Foxy tales

Country Life Every Week - - Simon’s Kitchen -

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.

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