Chapter 9:
The End of The Tale of The Hard Nut

On the third evening, the lights had barely been lit in the Stahlbaum house when the judge returned to finish his story:

Drosselmeier and the astronomer searched for fifteen years without coming across the nut Crackatook. I could spent four weeks telling you children all about the places they went and the strange things they saw, but I'll just say that Drosselmeier, in his deep sorrow and disappointment, began to feel a longing for his beloved home city of Nuremberg. A particularly nasty attack hit him when he was smoking his pipe with his friend the astronomer in the middle of some great forest in Asia. And suddenly he cried:

"Oh, beautiful beautiful Nuremberg, my beautiful hometown Nuremberg, whom I have not seen for so long, though I've traveled to London, Paris, and Petrovaradin, they cannot fill my heart and I must always ask of you. Oh, beautiful city of Nuremberg, with your lovely houses and their windows!"

Drosselmeier's cries were so sorrowful that the astronomer felt deep compassion for him, and he began to cry and wail as well. In fact, his cries were so loud that they could be heard through a sizable portion of Asia.

Then he wiped his eyes and said, "Esteemed colleague, instead of sitting here pining away over Nuremberg, why don't we go to Nuremberg? After all, it doesn't matter where we search for that accursed nut."

"True," Drosselmeier said. He brightened up a little. They both knocked the ashes out of their pipes and straightaway headed from the middle of Asia to Nuremberg. No sooner than they had arrived, Drosselmeier went to see his cousin, the dollmaker, painter, and gilder Christoph Zecharias Drosselmeier, whom he had not seen in many years. The clockmaker told him all about Princess Pirlipat, the Lady Mouserinks, and the nut Crackatook. The dollmaker clapped his hands in amazement and said, "what a marvelous story!"

Drosselmeier further related his adventures, of how he had spent two years with the King of Dates, how the Prince of Almonds had disdainfully rejected him, how his search at the Society of Natural Science in Squirrelton had yielded nothing, and how he had failed everywhere to find even a trace of the nut Crackatook.

Through the story, Christoff Zecharias frequently snapped his fingers and turned around on one foot. Finally he exclaimed, "well, that'd be the devil, wouldn't it!" and threw his hat and wig into the air. He gave the clockmaker a hug and said, "Cousin - cousin, all your troubles are over because unless all the world has conspired to deceive me, I own the nut Crackatook!"

He immediately brought out a box from which a pulled a gilded nut of moderate size. "Behold," he said. "Many years ago, a nut seller with a bag of nuts came into town around Christmastime. He got into a fight with a local nut seller who didn't think he had any right selling nuts here right outside my shop and had to set his bag down. Then a heavily-loaded cart drove over it and broke all of the nuts except one. The stranger offered it to me, with the oddest smile, for a twenty from 1720. Strangely enough, that's just the coin I found when I checked my pocket. So I bought it and gilded it without really knowing why I paid so much for it or why I'd wanted it so badly."

Any doubt that the nut wasn't really Crackatook was soon lifted when the astronomer scraped off the gold gilding and found the word "Crackatook" engraved in Chinese characters. The joy of the travelers was immense and his cousin was the happiest man under the sun when Drosselmeier told him that his fortune was made, for he would soon receive a handsome pension and plenty of gold for gilding.

Both wizard and astronomer had just put on their nightcaps and were ready to go to bed when the latter said, "My esteemed colleague, good fortune never comes but in packs - not only have we found the nut Crackatook, but also the young man to break it and present the princess with the core of beauty! No, I cannot sleep now," he said excitedly, "I must draw up this young man's horoscope this very night!" With that, he tore off his nightcap and began at once to observe the stars.

Christoph Zechariah's son was a handsome boy who had never shaved and had never worn boots. In his early childhood he had been a jumping-jack for a few Christmases, but there was no trace of that now as his father had taught him how to be a proper gentleman. During the Christmas season (which was now) he wore a red coat trimmed in gold, a sword, a hat carried under his arm, and an excellent wig. Thus he stood splendidly in his father's shop and gallantly cracked nuts for young girls - and for this reason they had nicknamed him "Nutcracker."

The next morning the astronomer gave the wizard a hug and said, "here he is! We have him! Now, there are two things we must not ignore. First, you must make your splendid nephew a sturdy wooden tail that attaches under the jawbone so that his jaw can be firmly shut therewith, and then we must not reveal that we have the young man who will crack the nut when we arrive at the palace, but instead he must wait for some time to reveal himself for I have read in the horoscope that after a few young men have broken their teeth on Crackatook, the king will promise the kingdom and the hand of the princess in marriage to whoever can crack the nut open and restore the princess's beauty."

The dollmaker was pleased to have his son marry the princess and become prince and later king, so he gave him up to the travelers. The little wooden tail Drosselmeier attached to his hopeful young nephew's head worked so well that he was able to crack the hardest of peach pits.

Drosselmeier and the astronomer reported to the palace that they had found the nut Crackatook, and the palace immediately issued requests for young men who might break the nut. Many arrived to try their own sturdy teeth on the nut and restore the princess, including a few princes.

Our two travelers were considerably startled when they saw the princess. Her shriveled body with its tiny hands and feet could hardly carry her enormous head. The ugliness of her face was enhanced by a cotton-white beard that had sprouted around her mouth and on her chin.

Everything happened exactly as the astronomer predicted: young men with shoes on their feet and peach fuzz on their faces bit down on the nut Crackatook and only got a few broken teeth and a sore jaw for their troubles without helping the princess in the slightest. Every young man who had injured himself thus would be carried away half-fainting by specially-appointed dentists. Many could be heard sighing, "that was a hard nut!"

The king, now fearing that his daughter might never be restored, promised the kingdom and the princess to whomever could crack the nut. At that moment young Drosselmeier stepped out and asked if he could try to crack the nut.

None of the other young men had caught the princess's eye the way young Drosselmeier had. She put her little hands over her heart and sighed, "oh, let it be this one who breaks the nut and becomes my husband!"

After paying his respects to the king, queen, and princess (the latter especially politely), he took the nut from the Grand Master of Ceremonies. He put it in his mouth and tugged at the tail Drosselmeier had made for him, and - crack crack! - the shell broke into many pieces.

The young man removed the fibers from the core of the nut, closed his eyes, gave it to the princess, and began his seven steps backward. The princess swallowed the core and - oh, wonders! - an angelically beautiful young lady stood before them with a face of lily white and rose red, eyes like azure, and hair like curled strands of gold. Trumpets and drums mingled with the cheers of the people. The king and his court danced on one leg as they had the day of the princess's birth, and the queen had to be revived with strong-smelling perfumes because she had fainted from happiness.

The commotion did not at all ruffle young Drosselmeier, who was just taking his seventh and last step. But then who should pop out of a crack in the floor but Lady Mouserinks, ugly, squeaking, and squealing - and right under the young man's heel. This caused him to stumble so that he almost fell. Oh, calamity! The boy was instantly as hideous as Princess Pirlipat had been a few moments ago. His shriveled body could hardly hold up his ugly head with its protruding green eyes and hideously wide smile. Instead of the little tail the clockmaker had made for him, a small wooden cloak hung from his shoulders that controlled his jaw. The clockmaker and astronomer were beside themselves with horror.

Then they saw Lady Mouserinks roll onto the floor. Her malice had not gone unavenged, for the pointed heel of young Drosselmeier's shoe had hit her sharply and fatally in the neck. The fear of death had seized her, for she squeaked and squealed piteously:

"Oh, Crackatook, hard nut, now I must die
Hee hee, pee pee
Nutcracker, young man, you too will die
My seven-crowned son will avenge my death
And take from you your living breath
Oh life, so vibrant and red, I - squeak!

With that, the mouse queen died and was promptly carried to the royal furnace for disposal.

In the heat of the moment everyone had forgotten the young Drosselmeier, but the princess reminded the king of his promise and he immediately ordered that the young man be brought before them. But upon seeing how hideous the unfortunate boy had become, the princess held her hands over her face and cried, "take him away! Take that horrible nutcracker away!"

The chamberlain seized him by the shoulders and threw him out the door. The king was furious that someone had tried to give him a nutcracker for a son-in-law and blamed everything on the clockmaker and astronomer, whom he banished forever. None of these developments had been in the horoscope taken at Nuremberg, but the astronomer was not deterred from reading the stars again, which now revealed that young Drosselmeier would become a prince and a king despite his ugliness. Furthermore, he could lift the curse put upon him if he could defeat the seven-headed mouse born to Lady Mouserinks after the death her seven sons and find a lady who would love him despite his looks. You may have seen young Drosselmeier in his father's shop in Nuremberg around Christmastime, and now you know that he is not just a nutcracker, but also a prince. And now you know the tale of the hard nut, why people say 'that was a hard nut to crack!', and how the nutcracker became so ugly."

Thus the judge ended his story. Marie thought that Princess Pirlipat was a cruel, ungrateful brat, and Fritz said that if the Nutcracker was worth anything he'd quickly defeat the Mouse King and get restored to his former self again.

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