The Fox

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.


 Japanese Foxes

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.


Russian Foxes

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

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Sophie Duncan - 9 years ago

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. 🙂
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    Sara C. Snider - 9 years ago

    I agree, Sophie. The Russian tales kept making me angry. 😛

Tasha - 9 years ago

There were Japanese foxes in Teen Wolf this season – very tricky customers. I’ve always been fond of foxes, even if they are tricksters.
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    Sara C. Snider - 9 years ago

    You know, I didn’t even know there was a Teen Wolf TV show. To me, Teenwolf means Michael J. Fox playing basketball in a dog suit. 😛

    I also really like foxes. Beautiful creatures.

Christopher D. Votey - 9 years ago

I draw the conclusion that there was a level of respect for foxes. For Russia, it was a level of fear that earned respect, and from Japan, it was a connection of nature.

Both seemed to suggest that a Fox shouldn’t ever be fully trusted.

    Sara C. Snider - 9 years ago

    You might be right about the fear earning respect, though the stories didn’t seem particularly respectful. But then, since they have so many stories about foxes, maybe that is a sign of respect in and of itself.

djinnia - 9 years ago

ooo! i love kitsune stories! that and i watched inuyasha and shippo is just a cutie!

love the post!

    Sara C. Snider - 9 years ago

    Thanks, djinnia. 🙂

Carrie-Anne Foster (thatdizzychick) - 9 years ago

I love foxes….The nice ones 😉

I watched 47 Ronin a couple nights ago. Japanese, fox, witch, Ronin. That’s all I’m going to say. Oh, and it was a fantastic movie!

Carrie~Anne at That Dizzy Chick

    Sara C. Snider - 9 years ago

    I saw that as well (well, most of it–I fell asleep…). I thought of this post when I saw the she-fox-witch. 🙂

Melanie Atherton Allen - 9 years ago

kitsune! Hooray! I liked this article; I especially liked the fact that you didn’t try to make your facts fit any sort of thesis. I don’t really see what that thesis would have been, anyway. Foxes… are… different in different places? Russians hate foxes? I just don’t know.

    Sara C. Snider - 9 years ago

    Thanks, Melanie. That thesis could have worked: Foxes are different in different places. You heard it here first, folks. 😉

Tarkabarka - 9 years ago

We also have foxes in Hungarian folktales. We even have one about a shape-shifting fox that cheats men by turning into a pretty girl (the tale is called the Fox-eyed Maiden.) Nice post!

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