Happy 200th Birthday, The Nutcracker!

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Elizabeth Allen

Staff Writer

Lifelong book lover, Elizabeth Allen managed to get a degree in something completely unrelated that she never intends to use. She’s a proud Connecticut native who lives in a picturesque small town with her black olive-obsessed toddler daughter, her prom date-turned-husband, and her two dim-witted cats Penny Lane and Gretchen Wieners. She spends her days trying to find a way to be paid to read while drinking copious amounts of coffee, watching episodes of Gilmore girls until the DVDs fail, waiting for her husband to feed her, and being obnoxiously vain about her hair. Elizabeth’s work can be found at, where she is currently reading and reviewing all of the books referenced in Gilmore girls. She is also the cohost of two podcasts discussing the work of Amy Sherman-Palladino (“Under the Floorboards” and “Stumbling Ballerinas”). Basically, her entire goal in life is to be a bookish Lorelai Gilmore. She clearly dreams big. Twitter: @BWRBooks

At this time each year, thousands of little Claras across the world pull their Victorian nightgowns over their heads, lace up their toe shoes, and prepare to take their place on stage in one of the most coveted roles for an aspiring ballet dancer. But the history of Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet goes beyond twirling Sugar Plum Fairies and pirouetting Rat Kings.

The character we’ve come to know as Clara originally appeared in a story written by E.T.A. Hoffman in 1816, by the name Marie Stahlbaum. At a holiday party thirty-odd years later, the legendary Alexandre Dumas told his own version of Marie’s surreal fever dream at a party after being tied to a chair by some of his daughter’s friends who demanded they be told a story. The resulting version of Hoffman’s fairy tale was less dark and more suited to a young audience. That was the version that Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky adapted nearly 50 years later for a performance at the Russian Imperial Theatre.

The original performance sold out on opening night (December 18, 1892) and a holiday season has not since passed without a curtain rising on a gorgeous Christmas tree, in the midst of being decorated by the Stahlbaum family and their friends.

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of E.T.A. Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, here is a collection of some beautifully illustrated versions that you can share with your family over the holiday season.

the-nutcracker-by-susan-jeffersThe Nutcracker, illustrated by Susan Jeffers






the-nutcracker-by-eta-hoffman-and-maurice-sendakNutcracker, illustrated by Maurice Sendak






the-nutcracker-by-valeria-docampoThe Nutcracker, illustrated by Valerie Docampo






the-nutcracker-by-niroot-pettapipatThe Nutcracker, illustrated by Niroot Puttapipat






the-nutcracker-by-mary-engelbreitThe Nutcracker, illustrated by Mary Engelbreit






the-nutcracker-by-renee-graefThe Nutcracker, adapted by Janet Schulman, illustrated by Renee Graef