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January 2019



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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?


Gabe hasn't read Box of Delights, but he enjoyed watching the DVD.
The book is quite long, longer than any of the adult books I've been listing.

I remember all the children being hurried home from the Crib Service to watch the last instalment. Happy days!

Edited at 2011-12-20 10:12 am (UTC)


Box of Delights

I didn't realise it was on dvd, must look out for it. I remember watching with the children and loving it - probably more than they did! Haven't read the books though - something else to add to the TBR list!


Re: Box of Delights

I really enjoyed my re-read and might watch the DVD over Christmas.
The radio series was before my time and I don't have any clear childhood memories of the TV version (I'd have been eight), but the whole of the Hely-Hutchinson Carol Symphony has been part of Christmas for as long as I can remember, because my mother has always loved it. She had - probably still has - an LP which could only be brought out once a year in case something happened to it, and I think one of the best Christmas presents I ever managed to find for her was a CD recording.

My first copy of The Box of Delights was the TV tie-in one, so probably bought about the same time, and I remember my mother reading it to me, and then discovering The Midnight Folk for myself in a secondhand bookshop on the way to my secondary school interview. It wasn't until many years later that I discovered these were abridged versions; I now have the real thing!
The music is lovely. I can't remember when I first heard it on the radio, probably some time in the sixties, but I'm sure there have been other versions since then. I saw a first edition of TMF on eBay recently and was sorely tempted.


I haven't read any Masefield for years, must hunt these out again. I have a vague memory of reading Odtaa when I was about 13 and thoroughly enjoying it, but have absolutely no idea at all what it was about. Will have to see if Abe have it. I do remember the TV version of The Box of Delights, I watched it with my children when they were young - dear me! how time flies.
The compliments of the season to you and yours by the way. Best wishes.
Lucky that The Box of Delights was TV that could be enjoyed by three generations.

Thanks for the Christmas greetings, Merry Christmas to you, too.
Could there be anything better than the combination of Masefield and that wonderful music? I'm going to buy the DVD now! I re-read it recently, but that's no reason not to do so again this year.

Happy Christmas!
Oops, I bought the DVD of The Owl Service as well - shall wallow in nostalgia all Christmas. Big grin.
It's really magical.
The temptations of online shopping! I did see The Owl Service on TV but I don't know that I'd bother again. I first read the book when I was a student and was quite knocked out by it. Also thought Red Shift was wonderful but a lot of people hate it.

Enjoy your DVDs and have a happy and relaxing Christmas.
I must have been about 14 when I read The Owl Service, I think, and it made a HUGE impression (which was great because I'd been avidly waiting for a new book since the moment I finished Elidor) - and I was still rather impressionable for the series, so even though I know it's going to look terribly dated, it will be huge fun to watch again.

I loved Red Shift, too, and have always been rather disappointed that everyone else's hated it - nice to know someone who didn't!