Aesop’s fable about the fox and the grapes, in which a fox gives up on some grapes because he can’t reach them—perhaps the origination of the expression ‘sour grapes’—is one of very few in which the crafty creature doesn’t come off best.
Br’er Fox is the brains of the outfit in American writer Joel Chandler Harris’s 19th-century Uncle Remus tales and in Carlo Collodi’s Adventures of Pinocchio; in Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Mr Tod, it is the badger who is the evil character even though the fox would cheerfully have eaten the bunnies stowed in his oven.
Danny Fox, the central character in David Thomson’s 1971 children’s trilogy (now out of print), is a resourceful, witty head of the family; less cheerfully, the eponymous Belstone Fox in David Rook’s 1970 novel is the Moby Dick to the huntsman, leading his hounds underneath a train and thus sowing the seeds of a fatal obsession.
Naturalist Denys Watkins-pitchford (BB) perhaps best encapsulates the complicated bond between man and fox in his 1938 book Wild Lone: the Story of a Pytchley Fox. He doesn’t stint on the animal’s opportunist killing tendencies, yet makes us care what happens to him.