The Box of Daleks (or: My self-restraint, let me show you it)

The Box of Daleks

This instalment of the Dalek Game (actually a reworking of an earlier drawing I did for a birthday present) is for John Masefield’s infamous novel The Box of Delights, in which – Argh! Grargh! wonderful things happen and then the main character wakes up and it was ALL A DREAM. And yet the wonderful things were so very wonderful, that readers (and the BBC) cannot stop themselves and each other from going back and reading the story again and BEATING THEIR HEADS AGAINST A BRICK WALL WHY JOHN MASEFIELD WHY?!

I do not dislike John Masefield at all (look what illustration I found on this list of his works), and I have been raised knowing all literary heroes, being human, have feet of clay, as a result of which I view most books as existing on a sliding scale from “more harmful” to “more helpful”, but… really, John Masefield? Why would you do this to me? There’s a world of difference between giving someone a beautiful present and then putting it away on a shelf until they are unable to enjoy it, or at least giving them a photograph to remember the experience when they grow up, on the one hand, and on the other hand, smashing it to pieces in front of them.

Often there is a reasonable, if difficult, explanation for troubling endings, but loving The Box of Delights (and it is otherwise so loveable) seems to require either forgiveness or elision of the ending. There is a lovely Garner quote at that link, and I suppose Masefield did succeed, like Lloyd Alexander, in creating a world which left me at the end of the story sobbing on the floor and beating my fists weeping, “It was true! It was true! You can’t forget them! They were real!”

9 thoughts on “The Box of Daleks (or: My self-restraint, let me show you it)

  1. Pingback: The Dalek Game « Errantry

  2. My favourite Masefield is The Midnight Folk. Though I have a strange book that’s less known. I need to show it to you sometime. It’s one of my secret reasures.

  3. I have an old copy of Masefield’s Baden Parchments. Wonderful book. I’m thinking in his day, the “wake up and it was all a dream” ending wasn’t the tired old trope it is now. And that perhaps he thought it was creative frustration he was inspiring. Or maybe he just didn’t know how else to finish it.

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