December 20th, 2011


Cheery Reading 6: The Box of Delights

John Masefield’s The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights must be amongst the best children’s books ever written. Who can forget Kay meeting Herne the Hunter or fighting off wolves in a British stockade? Let alone the kidnapping of the bishop, clergy and the entire choir of Tatchester cathedral. I like this kind of fantasy which has no chosen one (*groans*) or quest, just magical happenings. ‘When the Wolves are Running’ sends a shiver down your spine but it’s also very funny in parts. I particularly admire that bloodthirsty child, Maria.

I enjoyed the 1984 TV version, with Patrick Troughton as Cole Hawlings (the DVD is still available) but I like the several radio versions even more. The music used for the television series was a variation of that originally heard on the radio on Children’s Hour during the war. The arrangement was by Victor Hely-Hutchinson. I agree with this Wikipedia contributor who says,
For many people who grew up listening to radio Children's Hour programmes, the haunting harp theme in the Symphony as the First Noel motif starts is as magically evocative of the spirit of Christmas as is the lone chorister who starts to sing Once in Royal David's City at the beginning of the King's College, Cambridge Festival of Lessons and Carols.

I loved the two books about Kay when I was a child, and in my early teens read Reynard the Fox and Sard Harker. Does anyone read these now, I wonder?