Sunday, December 27, 2009

John Masefield, Traffic and Aston Tirrold

One notable influence on the counter-culture of the 1960s was children's literature.

Sometimes this is shown explicitly, as in the Jefferson Airplane song White Rabbit; sometimes tragically, as in the drowning of Brian Jones at Cotchford Farm, where A.A. Milne had written the Winnie the Pooh books; and sometimes in passing, as in Steve Winwood's observation that Traffic's life at their famous cottage was "like William and the Outlaws".

That cottage was near the village of Aston Tirrold, which reveals another connection.

John Masefield's The Midnight Folk was published in 1927. Though largely forgotten today (its sequel The Box of Delights is better remembered because of a television adaptation in the 1980s), it was very influential on the following generation of children's writers. My hero T.H. White certainly acknowledged this debt.

And, as Wikipeida tells us, The Midnight Folk is "about a boy, Kay Harker, who sets out to discover what became of a fortune stolen from his sea-faring great grandfather Aston Tirrold Harker".

At the time he wrote the book Masefield lived at Boars Hill near Oxford, some 10 miles from Aston Tirrold.

1 comment:

Jane said...

"The Midnight Folk" was my favourite novel when I was a child and I still think it is superior to its sequel. Unfortunately, it starts with the hero struggling over Latin grammar, which I suppose would be off-putting for most readers nowadays. For a while there was a heavily pruned Puffin version, which made the book more accessible, but lost the book's magic. It contains many elements instantly recognisable as influential on later children's novels, including the Harry Potter series. Part of the fun of reading it now is picking out the elements which have been borrowed and the novels in which they appear.