It's not just Mr Mackie who has been so inspired by this elegant yet potentially dangerous member of the canine family. The Fox features heavily in folklore, from our own Aesop to Scandinavia and even Japan. But like many woodland creatures, the fox also pops up frequently in children's tales.
The fox provides the traditionally grim ending to the Chicken Licken fairy tale, where he welcomes a party of foul into his den on their way to tell the king the sky is falling in. In fact, an acorn - not a piece of sky - had fallen on the not-so-bright eponymous chicken's head. It almost goes without saying that the fox dines well that evening.
The Little Red Hen fares better with her encounter with the sly fox. Whirling around with his lustrous tail, the fox makes the hen so dizzy she falls from her refuge on the rafters and into his sack to be taken home for supper. Luckily she gathers her wits and remembers she has her sewing kit on her (as hens often do). The hen not only snips a hole in the sack but sews in a heavy rock so the fox doesn't notice while she makes her escape. This time the grim ending befalls the fox: when he triumphantly throws the contents of the bag into his pot of boiling water, the stone displaces the water with such force our foxy friend is badly scalded in traditional literary retribution.
During the 20th century we find children's tales come to less gruesome ends. Beatrix Potter's Jemima Puddleduck is rescued from her close encounter with a 'foxy whiskered gentleman' although her poor eggs are taken. She is able to replace her babies a little later on though - which is perhaps not such a comforting ending for our own babes. Roald Dahl goes a step further and makes the 'Fantastic Mr Fox' the hero in his classic tale of a cunning fox's battles to outwit three farmers. You don't need to have read too many Roald Dahl to work out that the farmers, being grown-ups after all, do not win the day.
Friend or foe, the fox is a captivating subject. All four designs bring an air of danger, mystery and elegance in varying proportions.
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