I recently saw a great production of The Nutcracker Ballet which I think is a great way to get into the spirit of the Christmas season. We are all aware that the music for the ballet was composed by Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky. But rarely do we devote attention to the author of the story on which the ballet was based. The story (which was greatly simplified and condensed for the ballet adaptation) is titled The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and was written by E.T.A. Hoffmann who was one of the great German Romantic writers. Hoffmann was a multitalented man who was a judge, music composer and a writer. His novels and short stories reveal a keen sense for the grotesque and influenced Poe, Charles Baudelaire and Freud.