Even more delightful

A favourite book of mine for a long time has been The Box of Delights by John Masefield.

I first encountered this, along with his other book The Midnight Folk (to which BoD is a sequel) in the mid 1980s, at around the time an adaptation was shown on TV for Christmas.  I suspect, though I can’t entirely remember, that I saw the TV version first and then got the books shortly afterwards.  Certainly my copy has a photo from the TV series on the cover, along with a strapline saying “Now a major TV series”.

Over the years, I’ve read both books several times.  This Christmas I watched the TV series again (as my dad received a copy as a present) and this inspired me to dig out the books yet again – probably for the first time in 10 years or so.  When I did so, I realised that my copies (Fontana Lions editions) are actually abridged from the original stories.

I decided that I’d like, if possible, to read the unabridged versions and soon discovered that I could pick up e-book versions for my Kindle at quite reasonable prices, so I did so.

A quick comparison of the first few pages of the two texts indicates that the abridged version did indeed cut out quite a lot of the text of BoD (though rather less so of MF, which was evidently a much shorter book to start with; the Fontana Lions editions of both books are about the same length).  As far as I can remember (not having read the abridged one for quite sometime), it was mostly a matter of cutting out, or at least shortening, various descriptive passages and digressions, rather than losing any major scenes from the story.

I intend to keep my dead tree editions of the abridged stories as they are a souvenir of my childhood (as well as a good version to lend to any younger readers of my acquaintance who want to check the stories out) though when I reread the stories in future, as I doubtless will do, I’ll probably go for the full versions again.

By the way, I was quite favourably impressed by the TV version on my recent viewing.  Often, old TV series that are remembered with fondness can be quite disappointing when actually seen again.  This time, however, it seems to have aged well, not to mention being a fairly faithful (if slightly slimmed down) adaptation of the original story.  I suppose it does have an advantage that it’s set in the past (the 1930s to be more specific) rather than the present or the future and therefore doesn’t suffer from the problems of things like supposedly sophisticated computers running on magnetic tapes, with blocky graphics or even panels of flashing lightbulbs for an interface (one of my favourite unintentionally amusing features of classic Doctor Who, for example).  It’s not just that, though – the special effects were excellent for the time (and the doubtless tight budget they were working to), as was the general standard of the acting.  It was also nice to see Patrick Troughton in a role other than his famous Doctor Who one (and he’s a sufficiently good actor that I didn’t spend the whole – or indeed any – time getting distracted by the fact that I was watching the Doctor (and one of my favourites, at that)).