The clocksmith Droessen made the nutcracker for Clara Zelverhaus in order to spy on her. Clara would retrieve the nutcracker from his place in the dining room cabinet and speak to him about their past adventures until the nutcracker came alive and transported them to fantastical lands. After Clara's sixteenth birthday party, she took the doll outside to play in the snow and fell asleep with him in her arms by the hearth. Althea Zelverhaus considered throwing the nutcracker into the fire but was too afraid to do so.
The nutcracker stood in the cabinet, confused about his identity and history and only remembering Clara clearly. That night, the Rat King approached the nutcracker to talk. Remembering his past battles against the monstrous Rat King, the nutcracker was wary but accepted the truce. The Rat King told him about his journey to becoming a real rat and made the nutcracker confront the truth: since he could not remember his own identity, he was not real unless he was with Clara. He advised the nutcracker to strengthen his desire and become real; the nutcracker wanted to see snow and the road outside the Zelverhaus house. The Rat King also warned him about Droessen.
On the last night of Nachtspel, Clara again retrieved the nutcracker and brought him to life with a walnut. Clara expected to journey to a fantasy world, but the nutcracker wanted to go outside the Zelverhaus house. She kissed the nutcracker; when he did not kiss her back, she threw a tantrum. Frederik Zelverhaus offered to take the nutcracker outside, leading to an argument between the siblings that was resolved when Frederik offered to introduce the nutcracker to their guests. He introduced the nutcracker as Josef from Zierfoort, Frederik's friend from school. During the party, he kissed Clara and Frederik.
Frederik offered for the nutcracker to sleep in his room. The nutcracker went to look at the cabinet where he had lived and was met by Droessen, who told the nutcracker of his creation. Droessen made the nutcracker doubt his own reality, causing him to turn back into a small doll. The clocksmith went to throw the nutcracker into the fire but was attacked by the Rat King and his army. The nutcracker imagined a world where he had been created by a loving father, and as he thought up a future, the nutcracker returned to human form. With the power of his desire for a loving parent, the nutcracker caused Droessen to turn into a wooden doll instead. He placed Droessen into the cabinet and left the Zelverhaus house, free to choose his own path.
The nutcracker was constructed wearing a bright blue coat, black boots, and carrying a bayonet. He had a grotesque face, pale blue eyes like Droessen, and wooden blocks for fists.
When he transformed into a human, the nutcracker was tall and handsome, with the same pale blue eyes.