a strange rattling, that seemed to come out of a corner of the chamber. It sounded as if little stones were thrown and rolled about, and every now and then there was a terrible squeaking and squealing.

"Ah, the mice—the mice are coming again!" exclaimed Maria, in affright, and she was about to wake her mother, but her voice failed her, and she could stir neither hand nor foot, for she saw the Mouse-King work his way out of a hole in the wall, then run, with sparkling eyes and crowns, around and around the chamber, when, at last, with a desperate leap, he sprang upon the little table that stood close by her bed.

"Hi—hi—hi—must give me thy sugar plums—thy gingerbread— little thing—or I will bite thy Nutcracker— thy Nutcracker!" So squeaked the Mouse-King, and snapped and grated hideously with his teeth, then sprang down again, and away through the hole in the wall.

Maria was so distressed by this occurrence that she looked very pale in the morning, and was scarcely able to say a word. A hundred times she was going to inform her mother or Louise of what had happened, or at least tell Fred, but she thought, "No one will believe me, and I shall only be laughed at." This, at least, was very clear, that if she wished to save little Nutcracker, she must give up her sugar plums and her gingerbread. So, in the evening, she laid all that she had—and she had a great deal—down before the foot of the glass case.

The next morning, her mother said, "It is strange what brings the mice all at once into the sitting room. See, poor Maria, they have eaten up all your gingerbread."

And so it was. The ravenous Mouse-King had not found the sugar plums exactly to his taste, but he had gnawed them with his sharp teeth, so that they had to be thrown away. Maria did not grieve about her cake and sugar plums, for she was greatly delighted to think that she had saved little Nutcracker.

But what was her terror, when the very next night she heard a squeaking and squealing close to her ear! Ah, the Mouse-King was there again, and his eyes sparkled more dreadfully, and he whistled and squeaked much louder than before, "Must give me thy sugar-puppets—chocolate figures—little thing—or I will bite thy Nutcracker—thy Nutcracker!" and with this, the terrible Mouse-King sprang down, and ran away again.

Maria was very sad. She went the next morning to the glass case, and gazed with the most sorrowful looks at her sugar and chocolate figures. And her grief was reasonable, for thou canst not imagine, my attentive reader, what beautiful figures of sugar and chocolate little Maria Stahlbaum possessed. A pretty shepherd and shepherdess watched a whole flock of milk-white lambs, while a little dog frisked about them. Next came two letter carriers, with letters in their hands, and then four neat pairs of nicely-dressed boys and girls, with gay ribbons, rocked at see-saw upon as many boards, white and smooth as marble. Behind some dancers, stood Farmer Caraway and the Maid of Orleans—these Maria did not care so much about, but close in a corner stood her darling, a little red-cheeked baby, and now the tears came into her eyes.

"Ah, dear Master Drosselmeier," she said, turning to Nutcracker, "there is nothing that I will not do to save you, but this is very hard!"

Nutcracker looked all the while so sorrowfully, that Maria, who felt as if she saw the Mouse-King open his seven mouths, to devour the unhappy youth, resolved to sacrifice them all. So at evening, she placed all her sugar figures down at the foot of the glass case, just as she had done before with her sugar plums and cake. She kissed the shepherd, and the shepherdess, and the lambs, and at last took her darling, the little red cheeked baby out of the corner, and placed it down behind all the rest. Farmer Caraway and the Maid of Orleans must stand in the first row.

"Well, that is too bad!" said her mother, the next morning. "A mouse must have got into the glass case, for all poor Maria's sugar figures are gnawed and bitten in pieces."

Maria could not keep from shedding tears, but she soon smiled again, and said to herself, "That is nothing, if Nutcracker is only saved."

In the evening, her mother told the Counsellor of the mischief which, the mouse had been doing in the glass case, and said, "It is provoking that we cannot destroy this fellow that makes such havoc with Maria's sugar toys."

"Ha!" cried Fred, merrily, "the baker opposite has a fine, gray secretary of legation. Suppose I bring him over? He will soon make an end of the thing. He will have the mouse's head off, very quickly, even if it be Lady Mouserings herself, or her son, the Mouse-King."

"And jump about the tables and chairs," said his mother, laughing, "and throw down cups and saucers, and do all kinds of mischief."

"Ah, no indeed," said Fred. "The baker's secretary of legation is a light, careful fellow. I wish I could walk on the roof of a house as well as he!"

"Let us have no cats in the night," said Louise, who could not bear them.

"Fred's plan is the best," said the doctor, but we will try a trap first. Have we got one?"

"Godfather Drosselmeier can make them best," said Fred, "for he invented them."

All laughed, and when the mother said that there was no mousetrap in the house, the Counsellor assured her that he had a number in his possession, and immediately sent for one. In a short time it was brought, and a very excellent mousetrap it seemed to be.

The story of the Hard Nut now came vividly to the minds of the children. As the cook toasted the fat, Maria shook and trembled. Her head was full of the story and its wonders, and she said to her old friend Dora, "Ah, great Queen, take care of Lady Mouserings and her family!"

But Fred had drawn his sword, and cried, "Let them come on! Let them come on! I will scatter them!" But all remained still and quiet under the hearth. As the Counsellor tied the fat to a fine piece of thread, and set the trap softly, softly down by the glass case, Fred cried out, "Take care, Godfather Mechanist, or Mouse-King will play you a trick!"

Ah, but what a night did Maria pass! Something cold as ice tapped here and there against her arm, and crept, rough and hideous, upon her cheek, and squeaked and squealed in her ear. The hateful Mouse-King sat upon her shoulder.

He opened his seven blood-red mouths, and, grating and snapping his teeth, he squeaked and hissed in her ear. "Wise mouse—wise mouse—goes not into the house—goes not to the feast—likes sugar things best—craft set at naught—will not be caught—give, give all—new frock—picture books—all the best—or shall have no rest. I will tear and bite—Nutcracker at night—hi, hi—que, que!"

Maria was full of sorrow and anxiety. She looked very pale and disturbed on the following morning, when Fred told her that the mouse had not been caught, so that her mother thought that she was grieving for her sugar things, or perhaps was afraid of the mouse.

"Do not grieve, dear child," she said. "We will soon get rid of him. If the trap does not answer, Fred shall bring his gray secretary of legation."

As soon as Maria was alone in the sitting room, she stepped to the glass case, and said, sobbing, to Nutcracker, "Ah, my dear, good Mr. Drosselmeier, what can I—poor, unhappy maiden—do? for, if I should give up all my picture-books, and even my new, beautiful frock, to the hateful mouse, he will ask more and more. And, when I have nothing left to give him, he will at last want me, instead of you, to bite in pieces."

As little Maria grieved and sorrowed in this way, she observed a large spot of blood on Nutcracker's neck, which had been there ever since the battle. Now, after Maria had known that her Nutcracker was young Drosselmeier, the Counsellor's nephew, she did not carry him any more in her arms, nor hug and kiss him, as she used to do. Indeed, she would very seldom move or touch him. But when she saw the spot of blood, she took him carefully from the shelf, and commenced rubbing it with her pocket-handkerchief.

But what was her astonishment, when she felt that he suddenly grew warm in her hand, and began to move! She put him quickly back upon the shelf again, when—behold!—his little mouth began to work and twist, and move up and down, and at last, with a great deal of labor, he lisped out, "Ah, dearest, best Miss Stahlbaum—excellent friend, how shall I thank you? No! no picture-books, no Christmas frock!—Get me a sword—a sword. For the rest, I—" Here speech left him, and his eyes, which had begun to express the deepest sympathy, became staring and motionless.

Maria did not feel the least terror. On the contrary, she leaped for joy, for she had now found a way to rescue Nutcracker without any more painful sacrifices. But where should she obtain a sword for him? Maria at last resolved to ask advice of Fred, and in the evening, when their parents had gone out, and they sat alone together in the chamber by the glass case, she told him all that had happened to Nutcracker and Mouse-King, and then begged him to furnish the little fellow with a sword.

Upon no part of this narration did Fred reflect so long and so earnestly as upon the poor account which she gave him of the bravery of his hussars. He asked once more very seriously, if it were so. Maria assured him of it upon her word, when Fred ran quickly to the glass case, addressed his hussars in a very moving speech, and then, as a punishment for their cowardice, cut their military badges from their caps, and forbade them for a year to play the Hussar's Grand March. After this, he turned again to Maria, and said, "As to a sword, I can easily supply the little fellow with one. I yesterday permitted an old colonel of the cuirassiers to retire upon a pension, and consequently he has no farther use for his fine sharp sabre." The aforesaid colonel was living on the pension which Fred had allowed him, in the farthest corner of the third shelf. He was brought out, his fine silver sabre taken from him, and buckled about Nutcracker.

Maria could scarcely get to sleep that night, she was so anxious and fearful. About midnight, it seemed to her as if she heard a strange rustling, and rattling, and slashing, in the sitting room.

All at once, it went "Queek!"

"The Mouse-King!—the Mouse-King!" cried Maria, and sprang in her fright out of bed.

All was still, but presently she heard a gentle knocking at the door, and a soft voice was heard. "Worthiest, best, kindest Miss Stahlbaum, open the door without fear—good tidings!"

Maria knew the voice of the young Drosselmeier, so she threw her frock about her, and opened the door.

Little Nutcracker stood without, with a bloody sword in his right hand, and a wax taper in his left. As soon as he saw Maria, he bent down on one knee, and said, "You, oh lady—you alone it was, that filled me with knightly courage, and gave this arm strength to contend with the presumptuous foe who dared to disturb your slumber. The treacherous Mouse-King is overcome. He lies bathed in his blood. Scorn not to receive the tokens of victory from a knight who will remain devoted to your service until death."

With these words, Nutcracker took off the seven crowns of the Mouse-King, which he had hung upon his left arm, and reached them to Maria, who received them with great joy. Nutcracker then arose, and said, "Best, kindest Miss Stahlbaum, you know not what beautiful things I could show you at this moment while my enemy lies vanquished, if you would have the condescension to follow me for a few steps. Oh, will you not be so kind? Will you not be so good, best, kindest Miss Stahlbaum?"

    Opera and Ballet Stories in Music    

Lesson 20: The Nutcracker and the Mouse King - Chapter 11: The Victory

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 11 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)