The history of the toy that inspired the famous storyteller, and then the composer, goes back over 350 years
The Nutcracker Ballet at the Bolshoi theater & nbsp; – a traditional New Year's miracle. Miracle of transformation. But it arose not long before the appearance of Tchaikovsky's music and even Hoffmann's fairy tale. Just once in a mountain village in Saxony they came up with a doll for cracking nuts. Around the World went to Germany to track down the footprints of the fairy-tale hero.
As soon as you pass through the arch of spruce branches of the Christmas market on the Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin, a fairy tale begins. To the left of the entrance, a sprawling spruce shimmers with a million golden lights. The star on its top shines almost flush with the triangular pediment of the German Cathedral. Snow-white angels with wings to toe sing a chorale on the stage at the steps of the Konzerthaus.
In two tents, guests of the fair warm up with mulled wine and snack on fried currywurst sausages. The rest of the square, like a table with gifts, is occupied by about a hundred fair tents.
The inside of the tents is warm and bright. On the counters, decorated with bells and gold ribbons, wooden toys stand out among Santa Clauses, lamps, Christmas balls, marzipans and gingerbread hearts. I twist one or the other in my hands – a varnished cat-smoker with a pipe and a cup of coffee, a kissing couple: he – in a bowler hat, she – in a checkered scarf …
In two giant steps, a mime on stilts approaches the kiosk. He grabs some kind of doll, puts it in my hands, showing with his whole appearance: “That's what you need.” The wooden soldier is dressed in a blue cloth camisole with golden cords. Large round eyes are painted on the face, a goatee of a piece of white wool bristles under a toothy rectangular mouth. A lever is attached to the back of the little man, lowering the lower jaw.
– The Nutcracker?
Mim nods happily.
– Take it, you won't lose it, – with a serious mine picks up the seller. – A traditional souvenir, a symbol of the Christmas miracle!
Hobbies of miners
The first nutcrackers, nutcrackers in the form of grotesque men, appeared about 350 years ago in the city of Seifen, in the Ore Mountains, on the border with Bohemia.
From the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th, local miners mined tin, from which made dishes. In their free time, they made figurines of people and animals from wood. When the tin deposits dried up, the miners turned exclusively to the manufacture of wooden toys, and by the beginning of the 18th century they were already successfully selling them at the fair in Leipzig.
“Nutcrackers, or hazels, were better than others,” says Jonas Riedel, an employee of the Open Air Museum in Seiffen. , policemen, soldiers of the princely armies.
Modern Seiffen, at first glance, differs little from its model three centuries ago. All the inhabitants of the city, and there are less than two and a half thousand of them, live in houses no more than three stories high, sometimes half-timbered, painted mostly cream, with the same gray tiled roofs. The octagonal church, which is called Round here, is also decorated.
The fabulous atmosphere of Seifen is provided by wooden toys. Multi-colored, half a house high or very small, they are placed on the streets and in courtyards, attached to fences, roofs, walls, benches. Shops are located on the first floors of the buildings, from the windows of which wooden hares, deer, snowmen, flower dolls, figurines for Christmas nativity scenes and nutcrackers of all stripes look out.
— More than 140 toy workshops work in Seiffen. Some factories employ up to 100 people, – says Jonas. – Do you want to see how nutcrackers are made?
On the ground floor of the city toy factory, blanks are cut out. Craftsmen create details for puppets, window sconces, and Seifen's signature memento—multi-story pyramids with blades at the top that spin with the heat of the candles. In the workshop – no chips, no chips. After each operation, sawdust from the floor and machines is cleaned with a vacuum cleaner. Knives and chisels are neatly arranged in the cells of special wooden boxes.
Master carver Max Kirchner is just finishing a Christmas tree with branches made of curly shavings. Like a hairdresser, he straightens the wooden curls one at a time and arranges them in large waves around the trunk. The glazed display case shows a visual diagram of the assembly of the nutcracker.
On the top shelf there are numbered and signed blanks: the torso, nose, arms, legs, tongs lever. On the middle and bottom shelves, partially assembled dolls demonstrate all the stages of the transformation of wooden parts into a smartly dressed nutcracker, ready to crack nuts.
— The Seifen Nutcracker is made in 130 operations, — Mr. Kirchner explains. — Its classical height — 35 centimeters, main materials – spruce and beech. For decoration we use fabric, fur, leather, wool, wire, gold and silver cords, metal details.
The master at the machine cuts out a blank for the head and upper body in 10 seconds. Shows how the nose, arms and legs are attached to it. He makes a lever for splitting nuts with a lower toothy jaw at the end using a band saw. On the second floor of the factory, assemblers glue and polish the doll. On the third, the nutcracker is painted, dressed and decorated.
– For clothes we take bright colors – red, blue, green, yellow. Glue the hair and beard on the doll's head. Nutcrackers wear a hussar shako, a cocked hat or a miner's cap. Usually black. For the sake of fans of Hoffmann's fairy tale, we add the golden crown of the puppet prince to the military headdress.
Crafts that are created by craftsmen in the workshops are sold in the shop at the factory. Nutcrackers and wooden horses disperse the fastest. I buy a brunette nutcracker with a bandit look in a crimson camisole, with an eye patch – and a bag of hazelnuts.
For the experiment, I go to a cafe next to the factory. Coffee is brought in a coffee pot, with warm buns and gingerbread. There wasn’t: I choose the largest nut, put it in the nutcracker’s mouth, squint my eyes, and — crack! — the shell scatters around the room, and a peeled kernel falls on the table in front of me. In an hour, the nutcracker copes with all the nuts.
Evening in Seifen. The stalls of the Star Bazaar sparkle yellow and orange. Here they sell Christmas stars and pour mulled wine for a couple of euros. Snow falls from the blue-black sky onto rooftops and yards. The soft light from the windows of the houses along the Am Rathaus adds an idyllic touch to the portrait of the winter city.
At the turn stands a two-meter wooden figure in a shako with a sultan and two electric candlesticks in outstretched arms. Nutcracker Lantern. Here, I think, representatives of the Guinness Book would be here! The next day, it turns out that the height of two meters was beaten by nutcrackers a long time ago.
Higher and higher
Nutcracker collectors from all over the world come to the city of Neuhausen, a little over five kilometers from Seifen, once a year. The main object of their interest in Neuhausen is the world's largest collection of nutcrackers. In 1966, they began to be assembled by a mechanical engineer, a specialist in woodworking machines, Jürgen Loeschner. Now the collection is expanded by his son Uwe and grandchildren.
“The collection of the Nutcracker Museum has 5970 exhibits,” says Uwe Löschner. with a three-story house – 10 meters 10 centimeters. He is a Guinness World Record holder. Under a magnifying glass, we demonstrate the smallest nutcracker carved from a toothpick: height – 4.9 millimeters.
Uwe says that he monitors not only the renewal of the dimensions and the increase in the number of exhibits, but also their diversity.< /p>
In the museum, next to the soldiers, kings, miners, the Indian Nutcracker, the Dwarf Nutcracker, the chimney sweep, and the forester flaunt. In 2011, the collection was replenished with the heroes of fairy tales by Perrault and the Brothers Grimm: Puss in Boots, the brave little tailor, the Frog King and Rumpelstiltskin – all of them nutcrackers. A mechanical Baba Yaga in a mortar leaves the hut on chicken legs and spins, demonstrating a lever for splitting nuts on her back.
Uwe invites you to go to the courtyard of the museum, to a large window with green shutters at ground floor level. Under Tchaikovsky's “Waltz of the Flowers” the shutters are slowly opened, as in the films of Alexander Rowe. Five figures from one and a half to two meters high are circling around the Christmas tree with gifts – the characters of Theodor Hoffmann's fairy tale: the godfather Drosselmeyer, the Mouse King, a soldier from the army of little Fritz, the girl Marie and the Nutcracker.
– This is the largest in the world a music box, — proudly adds Uwe.
His wife, Frau Loeschner, undertakes to show the rest of the museum exhibits collected in 30 countries, and gives her version of the appearance of the first nutcracker.
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“Once upon a time,” says Frau Loeschner, “there lived in the Ore Mountains a rich but hard-hearted peasant. Every Christmas he ate a lot of nuts, but he didn't like cracking them. The farmer promised to generously reward the one who comes up with a way to easily rid the nuts of the shell. Ideas just poured in. The soldier offered to shoot at the nuts. The carpenter brought a saw. The veterinarian advised planting chickens on nuts so that the kernels hatch themselves.
And the puppet master did not say anything, but three days later he brought a wooden man in a miner's suit, with a strong jaw. The nutcracker easily dealt with the hardest shell, which made the rich peasant so delighted that he fed the whole village with nuts. The puppeteer got a new workshop in which he made many nutcrackers and sold them profitably. And the peasant has since become kind and generous, because the wooden nutcracker managed to crack the hard shell of his heart.
— Frau Loeschner, —I ask the owner of the museum, while she pours mulled wine into cups, —what role do you like the nutcracker most of all?
—To hell with originality, —the woman sighs. ;— Of course, in the role of the prince of a magical land.
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During the holidays, Nuremberg is crowded. Along the colorful tents of the Christkindlesmarkt (Christkindlesmarkt – the market of the Christ Child), the Christmas market on the Hauptmarkt square, sometimes it turns out to move only with the crowd. It is difficult to get lost in the old part of the city, surrounded by a five-kilometer fortress wall, but if it happens, especially at Christmas, the sense of smell will lead to the Hauptmarkt.
The aroma of Nuremberg gingerbread mixes with the smell of cinnamon bundled on the shelves. They are joined by spicy vibes of mulled wine and feuertzangenbole – “fire tongs punch”. Punch is prepared in a huge bowl mounted on a burner. Fire tongs used to be placed on the bowl, but now they use a grate on which they put a sugar loaf. Sugar is sprinkled with rum and set on fire.
Schiller and Hoffmann wrote with reverence about the fiery punch: the first – in a poem, the second – in a story. And the city of Nuremberg itself was mentioned by Theodor Hoffmann in the fairy tale “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”. Watchmaker Drosselmeyer and his nephew the Nutcracker are not by chance from these places. The inventors and craftsmen of Nuremberg became famous for their talent in the Middle Ages.
— Which nutcrackers are most often bought? — I ask Martha, the director of the toy store.
“Those with a crown,” Martha laughs. “Nuremberg likes to be known as a fairy-tale city, the residence of a magical prince. In the 15th century, wooden toys and dollhouses furnished with furniture were already made here. The Nutcracker may have been invented elsewhere, but thanks to the story of Hoffmann, he became king here.
Martha places several half-timbered ceramic houses on the counter – copies of real historical buildings in Nuremberg.
– You can build your own city out of them and settle your nutcracker in it, he will fulfill the wishes made here.
– My nutcracker from Seiffen.
– Yes, but he became magical in Nuremberg!
The double-decker carousel at Alexanderplatz in Berlin slows down. A 25-year-old girl and her seven-year-old sister rush to the toy kiosk.
– Look, what a fluffy bear, or maybe you want a doll? the girl asks. — That one in the lace cap?
— Take the nutcracker — unexpectedly for myself I get into the conversation.
The girl looks at her sister.
— I want, I want a nutcracker!
— Why do you need it? Such a strange, toothy.
“Because at Christmas,” the girl covers her mouth with her hand and whispers breathlessly, “he does wonders!”
The older sister hesitates.
– What do you want?
— Red! – The baby is jumping with impatience.
– Well, well, – the girl hands the money to the seller. – Give me red. And also green. I need it too.
Germany. Berlin – Seifen – Nuremberg
Germany area 357,386 km², 62nd in the world
Population ~ 83,700,000 people , 19th place
Population density 232 people/km²
Berlin area 891.68 km²
Population ~ 3,700,000 people
Seiffen Square 12.43 km²
Population ~ 2,000 people
Nuremberg Square 186.45 km²
Population ~ 511,000 people
ATTRACTIONS Seiffen Toy Museum and Open Air Museum, Kaiserburg Castle, Beautiful Fountain, St. Sebald Church in Nuremberg.
TRADITIONAL DISHES venison goulash, potato soup with sausages, Nuremberg sausages .
TRADITIONAL DRINKS fire punch, beer.
SOUVENIRSarched candlesticks and Christmas pyramids from Seifen, wooden nutcrackers and boot-shaped mulled wine mugs from Nuremberg.< /p>
DISTANCE from Moscow to Berlin ~ 1600 km (2 hours 40 minutes in flight)
TIME behind Moscow by 2 hours in winter, by an hour summer
Photo: LAIF/VOSTOCK PHOTO (X3), DPA/LEGION -MEDIA (X4), ALAMY, HEMIS/LEGION-MEDIA, SIME/VOSTOCK PHOTO, GETTY IMAGES (X3) 2019, partially updated in December 2022
Marina Matvien to