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Literature / The Box of Delights

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The Box of Delights is a children's fantasy novel by John Masefield, first published in 1935.

Kay Harker, the protagonist of The Midnight Folk, is on his way home from boarding school for the Christmas holidays when a mysterious encounter leads him on a series of adventures.

Better known to many people through the 1984 TV adaptation.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Abridged for Children: The version printed at the time of the 1984 TV series was cut down from the original text.
  • All Just a Dream: At the end of the novel, there's an outbreak of weirdness and then Kay wakes up and finds himself still on the train from school, having dreamed the entire adventure.
  • Arc Words: "The wolves are running."
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The historical Ramon Llull was not, as far as we know, an immortal magician.
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  • Casts No Shadow: Kay casts no shadow when travelling into the past in search of Arnold of Todi.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Abner's henchman Joe objects to keeping clergymen and choirboys prisoner at Christmas, partly because he hopes it would "tell in our favour, if ever we come to be tried", but also because it's "not Christmas dealing".
  • Exposition of Immortality: Ramon Lully, aka Cole Hawlings, 14th century philosopher posing as a 1930s children's entertainer. His reveal comes courtesy of the villain, Abner Brown, who's been in pursuit of him for some time and shows his henchmen a book with pictures of Lully when he was alive which look remarkably like Hawlings.
  • Flying Car: Abner's gang have a car which can not only fly, but take off and land vertically.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: In The Midnight Folk, it's a big plot twist when Sylvia Daisy is revealed to be a member of Abner Brown's gang. In The Box of Delights, she's openly working with them.
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  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Abner Brown's henchman Joe turns on him after Abner locks him in a cell and leaves him to die.
  • Oracular Head: Abner Brown attempts to get a useful answer out of a Brazen Head, without notable success.
  • Tomboy: Kay's friend Maria.