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The Box of Delights

The Box of Delights is a children's fantasy novel by John Masefield. It is a sequel to The Midnight Folk, and was first published in 1935.

The Box of Delights
John Masefield Box Of Delights Cover.jpg
First edition cover
Author John Masefield
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Fantasy novel
Publisher Heinemann
Publication date
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 309
Preceded by The Midnight Folk



Kay Harker is returning from boarding school when he finds himself mixed up in a battle to possess a magical box. It allows the owner to shrink in size, to fly swiftly, to go into the past and to experience the magical wonders contained within the box.

The current owner of the box is an old Punch and Judy man called Cole Hawlings whom Kay meets at the railway station. They develop an instant rapport, which leads Cole to confide that he is being chased by a magician called Abner Brown and his gang, which includes Kay's former governess. For safety, Cole (who turns out to be the medieval philosopher and alleged magician Ramon Llull) entrusts the box to Kay. The schoolboy then goes on to have many adventures as he protects the box from those who wish to use it for bad deeds.


BBC radioEdit

There have been several radio adaptations of The Box of Delights.

Children's HourEdit

This six-part adaptation, with a script by Robert Holland and John Keir Cross, was produced three times by the BBC as part of its Children's Hour, in 1943, 1948 and 1955.

Saturday Night TheatreEdit

This was a one-off drama, with a script by John Keir Cross, broadcast in 1966, and repeated in 1968 and 1969. It was then remade with a new cast in 1977.

Radio 4Edit


Two-part drama with a script by John Peacock.

BBC Television 1984Edit

The Box of Delights
Created by John Masefield
Starring Devin Stanfield
Patrick Troughton
Robert Stephens
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 6
Running time 30 minutes
Original network BBC One
Original release November 1984
External links

The BBC TV adaptation of The Box of Delights was broadcast in six parts between 21 November and 24 December in 1984. An innovative mixture of live action and animation, using Quantel Paintbox and chroma key effects, was used to portray the adventure. The music included an orchestral arrangement of "The First Nowell" from the Carol Symphony by Victor Hely-Hutchinson.



  • Director: Renny Rye
  • Producer: Paul Stone
  • Adapted by: Alan Seymour
  • Incidental music: Roger Limb
  • Visual Effects Designer: Tony Harding
  • Video Effects: Robin Lobb


Railway station scenes were filmed at Bewdley and Arley on the steam heritage Severn Valley Railway; Tewkesbury became the fictional Tatchester; the bishop's children's party was done at Kinlet Hall, Shropshire (the location of Moffats Independent School, whose pupils and staff served as extras); Hereford Cathedral and its choir took centre stage in the final episode; and the exterior shots of Abner Brown's theological college were filmed at Eastnor Castle, near Ledbury, Herefordshire.[1]


The BBC TV production of The Box of Delights won three British Academy of Film & Television Arts awards (BAFTAs) and a Royal Television Society award: The serial was nominated for five BAFTAs - for best Children's Programme, Video Cameraman, Graphics, Video Lighting and VTR Editor; and won three - for best Children's Programme, VTR Editor and Video Lighting.[2] The Royal Television Society award was won for Technique, for Robin Lobb and the BBC Special Effects team.[3]


During series was first shown in six half-hour episodes in December 1984.[4]

Episode # Title Original airdate
1 "When the Wolves Were Running..." 21 November 1984 (1984-11-21)
2 "Where Shall the 'Nighted Showman Go?" 28 November 1984 (1984-11-28)
3 "In the Darkest Cellars Underneath" 5 December 1984 (1984-12-05)
4 "The Spider in the Web" 12 December 1984 (1984-12-12)
5 "Beware of Yesterday" 19 December 1984 (1984-12-19)
6 "Leave Us Not Little... Nor Yet Dark" 24 December 1984 (1984-12-24)

During December 1986 the series was repeated on BBC1 as three 50-minute episodes:

Episode # Title Original airdate
1 "When the Wolves Were Running" 22 December 1986 (1986-12-22)
2 "The Spider in the Web" 23 December 1986 (1986-12-23)
3 "Fire and Flood" 24 December 1986 (1986-12-24)

The television version was shown by PBS in the US for three years in the late 1980s.

DVD ReleaseEdit

BBC Worldwide released the serial on DVD in 2004.


John Masefield adapted an opera libretto from his book, also incorporating elements of The Midnight Folk, which was eventually set to music in the late 1980s by the British composer Robert Steadman.


Wilton's Music Hall will be presenting an adaptation by Piers Torday between 1 December 2017 and 6 January 2018. Billed as a world stage premiere, the production is to be directed by Justin Audibert and designed by Tom Piper.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The Box of Delights (1984) Filming Locations". IMDB. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  2. ^ "BAFTA Awards Search the box of delights". Retrieved 14 April 2016. 
  3. ^ "RTS Awards database". Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  4. ^ The Box of Delights at BBC Online
  5. ^ "The Box of Delights". Wilton's. Retrieved 1 September 2017. 
  • Flynn, Simon: "A Magic Curiously Suited to Radio?": The BBC and The Box of Delights. The Journal of the John Masefield Society, No. 12 (May 2003), pp. 21–35.

External linksEdit