Magical Things

91364-utility-belt_400 One of my most enduring memory fragments (is
that a contradiction in terms?) of a much-loved book,  Harriet the Spy, is of her spying kit. I am resisting the temptation to go find the book
for the real list, because the sense of it, in my imagination, is so
imbued with a sort of after-school glamour: her notebooks, her
flashlight, her pencil. It was like Batman's utility belt; it didn't
just have practical applications, its very existence was thrilling of
itself.
I've been thinking about that, the magical (or in her case, not
exactly strictly magical) object that somehow transports a reader
through time and space into the world of the book. There are so many of
them: the tollbooth and car in The Phantom Tollbooth; the alethiometer
in The Golden Compass, the wardrobe Lucy walks through, even Harry Potter's wand and cloak
of invisibility. I'm trying to figure out if they are ubiquitous: there
isn't anything like it in A Wrinkle in Time, is there? Or have I just
forgotten it?
The existence of these is some sort of testament
to the ability of all these authors to inhabit that strange space of
childhood, where physical objects take on talismanic power. This must
be why I often come down to find the dryer making a terrible noise, and
then I open it and find that someone has left her pocket of magical
gravel in the laundry.
Which magical thing was your favorite?

8 thoughts on “Magical Things

  1. The book that Bastian reads, and eventually becomes a part of, in Michael Ende’s Neverending Story. And Lucy’s wardrobe, of course!

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  2. Some of my favourite childhood books had not magical things, but magical (or quasi-magical) *places*. The settings were almost as vivid for me as the characters. I’m thinking of Anne of Green Gables especially, but also The Children of Green Knowe (the centuries-old house) and Ronia the Robber’s Daughter (the forest). When I finally got to visit London, I “saw” books everywhere I looked – Winnie the Pooh, Paddington, Peter Pan, Neverwhere (okay, that’s not a children’s book), The BFG, A Little Princess, and on and on.
    Er, was that even vaguely on-topic? 😉 I do remember being fascinated by objects in books, but I’m having trouble coming up with ones that haven’t been mentioned. Clearly it has been too long since I’ve read many children’s books….

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  3. The bed with the embroidered curtains in The Wicked Enchantment by Margot Benary Isbert. This is such a favorite of mine- and very few people have read it which is a shame.

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  4. I’ve forgotten many of the details (which means it is time to reread), but I loved the coin (I think it was a coin) in Half Magic that only granted half the wish so you had to be even more careful of what you wished for.
    This is closely followed by the bedknob in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

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