Monday Morning Magic from Inkandescent® PR + Publishing Co. — If you are among the millions whisked away to the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy each Christmas by the ballet inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic novella, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” prepare to hop a ride this month to “Hiddensee” to explore the Nutcracker’s back story.
Your guide is bestselling author Gregory Maguire, the fantasy writer who gave us a new perspective on the Wicked Witch of the West in “Wicked,” redrew Wonderland in “After Alice,” and introduced us to a distant relation of Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge in “Lost.”
In “Hiddensee,” we travel to the forest of Bavaria, circa 1808, to meet Dirk, the lad who grows up to be the mysterious one-eyed toymaker Herr Drosselmeier. This beautifully crafted page-turner will undoubtedly captivate readers. The story, rooted in 19th-century German Romanticism, teaches us how the entrancing Nutcracker came to be carved and how it magically guided an ailing little girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a snowy Christmas Eve.
But “Hiddensee” is not just the reimaging of a classic fairy tale, Maguire says from his home in Concord, Massachusetts.
“The story ponders the profound question about how a person who is abused by life, short-changed and challenged, can access secrets that benefit the disadvantaged and powerless,” the author believes, adding that Hiddensee offers a message of hope. “If the compromised Godfather Drosselmeier can bring an enchanted Nutcracker to a young girl in distress, perhaps everyone, however lonely or marginalized on the eve of a winter holiday, has something precious to share.”
Maguire knows this from personal experience of his own.
His mother died from complications while giving birth to him in 1954, landing him in an orphanage until his father remarried two years later and brought his four children home. While he was close with the woman he lovingly considered his second mom, his relationship with his father remained strained for decades.
The Albany Public Library was his salvation. “Reading is a great way to operate the safety valves and pressures in one’s character. In the library, I could escape myself and become more myself. That’s why I’m a writer, so I can perform that therapeutic and missionary function for others that benefited me as a child.”
As in “Wicked” — Maguire’s first breakout book for adults that has sold more than 5 million copies — “Hiddensee” taps into the common language of the 21st century: fairy tales.
“If you start talking to adults about significant books in their childhoods, you find a lingua franca to which everyone responds,” says the former professor at Simmons College Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, who spent the first 14 years of his career writing children’s stories.
“One hundred years ago, you’d have expected most people in the US to have a passing familiarity with the Old Testament; 150 years ago, even those with a limited education knew Greek myths. Because I want to talk to everybody, and everybody has the Grimm fairytales in their background, tapping into those memories is my strategy.”
We leave you with this parting thought: Maguire admits that being trapped in one genre, regardless of how lucrative it has been for him, can be frustrating. The father of three—who in June 2004 married painter Andy Newman in one of Massachusetts’ first gay marriages — says, “I’ve written many original stories over the last 40 years, and would like to try my hand at theater and write a screenplay.” The self-deprecating dramatist then adds: “But don’t hold your breath for those things. They’ll come if they come, and if they don’t, I think the world will be none the poorer.”
Until next Monday: Here’s to finding treasures in expected places! Happy holidays, dear friends! — Hope Katz Gibbs, founder and president, Inkandescent® Inc. Inkandescent.us