Vulpes vulpes historicus
Updated: Dec 27, 2020
I’ve long had a fascination with foxes. Early on, I always loved family outings to the countryside to collect blackberries. One time, we came across a fox sleeping in the hedgerow. He was there the following weekend too. I like to think he was sleeping, but I had my concerns.
Sleeping Fox (c) Muskoka Fox
When the Berkeley Hunt used to meet outside the Bowl Inn in on Boxing Day, I was outraged. Not in my village! Horror of horrors, a pack of hounds even made it into our back garden on one occasion. That rocked me to the core.
Eventually, hunting with hounds was made illegal by Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Hunting Act (2004). A day for joyful celebration. An opportunity to help restore some of the lost dignity of humankind. Sadly. in recent years, Blair has said it was a mistake to criminalise hunting. He probably said that in one of his lucrative after-dinner speeches. Shame on him. He would never say it was wrong to have lied about weapons of mass destruction, and to have made that ridiculous 45 minutes claim (the time he said it would take a nuclear missile to arrive in Britain from Iraq).
Putting that aside, I must pay tribute to René, my favourite fox of all time. A soft toy who accompanied me to university and has ever since looked after the family home. My old bedroom at least. He’s always there to greet me whenever I visit the aged parents in Almondsbury. Ironically he’s dressed in hunting pink. René’s maker, a seamstress in Chipping Sodbury, must have had a sardonic sense of humour. But René was safe with me. And he has always been a fine companion, always had time for me. Even when a mate was made for him by the same craftswoman. She was never a good match. The lady fox that is. Not least with her upturned snout.
And now, a new fox has come on the scene. I say new, but he’s been touring the lowlands of Europe for centuries. His tale was first formally recorded in English by William Caxton in the 15th century. After a long history and in the grand tradition, the story of Reynard the Fox has now been retold by Anne Louise Avery. This is a wonderful rendering of a magical tale in the animal kingdom, where the beasts are lords and ladies, peasant and brutes, heroes and villains. Reynard is their champion. He is a master of rhetoric, a charmer and a deceiver. I have great pleasure in reviewing this glorious book celebrating his life and all his greatest ruses.
© Eddie Hewitt 2020
See the Connected Cultures review of Reynard the Fox