I got to see two productions of "The Nutcracker" this year, one that my student was in, and then I wanted to see the Joffrey's classic production of Nutcracker one last time before they switch to a different production next year!
One thing that stood out to me this year as I watched the story unfold was how odd it was that Clara is such an odd mixture of child and woman. At the beginning of the story she is very excited to be getting dolls and dolls beds for Christmas, but the whole story is a romance. Although she doesn't marry the Nutcracker Prince at the end of the ballet, E.T.A. Hoffman's original story makes it all the more jarring-the heroine (who was originally named Marie) begins the story at 7, and the conclusion says that she and the Prince were "married after a year and a day." Yes, some time has passed, but not long enough for that to be any less troubling!
I've already done a little looking into the fact that, in other cultures, many girls really did get married off extremely young (see Frog Prince and Marriageable Age). It's possible that in some of these stories, the idea of a young girl going right from baby dolls to making babies would have seemed more natural, but it's also possible that the extreme and sudden transition was intentionally meant to show how unnatural the process felt for many of those young girls. Often fairy tales served to be the voice of the voiceless, as women passed down their experiences to those in the next generation.
Yet maybe it's not all that unnatural. It's very common for young children to have romances, even though they are not sexual ones. I remember having my first "boyfriend"at age 6. It was a label that really had no meaning, but for many people of all ages, having a significant other can be more of a status symbol or form of identity than anything else. Children see romance stories all the time, and it's natural to have crushes, even though they might not think through the logical outcomes of those crushes.
And stories like the "Nutcracker" may just be an exploration of that odd time when young girls are still children in many ways, but starting to feel that pull towards adulthood. It can also be seen as a sweet story of a girl's first crush-in the Joffrey version, Clara is the only one to join in both the children's and the adults' dances.
Thoughts on the subject?