Tuck Everlasting Music Box

Instructor: Robin Small

Robin has a BA/MAT in English Ed, and teaches 6th grade English and Writing Lab.

In 'Tuck Everlasting,' Mae Tuck doesn't own anything of note except a small music box she keeps in her pocket at all times. In this lesson, we will discover what makes this music box significant to the story.

Mae's Most Prized Possession

Mae Tuck first appears in the novel as she is getting ready to meet her boys, who are coming home to visit. After dressing in simple, threadbare clothes she, 'took from the washstand beside the bed a little square-shaped object, a music box painted with roses and lilies of the valley. It was the one pretty thing she owned and she never went anywhere without it' (11). Her music box safely in her pocket, she heads out to wait for her sons.

Notes from Another World

Soft notes drift out of the woods like music from magical woodland creatures. Winnie's grandmother cuts off the stranger who is questioning her, because she wants to listen. 'That's the elf music I told you about. Why, it's been ages since I heard it last' (20). She sweeps Winnie back into the house, leaving the stranger in the yellow suit standing outside, listening. He knows that the family he is searching for, a family that never gets older, owns a music box that plays that tune. The notes drifting from the woods tip him off that he is on their trail. For him, the music is leading him toward his goal of finding immortality that he can bottle and sell.

Winnie's grandmother mistakes the music box for elf music, and the otherworldly quality of the sound suggests that this music box is more than just a trinket. Music is thought to travel between the worlds of the living and the dead. Some people think ghosts are lulled and charmed by the sound of music. Here, the music in Mae Tuck's music box is dear to her, perhaps because it bridges the gap between her immortal existence and the world of normal living people.

Comfort in Music

Panicked that Winnie discovered the spring of water and intent on keeping it a secret, Mae Tuck and her sons put Winnie on their horse and kidnap her. When they stop for a break, Winnie is crying, and Mae takes out the music box and winds it up. The mood changes, Winnie stops crying, and, 'Somehow it calmed her. It was like a ribbon tying her to familiar things' (35).

Mae gives Winnie the box to look at and tells her she can wind it clockwise. This is important. The Tucks live outside of time. Music is what bridges the gap between themselves and the living. Turning the key clockwise allows the people inside of time like Winnie to feel connected to the other world of immortality and magic, which is why it sounds like elf music to them. The music allows Mae to feel connected to the world of the living. It is a comfort to both Winnie and Mae. Turning the little box over in her hands, Winnie decides she trusts the Tucks, because, 'No one who owned a thing like this could be too disagreeable' (36).

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