A Little Nutcracker

One of the popular icons of this season comes in the form of a wooden man known as a nutcracker, made famous due to his starring role in the Tchaikovsky ballet of the same name. These guys can be found sporting a variety of colorful costumes, usually with large googly eyes and wildly tousled white troll hair that’s hidden under a large hat. The ballet itself is extremely long, and I got a little fidgety when going to see it as a child. When it was first performed, back in 1892, it was not a success, but the 20-minute suite containing the only songs anyone can remember was popular when performed in concert halls. The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is a definite earworm that most folks can hum if asked, as it’s impossible to stop hearing it once it’s played inside your head. Impressive to say the least. In truth, that little bit of haunting music box melody is a theme played throughout the Christmas season. I’ve honestly not been to see The Nutcracker ballet since I was a child, but I can still remember it to this day.

In the story of the ballet, a girl named Clara gets a nutcracker as a gift from her freaky godfather, and her brother immediately breaks it. She sneaks back to look at her broken toy at midnight and it springs to life and defends her as she gets attacked by giant mice. A war ensues complete with gingerbread soldiers, which is an unfortunate choice for an army, as the mice simply start eating them. More appropriate tin soldiers appear to help, and dolls hop in to tend to the wounded, as the fighting escalates. The Mouse King looks set to win just as Clara pegs him in the head with her slipper so her nutcracker can stab and kill him. This breaks a spell that’s never really explained and turns the wooden man into a prince in ballet tights. He takes Clara to the ballet where she watches people dressed as life-sized sweets from around the world perform, before being led to a throne, crowned a princess, and flown away on a sleigh with a guy she just met. At least that’s how I remember it. I’m sure there must have been more to it.

While I love the spectacle of it all, I was just hoping that there had been a bit more of a story. As a little boy, it felt like a bit of a bait and switch. It started with an interesting premise and action only to trick me into watching a ballet recital. That’s the point where I got fidgety. But it’s become a beloved classic and is performed each year by ballet troops all across the globe. I think I just wished that the wooden man could stay like he was as it seemed more magical that way. Plus, I wasn’t up for all that icky romantic stuff at that age. I far preferred the warring mice. These days, in honor of the season, you’ll find just a single ornament on our tree in honor of this effigy. Sometimes I stare at it, willing it to spring to life, but it never actually happens. I’m sure it’s simply that I’m older now and rarely awake at midnight these days. And maybe it’s for the best. I still have my childhood memories of that time I went to see a ballet about angry mice, dancing sweets, and a little nutcracker.

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 #WorldWatercolorGroup - Day 16 - The Nutcracker - Doodlewash
Recommended6 recommendationsPublished in By Charlie

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!

34 Comments
  1. Laura 11 months ago

    My mother in law collects nutcrackers, which she then displays at Christmas time. While I’m it a fan of them, this grandparent tradition means my kids have accumulated some nutcrackers so we have them on display too. Last year my sons even made some nutcrackers of their own. We took them to see the ballet a couple of years ago which was the first time I’d seen it live too. The kids and I found it difficult to follow. It is really rather random.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 11 months ago

      Hehe… glad I’m not the only one! Yeah, the ballet comes with bit of odd story. But I love that you’ve managed an accidental collection! 😃💕 My dad collected nutcrackers and they’re all over my mom’s house this time of year!

  2. Lisa 11 months ago

    Charming story, charming doodlewash!

  3. Sharon Nolfi 11 months ago

    Wonderful painting of a fellow who always makes me smile. If your Nutcracker doesn’t spring to life, you need to believe harder to make it so!

  4. Jennifer McLean 11 months ago

    I’ve never seen the ballet, I’m thinking I’ll stick with the Phantom of the opera even though I could watch a ballerina on her toes for hours. That story sounds strange.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 11 months ago

      hehe… you should totally see it once in life! 😃💕 It’s that weird! lol

  5. Teri Casper 11 months ago

    Love that nutcracker. Looks like he’s ready to dance right off the page.

  6. Sandra Strait 11 months ago

    I’ve only ever seen the ballet on TV, and never sat the entire way through. I love the music though and play it often. Your painting is as charming as any nutcracker I’ve ever seen!

    • Rod Fletcher 11 months ago

      My wife is a ballet fan, so I have been to many ballet performances. I too love the music although the dancing leaves me unimpressed. Even when hey are trying to tell a story. I do like what I call the abstract dancing which has no story. But be warned Sandra, I was so disappointed when I went to my first live performance as the clunk of the ballet shoes intruded onto the music (I’m auditioning for Scrooge tomorrow BTW).

      • Author
        Charlie O'Shields 11 months ago

        LOL… what a wonderful story, Rod! 😃💕 I agree… the thud of ballet shoes does make it a little clunky.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 11 months ago

      Yeah, the reviews of the first ballet said it didn’t live up to the score! hehe Thanks, Sandra! 😃💕

  7. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 11 months ago

    Like many little girls, I danced in the ballet three times, one of them in Hawaii. I danced in the sugar plum fairy and snowflakes scenes. It was one of the highlights of my young life to be a ballerina. Boys always prefer the warring mice and the ensuing battle. I suspect it was the only adventure that got them into the seats. There’s quite a lot to the backstory, but I won’t get into it on your blog. Suffice to say that a nutcracker on your tree will incite a lot of sweet memories for some viewers – like me.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 11 months ago

      Aww that’s awesome!! 😃💕 Even though this ballet just confused me, I did end up learning ballet and even becoming a dance instructor during college. Perhaps it had more of an effect than I knew! 😉

      • Sharon Bonin-Pratt 11 months ago

        You’ve had an amazing career, spanning all kinds of experiences. A dance instructor – even I have never done that after many years of ballet classes in New Jersey and Hawaii. Now just lovely memories.

        • Author
          Charlie O'Shields 11 months ago

          I was even able to do the splits once upon a time! lol… but yeah… now that’s definitely just a lovely memory! 😊

  8. Liza Gonen 11 months ago

    This guy looks so life-like, full of personality.
    A really beautiful work .
    👏

  9. Susan Cuss 11 months ago

    Your nutcracker has a wild-eyed look about him, so maybe the magic has begun. Christmas magic is certainly in the air…… I too love the music more than the ballet.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 11 months ago

      lol… he’s definitely wild! The hair alone!! hehe Thanks so much, Susan! 😃💕

  10. SnehLata Maheshwari 11 months ago

    Fantastic Christmas short stories.i am enjoying this Charlie.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 11 months ago

      Aww thanks! I’m so happy you’re liking these my friend! 😃💕

  11. What a great Nutcracker, Charlie !!! I sort of feel that this Nutcracker is made of wood 🙂

    w.r.t. The Nutcracker ballet: I highly recommend watching “The Nutcracker: The Untold Story” musical fantasy movie, directed by Andrei Konchalovsky. The movie is full of beautiful interiors, Christmas ornaments and details that could simplify following the ballet performance. We collect the wooden Nutcrackers and German incense smokers (ger. Räuchermann) too. Hope to paint them soon and share via Doodlewash 🙂

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 11 months ago

      Thanks so much, Violeta! 😃💕 And thanks for the recommendation! I’ll have to check that out! And yes please! You should definitely paint them!!

  12. Thomas Blanchard 11 months ago

    Enjoyed your story and great nutcracker painting Charlie! Less than a week to go 🙂

  13. Sandra Gilbert 11 months ago

    My grandmother had a rather large collection of nutcracker, which I found rather fascinating when I was a kid. Lol, but of course she never let us play with them. She actually kept hers out all year, so I didn’t associate them with Christmas until I was an adult.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 11 months ago

      Oh wow! That’s a fun story! 😃💕 Yeah, I guess with that many putting them all away would be a pain!

  14. Delores Azary 11 months ago

    I have not seen the ballet, but some friends see it every year.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 11 months ago

      Yeah, it’s a tradition for some, but I’ll stick to the version embedded in my memory! hehe 😃💕

  15. The Naked Koala 11 months ago

    Love Nutcrackers! We have one from Berlin who we named Cornelius Nussbaum 😀

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