I made a wonderful discovery this week. This year - 2014 - marks 30 years since the BBC first showed their iconic TV dramatisation of The Box of Delights, the magical Christmas story by John Masefield. I was 10 years old in 1984, and I remember it well. Herne the Hunter. Curates who turn into wolves. Kidnapped choirboys. "The Boy" appearing out of a table. The mysterious Punch-and-Judy man, Cole Hawlings. And the phrase that still has the power to put a shiver down my spine: The wolves are running.
30 years on, and the magic hasn't died. I've read the book Christmas after Christmas. I've watched the series again on YouTube as an adult. The Carol Symphony by Victor Hely Hutchinson, used as the theme tune, is on my Christmas playlist. And I'm still trying to write The King of Ice Leaves, influenced by The Box of Delights. One day...
Recently, I've been reading some books on old Christmas customs and folklore, and it reminds me again that what makes The Box of Delights great is the perfect mix of Christian and pagan in its influences. Herne the Hunter and the Lady of the Oak Tree arrive in sleighs drawn by lions and unicorns to ensure the Bishop, clergy and choir get to the Cathedral in time for the Christmas service, and there is nothing incongruous in that. It sums up precisely my own joy in Christmas, as a time both magical and holy.
Box of Delights fan John LC Barnes has written this blog with a beautiful video tribute to the BBC series. Enjoy it, and remember: The wolves are running.