E.T.A.Hoffman, “the unrivalled master of the uncanny in literature”, as Freud calls him, wrote a dark and grim fairy tale about a young girl and her Nutcracker prince in 1816. The story was adapted famously, by Alexander Dumas and later to stage by Tchaikovsky. The allure of the story is still resplendent, yet the darkness has faded out in time.

Royal Opera House · Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy

In the original tale, Marie, a young girl of the Stahlbaum family, German for Steel tree, (Dumas toned it down to Silberhaus, German for Silver house) trapped in the rigid antics of her family escapes into the delirious dreamworld of her Nutcracker prince. What follows is an adventure of remarkable thrills and flamboyant fantasies sugar-coated in the comforts of regressive escapism.

Illustration by Maurice Sendak

As the morbid pun in the title nutcracker suggests, there exist a chilling grimace of a psychological horror beyond the cozy Christmas tale. In it is the resounding echo of manipulation, deciet and abuse. In its darkness, this is a story of trauma and dissociation. Herr Drossenmeir, the sinister Godfather, and Marie’s animus, orchestrates her dream world. As the grip of his gaslighting tenses around her, she looses her agency and become one of those dolls.

But if she realizes who and what her animus is and what he does to her, and if she faces these realities instead of allowing herself to be possessed, her animus can turn into an invaluable inner companion who endows her with the masculine qualities of initiative, courage, objectivity, and spiritual wisdom.

M.L.von Franz

The ensuing flamboyance of the adventure in the realms of magic is a mirage of a dream, a crack in reality and a fantasy of escape. Yet, it is here that the story within the story drives the character trajectory. The fairytale of the krakatuk introduces Marie to her shadow, princess Pirlipat. There’s a conflict and confluence in her psychological journey.

On the other hand her Animus is fragmented between Drossenmeir and the Nutcracker, the father and the son, the doppelgangers. Yet, she fails in integrating her Animus that he continues to exert dominance. She remains as a shattered doll in the bubble of her fantasy. In this way, this story is a tragic ode to naivete.

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