Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, November 23, 2012

"The Story of the Hard Nut" by E.T.A. Hoffman

"The Story of the Hard Nut" by E.T.A. Hoffman (1819, 6 pages)

I am very happy to be participating for the second year in German Literature Month, hosted by Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life.   There are all sorts of great reading suggestions and links to wonderful posts on their blogs.   This is just the kind of event that shows the real greatness of the international community of book bloggers.

Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann, know now as E. T. A. Hoffman (1776 to 1822) was from Prussia.   He was by education a jurist but it is for his short fiction and most of all for The Nutcracker and the Mouse on which the famous ballet The Nutcracker is based.   He was a leading figure of German romanticism and most of his short stories have elements of the Gothic fairy tale.   His horror stories influenced Edgar Allan Poe and through this were very influential in shaping the modern short story.   

Like his most famous work, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, this story centers on a mouse, in this case a mouse queen and a difficult to crack nut.   I do not doubt that these items may well have symbolic meanings that I will leave others to ponder.    A mouse queen is also very important in his longer work.

"The Story of the Hard Nut" is a really well done fairy tale like work which combines the elements of the parable with the short story.   I want people to have the pleasure of reading this story for themselves for the first time so I will just tell the bare outlines of the story.   A human queen offends a mouse queen and the mouse queen puts a curse on the young daughter of the queen that gives her the head of a monster.   The curse can be lifted only by cracking a seemingly impossible to break nut which the mouse says can only be cracked by a man who has never shaved or worn boots.

The queen sends one of the wise men of the court in search of such a man and after many years he thinks he has found him and he returns to the court.   Read the story to see the fantastic conclusion.   

You can read the story at the web page of Virginia Commonwealth University on 19th Century German Short Stories.   Their webpage is a great resource as it has stories in English and German by many of the great 19th century German writers including Goethe, Schiller, Novalis and E T A Hoffmann.    I hope to post on a few more 19th century German short stories for German Literature Month.    

Mel u

1 comment:

Caroline said...

I'm so fond of E.T.A. Hoffmann. He's quirky and has an amazing imagination, maybe a bit crazy too, all in all enchanting. I would like to re-read this as I have forgotten the outcome of the tale.