10 December 2007

The season of nutcrackers and toy soldiers is upon us!

Blame it on poor, old Tchaikovsky maybe, but we’re smack in the middle of the nutcracker and toy soldier season! I love these things and have found two neat examples of nutcrackers on the web to share with you here. The first illustration is particularly nice while the latter (below) is of an actual nutcracker, who wears a stylized grenadier’s mitre cap. Just for all of your 18th century imagi-nation buffs!

To me, December is THE month for toy soldiers. Admittedly, this is perhaps a bit odd, when part of the Christmas message is one of peace and harmony. Let me try to explain.

The nutcracker/toy soldier association goes back to when I was a little boy, and my father put on Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite for my sister and me early one December. I was about four and pretty taken with the March of the Toy Soldiers piece.

My start in collecting and painting wargame figures served to reinforce the association many years later as a teenager. My sister presented me with a small set of model paints for Christmas 1983, intended for an eventual soldier purchase. And I used some Christmas gift money from my mother or grandparents to finance that first purchase of figures a few weeks later in January 1984. It was a small order of 15mm French and British Napoleonics by Jacobite. Anyone among you remember them?

The toy soldier association became more firmly established when, several years later, my mother and stepfather returned to the U.S. from Southampton, Great Britain in late-December 1989 on the way to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where my stepfather was to assume a senior professorship at the University of Pittsburgh. Anyway, among their pile of luggage, was a massive Christmas-themed gift bag which I still have put away somewhere. It was crammed with packets and packets of 15mm MiniFigs – more French and British as well as Nassau, Dutch-Belgian, and Brunswick troops. I’m still not sure how Mom worked out what figures I needed, but she did. Needless to say, that was quite a Christmas!

And, of course, let’s not forget that wonderful box of more than 60 RSM95 Prussian grenadiers from the lovely grand Duchess Sonja for Christmas 2006. So, it seems like there’s a firm link between Christmas and the nutcracker/toy soldier, at least in my universe. It’s also the time of year when the fall term ends and I suddenly have more time for preparing and/or painting whatever I happen to be working on in a given year. Once I began graduate school in the 90s, and now as a professor, there’s never as much spare time for soldiering as I’d like, so the slower Christmas period is a wonderful chance to catch up. I’m sure many of you Grand Duchy of Stollen regulars understand what I mean.


abdul666 said...

Hi Stokes,

"the latter < > is of an actual nutcracker, who wears a stylized grenadier’s mitre cap"

And a pleasant, if almost 'quasi-historically British' uniform does he wear!


tradgardmastare said...

I do indeed remember jacobite 15mm figures - you can still get them in the uk I believe.
Toy soldiers remind me of my airfix youth and the grand manouvers across the carpet. Happy memories indeed . I am glad that Ev E has brought the fun element back into the hobby for me.

tidders said...

I hope the man in the red coat brings you some nice 'soljers'

-- Allan

Bluebear Jeff said...

The memories that this season brings are one of the best parts of its charm.

-- Jeff


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