Chapter 3:
The Favorite

Marie had lingered near the Christmas table when the others had left because she had seen something nobody else seemed to have noticed. After Fritz had disengaged his hussars from parading about the tree, a splendid little man became visible. He stood there quietly and modestly, as if waiting his turn.

His build left much to be desired: aside from the fact that his stocky and somewhat long upper body didn't quite fit his small and spindly legs, his head was much too large. However, his fine clothing suggested that he was a man of taste and education: he wore a beautiful hussar's jacket of vivid violet with lots of white trimming and buttons with matching trousers. He wore the most beautiful pair of boots that a student, or even an officer, had ever worn. They were so tight on his legs that they seemed to be painted on.

Somewhat amusingly, a narrow and clumsy cloak was attached to his back that seemed to be made of wood. He also wore what looked like a miner's hat on his head. However, Marie remembered that Drosselmeier wore an awful morning coat and an equally dreadful hat, but nevertheless was a kind and loving godfather.

It also occurred to Marie that if Drosselmeier were to dress as elegantly as the tiny man, he would not look nearly as handsome.

She had quite fallen in love with the tiny man at first sight, and the more she looked at him, the more she could appreciate his good-natured face. His light green eyes, though protruding, were kind and friendly. The craftsman who had given him his combed white beard had done a fine job, for it made his sweet red smile stand out even more.

"Oh!" Marie exclaimed at last. "Papa, who does the charming little man at the tree belong to?"

"That," her father said, "that, dear, will work hard for all of you to crack many a tough nut, and he belongs as much to Louise as to you and Fritz."

He gently removed the little man from the table and lifted up his wooden cloak. His mouth opened wide and wider, revealing two rows of sharp, white teeth. At her father's behest, Marie put a nut into the little man's mouth and - crack! - the nut's shells fell away, and the sweet meat inside fell into her hand.

Her father then explained that the Nutcracker - for that is what the tiny man was - had descended from a long line of Nutcrackers. The children shouted with joy, and Dr. Stahlbaum said, "Marie, since you're so fond of the Nutcracker, you can look after him. But remember, Louise and Fritz have as much right to use him as you."

Marie immediately took the Nutcracker into her arms and gave him nuts to crack, though she always chose the smallest so he wouldn't have to open his mouth very wide, as she felt it wasn't very attractive. Louise came over to use the Nutcracker, and their new friend cracked nuts for her, too. His friendly smile made it seem that he was happy to serve them.

Fritz presently grew tired from his drilling and riding, and when he heard his sisters cracking nuts he went over to investigate. He laughed heartily at the funny-looking little man.

Now Fritz wanted to eat nuts, and the Nutcracker was passed from hand to hand between the three of them. Fritz shoved the biggest and toughest nuts into his mouth. Suddenly, there was a dreadful cracking sound that wasn't from the shell of a nut - and three teeth fell out of the Nutcracker's mouth, and his jaw hung loose and wobbly.

"Oh! My poor dear Nutcracker!" Marie wailed, and took him from Fritz's hands.

"He's a naive, stupid amateur," Fritz declared. "He probably doesn't even understand his own craft. Just give him to me, Marie, and he'll crack nuts for me, even if he loses the rest of his teeth - or even his good-for-nothing jaw."

"No, no!" Marie had begun to cry. "You can't have my dear Nutcracker. Look at how sadly he looks at me and shows me his wounded mouth! You're a cold-hearted person! You've beaten your horses and you even had a soldier shot!"

"It had to be done. You don't understand these things," Fritz said. "The Nutcracker is mine, too, so give him to me."

Marie began to cry harder and wrapped the injured Nutcracker in her little handkerchief. Then their parents came in with Godfather Drosselmeier, who to Marie's dismay took Fritz's side.

However, her father said, "I have specifically placed the Nutcracker into Marie's care, which I can see he clearly needs right now, so no-one may take him from her. Also, I'm very surprised at Fritz - as a good soldier, he should know that an injured man is never sent out to fight."

Fritz looked very ashamed of himself, and without another word concerning nuts and nutcrackers crept off to the other side of the table, where he posted some of his hussars as look-outs and sent the rest to bed for the night.

Marie found Nutcracker's lost teeth and tied a pretty white ribbon from her dress around his injured jaw as a bandage. The poor fellow looked pale and frightened, so she held him more carefully than before, as if he were a small child, and looked at the beautiful pictures in the new picture-books, which were now among the other presents.

Marie became quite angry - which was was quite unlike her - when Godfather Drosselmeier laughed and continually asked how she could humor such an ugly little man so.

The Nutcracker's odd similarity to Drosselmeier came back to Marie's mind, and she said very seriously, "I'm not sure, dear Godfather, if you were dressed like my dear nutcracker and had such nice shiny boots, whether you would look as nice as he does."

Marie had no idea why her parents suddenly laughed so loud, or why Drosselmeier's nose turned so red, or why his laugh seemed so weak. There was probably some reason for it.

Next Chapter
Previous Chapter

Return to Index