The Thought Fox

by Daniel Mackie February 22, 2016

Have you ever had an idea that comes easily?

Fox at night watercolour painting in progress by Daniel Mackie

The Thought Fox is a poem by Ted Hughes. It is considered to be one of his best. It is about the skill and the craft required to flesh out a formless idea lurking in the recesses of the mind and bring it to life. Hughes uses a fox as metaphor for the idea. Firstly he nurtures the feeling of an idea out of the metaphorical forest, brings it through the snow and the dark landscape and into the mind fully formed. Hughes suggests the journey from a half baked idea into a fully formed finished article is pretty seamless.

The fox is first sensed.   

"A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;"

It is cautious and careful. Then we gather pace, it quite quickly takes form and runs headlong "across clearings" into the poet's head where it presents its fully formed self.

"Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox, it enters the dark hole of the head."

Fully formed idea! Done. 

For me, ideas are more like this: Trek into the snowy dark forest where I can't see or hear anything. I luckily stumble upon something unformed in the dark. I then have to wrestle it, kicking and screaming out of the woods where is doing its best to blind me. After days and weeks of struggle, I finally get the thing out of the woods, through the snow and into the house where I can finally see what it is! It's not quite what I expected, then it makes a bolt for the door!

This fox is part of my collection of Nocturnal creatures. There is something captivating about the night and what lurks in it. With all four creatures I used a lot of Prussian blue. I love Prussian blue! It is a bit of a trick to use such a limited colour palate. I think it works best where there are accents of a complementary colour, in this case the Quinacridone Gold.

Take a look at the finished night fox and the other animals in the Nocturnal Collection 

Read The Thought Fox by Ted Hughes.

Image © Daniel Mackie.

Daniel Mackie
Daniel Mackie


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