Foxes aren’t exactly mythological creatures, but they do show up in a fair amount mythological tales. In the books I have at home, the ones they showed up in the most were the Japanese and Russian tales. It was interesting reading stories related to foxes from these two cultures, for the stories themselves, as well as the role the foxes played, varied greatly.
In Japanese lore, the foxes were interesting creatures, usually playing the part of a spirit of some sort. The foxes in these stories frequently took human form, either to make mischief or to copulate with human males. There was a story where a fox took the form of a certain variety of tree that had a spiritual significance. And there were a couple of stories where a fox basically possessed a woman in order to communicate with people. Some pretty odd stuff, that.
Sparing the foxes in these stories (or giving them what they wanted) often resulted in the fox providing protection or riches. Overall, the stories had kind of a lighthearted feel that evoked a smile rather than disdain over any perceived trickery.
The Russian stories, however, were very different. In those stories the foxes were rather despicable creatures, constantly trying to trick various poultry in order to eat them. Yet it wasn’t only the foxes that were conniving. Humans in these stories proved to be just as dastardly. These humans would be faced with a problem, which the fox would then solve for them. For their trouble, the foxes were tricked and then killed, with one story touting the moral, “Old favors are soon forgotten.”
I’m not really sure what conclusion to draw from this, if one even needs to be drawn at all. I just find it very interesting comparing the two, and the glimpses these stories provide of how these beautiful creatures might have once been regarded.
Sources: Afanas’ev, Aleksandr, Russian Fairy Tales, Pantheon Books, 2006. Translated by Nobert Guterman.
Tyler, Royall, Japanese Tales, Pantheon Books, 2002
Not to self, don’t be a fox in Russia – what an awful moral, kill the person who is helping you!
I like the Japanese interpretation of fox spirits better. 🙂Reply
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