Fox stories

12615619_515773761935794_2097178454548322535_o

Following on from yesterday's post on the fox in myth, legend, and mythic arts, I'd like to take a second look at fox imagery in poetry.

There are so many fine poems about foxes that I could fill the page attempting to list them all, but some of the very best include: "The Fox" and "Straight Talk from Fox" by Mary Oliver, "Vixen" and "Fox Sleep" by W.S. Merwin, "The Thought Fox" by Ted Hughes, "February: The Boy Breughel" by Norman Dubie, "The Fox Bead in May" (based on Asian "9-tailed fox" folklore) by Hannah Sanghee Park, "The Fox Smiled, Famished" by Mike Allen, "Michio Ito's Fox & Hawk" by Yusef Komunyakaa, and "Three Foxes by the Edge of the Field at Twilight" by Jane Hirshfield (tucked into the picture captions; run your cursor over the images to read it)...in addition to the fox poems quoted in yesterday's post, and A.A. Milne's charming children's poem about three foxes who don't wear sockses.

12440443_517899641723206_4474432537741894368_o

My favorite fox poems of all, however, are by the great American poet Lucille Clifton (1936-2010), whose work "emphasizes endurance and strength through adversity, focusing particularly on African-American experience and family life."  Here's the first of them:

Fox Child, from one of my old sketchbookstelling our stories
by Lucille Clifton

the fox came every evening to my door
asking for nothing. my fear
trapped me inside, hoping to dismiss her
but she sat till morning, waiting.

at dawn we would, each of us,
rise from our haunches, look through the glass
then walk away.

did she gather her village around her
and sing of the hairless moon face,
the trembling snout, the ignorant eyes?

child, i tell you now it was not
the animal blood i was hiding from,
it was the poet in her, the poet and
the terrible stories she could tell.

The second poem is an absolute stunner: "A Dream of Foxes," written in six parts. You'll it find here.


10856751_356847911161714_193780068610308716_o

The gorgeous fox photographs today are by British wildlife photographer Richard Bowler.

"I've been passionate about the natural world all my life," Richard says. "This interest led me into angling, to get closer to a world hidden beneath the surface of a river or lake. Angling took me all over the world, to places well off the beaten track, North, South and Central America, the Indian ocean and my particular favourite, Africa. It was on these trips that I felt the need to learn how to capture what I was seeing with the camera. Soon taking pictures became much more important than catching fish, and now I'm much more likely to be found holding a camera than a fishing rod. I hope through my photographs to show the character of the animal and, through that, to make people care."

11036342_395886020591236_2671086454717501322_o

11703502_454669624712875_5075300239369484934_o

Lucille Clifton

Words: The poem above is from The Terrible Stories by Lucille Clifton (BOA Editions,  1996). The poem in the picture captions is from Each Happiness Ringed by Lions by Jane Hirshfield (Bloodaxe Books, 2005). All rights reserved by the authors.

Pictures: The photographs are by Richard Bowler, and the little drawing, "Fox Child & Friend," is from one of my sketchbooks. All rights reserved by the artists.


A Skulk of Foxes

Photograph by Katerina Plotnikova

Zao Fox Village, Japan - photography by Rebecca Daum

The folkloric fox found trotting through the "Reynardine" ballad in yesterday's post comes to us in a dark Trickster guise: both courteous and treacherous, creative and destructive, perfectly civilized and utterly wild. Trickster foxes (whether comic, deadly, or, as is often the case, a combination of the two)  appear in old stories gathered from countries and cultures all over the world -- including Aesop's Fables from ancient Greece, the Reynard stories of medieval Europe,  the Giovannuzza tales of Italy, the Brer Fox lore of the American South, and stories from diverse Native American traditions...

Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit by A.B. Frost

Foxes by Erica Il Cane

...but at the darker end of the fox-lore spectrum we find creatures of a more dangerous cast: Reynardine, Mr. Fox, kitsune (the Japanese fox wife), kumiho (the Korean nine-tailed fox), and other perfidious shape-shifters.

Japanese fox printFox women populate many story traditions but they're particularly prevalent across the Far East. Fox wives, writes Korean-American folklorist Heinz Insu Fenkl, are seductive creatures who "entice unwary scholars and travelers with the lure of their sexuality and the illusion of their beauty and riches. They drain the men of their yang -- their masculine force -- and leave them dissipated or dead (much in the same way La Belle Dame Sans Merci in Keats's poem leaves her parade of hapless male victims).

"Korean fox lore, which comes from China (from sources probably originating in India and overlapping with Sumerian lamia lore) is actually quite simple compared to the complex body of fox culture that evolved in Japan. The Japanese fox, or kitsune, probably due to its resonance with the indigenous Shinto religion, is remarkably sophisticated.  Whereas the arcane aspects of fox lore are only known to specialists in other East Asian Japanese fox printcountries, the Japanese kitsune lore is more commonly accessible. Tabloid media in Tokyo recently identified the negative influence of kitsune possession among members of the Aum Shinregyo (the cult responsible for the sarin attacks in the Tokyo subway). Popular media often report stories of young women possessed by demonic kitsune, and once in a while, in the more rural areas, one will run across positive reports of the kitsune associated with the rice god, Inari."

(To read Heinz's full essay on "Fox Wives & Other Dangerous Women," go here.)

There are fox wives in Western folklore as well, but rather fewer of them, and they tend to be more benevolent: skittish and shy, or mysterious and wild, but fond of their human partners. An exception to this general rule can be found in the räven stories of Scandinavia, where the fox-women who roam the forests of northern Europe are portrayed as heart-stoppingly beautiful, fiercely independent, and deadly to encounter.

Fox Woman by Susan Seddon Boulet

The Fox by Julie MorstadIn a musical composition inspired by these legends, the Swedish/Finnish band Hedningarna sings:

Fire and frost are in your eyes
are you a woman or a fox?

Wild and sly you hunt in time of darkness
long sleeves hide your claws
with your prey you play
your mouth is red with blood.

Silver Fox with Crows by Ellen Jewett

From Little Elvie in the Wild Wood by Catherine Hyde

Fox in the Reeds by Ohara Koson

The "nine-tailed fox" of China and Japan is often (but not always) a demonic spirit, malevolent in intent. It takes possession of human bodies, both male and female, moving for one victim to another over thousands of years, seducing mortal men and women in order to dine on their hearts and livers. Human organs are also a delicacy for the nine-tailed fox, or kumiho, of Korean lore -- although the earliest texts don't present the kumiho as evil so much as amoral and unpredictable, occasionally even benevolent, much like the faeries of English folklore.

In the West, it's the fox men we need to beware of, including Reynardine from the ballad tradition and Mr. Fox from the fairy tale of that name. Mr. Fox is cousin to the Robber Bridegroom, Bluebeard, and the nine-tailed fox, promising marriage to a gentlewoman while his lair is littered with her predecessors' bones. Neil Gaiman drew inspiration from the tale when he wrote his wry, wicked poem "The White Road":

Mr. Fox illustration by John D. BattenThere was something sly about his smile,
his eyes so black and sharp, his rufous hair. Something
that sent her early to their trysting place,
beneath the oak, beside the thornbush,
something that made her
climb the tree and wait.
Climb a tree, and in her condition.
Her love arrived at dusk,
skulking by owl-light,
carrying a bag,
from which he took a mattock, shovel, knife.
He worked with a will, beside the thornbush,
beneath the oaken tree,
he whistled gently, and he sang,
as he dug her grave, that old song...

shall I sing it for you, now, good folk?

(To read the full poem, go here.)

Jeannine Hall Gailey, by contrast, casts a sympathetic eye on fox shape-shifters, writing plaintively from a kitsune's point of view in "The Fox-Wife's Invitation":

Three fox paintingsThese ears aren't to be trusted.
The keening in the night, didn't you hear?
Once I believed all the stories didn’t have endings,
but I realized the endings were invented, like zero,
had yet to be imagined.
The months come around again,
and we are in the same place;
full moons, cherries in bloom,
the same deer, the same frogs,
the same helpless scratching at the dirt.
You leave poems I can’t read
behind on the sheets,
I try to teach you songs made of twigs and frost.
you may be imprisoned in an underwater palace;
I'll come riding to the rescue in disguise.
Leave the magic tricks to me and to the teakettle.
I've inhaled the spells of willow trees,
spat them out as blankets of white crane feathers.
Sleep easy, from behind the closet door
I'll invent our fortunes, spin them from my own skin.

Although chancy to encounter in myth, and too wild to domesticate easily (in stories and in life), some of us long for foxes nonetheless, for their musky scent, their hot breath, their sharp-toothed magic.  "I needed fox," wrote Adrienne Rich:

Badly I needed
a vixen for the long time none had come near me
I needed recognition from a
triangulated face     burnt-yellow eyes
fronting the long body the fierce and sacrificial tail
I needed history of fox     briars of legend it was said she had run through
I was in want of fox

And the truth of briars she had to have run through
I craved to feel on her pelt     if my hands could even slide
past or her body slide between them     sharp truth distressing surfaces of fur
lacerated skin calling legend to account
a vixen's courage in vixen terms

(Full poem here.)

Ah, but Fox is right here, right beside us,
Jack Roberts answers, a little warily:

Not the five tiny black birds that flew
out from behind the mirror
over the washstand,

nor the raccoon that crept
out of the hamper,

nor even the opossum that hung
from the ceiling fan

troubled me half so much as
the fox in the bathtub.

There's a wildness in our lives.
We need not look for it.

(Full poem here.)

Fox Spirit

There are a number of good novels that draw upon fox legends -- foremost among them, Kij Johnson's exquisite The Fox Woman, which no fan of mythic fiction should miss. I also recommend Neil Gaiman's The Dream Hunters (with the Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano);  Larissa Lai's When Fox Is a Thousand; and Ellen Steiber's gorgeous A Rumor of Gems (as well as her heart-breaking novella "The Fox Wife," published in Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears). Alice Hoffman's disquieting Here on Earth is a contemporary take on the Reynardine/Mr. Fox theme, as is Helen Oyeyemi's Mr. Fox, a complex work full of stories within stories within stories. For younger readers, try the "Legend of Little Fur" series by Isobelle Carmody. And for mythic poetry, I especially recommend She Returns to the Floating World by Jeannine Hall Gailey and Sister Fox’s Field Guide to the Writing Life by Jane Yolen. 

More fox tales are listed here. Please add your own favourites in the Comments below.

Fox tails and tales

For the fox in myth, legend, and lore, try:

Fox by Martin Wallen; Reynard the Fox, edited by Kenneth Varty; Kitsune: Japan's Fox of Mystery, Romance, and Humour by Kiyoshi Nozaki; Alien Kind: Foxes and Late Imperial Chinese Narrative by Raina Huntington; The Discourse on Foxes and Ghosts: Ji Yun and Eighteenth-Century Literati Storytelling by Leo Tak-hung Chan; The Fox and the Jewel: Shared and Private Meanings in Contemporary Japanese Inari Worship, by Karen Smythers....

And, best of all, Reynard the Fox by Anne Louise Avery, which I'll talk more about in a forthcoming post.Reading Together by Julianna SwaneyPicture credits: Identification of the foxy art above can be found in the picture captions; run your cursor over the images to see them. Words: The passage by Heinz Insu Fenkl is from "Fox Wives & Other Dangerous Women," published in The Journal of Mythic Arts (1998); "The White Road" by Neil Gaiman and "The Fox-Wife's Invitation" by Jeannine Hall Gailey are also from JoMA (1998 and 2008); "Fox" by Adrienne Rich  is from Fox: Poems 1998-2000 (Norton, 2003); and "Dream Fox" by Jack Roberts is from Tar River Poetry (2007). All rights to the art & text above are reserved by their respective creators.


Alberto Manguel on The Wind in the Willows

River 1

From "Return to Arcadia" by Alberto Manguel:

Wind in the Willows illustrated by Inga Moore"Several times, during a long life of reading, I’ve been tempted to write an autobiography based solely on the books that have counted for me. Someone once told me that it was customary for a Spanish nobleman to have his coat of arms engraved on his bedhead so that visitors might know who it was who lay in a sleep that might always be his last. Why then not be identified by my bedside favourites, which define and represent me better than any symbolic shield? If I ever indulged in such a vainglorious undertaking, a chapter, an early chapter, would be given over to The Wind in the Willows. I can’t remember when I first read The Wind in the Willows, since it is one of those books that seem to have been with me always, but it must have been very early on, when my room was in a cool, dark basement and the garden I played in boasted four tall palm trees and an old tortoise as their tutelary spirit. The geography of our books blends with the geography of our lives, and so, from the very beginning, Mole’s meadows and Rat’s river bank and Badger’s woods seeped into my private landscapes, imbuing the cities I lived in and the places I visited with the same feelings of delight and comfort and adventure that sprang from those much-turned pages. In this sense, the books we love become our cartography.

Mole by Ernest Shepard"In 1888, John Ruskin gave a name to the casual conjunction between physical nature and strong human emotions. ‘All violent feelings’, he wrote, ‘produce in us a falseness in all our impressions of external things, which I would generally characterize as the “Pathetic Fallacy”.’ Kenneth Grahame magnificently ignored the warning. The landscape of Cookham Dene on the Thames (where he lived and which he translated into the world of Mole and Rat, Badger and Toad) is, emotionally, the source and not the result of a view of the world that cannot be distinguished from the world itself. There may have been a time when the bucolic English landscape lay ignored and untouched by words, but since the earliest English poets the reality of it lies to a far greater extent in the ways in which it has been described than in its mere material existence. No reader of The Wind in the Willows can ever see Cookham Dene for the first time. After the last page, we are all old inhabitants for whom every nook and cranny is as familiar as the stains and cracks on our bedroom ceiling. There is nothing false in these impressions.

River 2

Wind in the Willows illustrated by Inga Moore

River 3

"...The Wind in the Willows begins with a departure, and with a search and a discovery, but it soon achieves an overwhelming sense of peace and happy satisfaction, of untroubled familiarity. We are at home in Grahame’s book. But Grahame’s universe is not one of retirement or seclusion, of withdrawal from the world. On the contrary, it is one of time and space shared, of mirrored experience.

Wind in the Willows illustrated by Inga Moore"From the very first pages, the reader discovers that The Wind in the Willows is a book about friendship, one of those English friendships that Borges once described by saying that they ‘begin by precluding confidences and end by forgoing dialogue’. The theme of friendship runs through all our literatures. Like Achilles and Patroclus, David and Jonathan, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Ishmael and Queequeg, Sherlock Holmes and Watson, Rat and Mole reflect for each other discovered identities and contrasting views of the world. Each one asserts for the other the better, livelier part of his character; each encourages the other to be his finer, brighter self. Mole may be lost without Rat’s guidance but, without Mole’s adventurous spirit, Rat would remain withdrawn and far too removed from the world. Together they build Arcadia out of their common surroundings; pace Ruskin, their friendship defines the place that has defined them. 

River 4

Riverbank Picnic by Arthur Rackham

If The Wind in the Willows was a sounding-board for the places I lived in, it became, during my adolescence, also one for my relationships, and I remember wanting to live in a world with absolute friends like Rat and Mole. Not all friendships, I discovered, are of the same kind. While Rat and Mole’s bonds are unimpeachably solid, their relationship equally balanced and unquestioned (and I was fortunate enough to have a couple of friendships of that particular kind), their relationship with Badger is more formal, more distanced – since we are in England, land of castes and classes, and Badger holds a social position that requires a respectful deference from others. (Of the Badger sort, too, I found friends whom I loved dearly but with whom I always had to tread carefully, not wanting to be considered overbearing or unworthy.)

River 5

River 6

The Wind in the Willows illustrated by Chris Dunn"With Toad, the relationship is more troubling. Rat and Mole love Toad and care for him, and assist him almost beyond the obligations of affection, in spite of the justified exasperation he provokes in them. He, on the other hand, is far less generous and obliging, calling on them only when in need or merely to show off. (Friends like Toad I also had, and these were the most difficult to please, the hardest to keep on loving, the ones that, over and over again, made me want to break up the relationship; but then they’d ask for help once more and once more I’d forgive them.)

"Toad is the reckless adventurer, the loner, the eternal adolescent. Mole and Rat begin the book in an adolescent spirit but grow in wisdom as they grow in experience; for Toad every outing is a never-ending return to the same whimsical deeds and the same irresponsible exploits. If we, the readers, love Toad (though I don’t) we love him as spectators; we love his clownish performance on a stage of his own devising and follow his misadventures as we follow those of a charming rogue.

The Wind in the Willows illustrated by Chris Dunn

"But Mole and Rat, and even Badger, we love as our fellow creatures, equal to us in joy and in suffering. Badger is everyone’s older brother; Rat and Mole, the friends who walk together and mature together in their friendship. They are our contemporaries, reborn with every new generation. We feel for their misfortunes and rejoice in their triumphs as we feel and rejoice for our nearest and dearest. During my late childhood and adolescence, their companionship was for me the model relationship, and I longed to share their déjeuners sur l’herbe, and to be part of their easy complicité as other readers long for the love of Mathilde or the adventurous travels of Sinbad.

River 7

River 8

"The Wind in the Willows cannot be classed as a work of pure fantasy. Grahame succeeds in making his creatures utterly believable to us. The menageries of Aesop or La Fontaine, Günter Grass or Colette, Orwell or Kipling, have at least one paw in a symbolic (or worse, allegorical) world; Grahame’s beasts are of flesh, fur and blood, and their human qualities mysteriously do not diminish, but enhance, their animal natures. As I’ve already said, with every rereading The Wind in the Willows lends texture and meaning to my experience of life; with each familiar unfolding of its story, I experience a new happiness. This is because The Wind in the Willows is a magical book. Something in its pages re-enchants the world, makes it once again wonderfully mysterious."

The Wind in the Willows illustrated by Inga Moore

River 9

River 10

Words: The passage quoted above is from "Return to Arcadia" by Alberto Manguel, published in Slightly Foxed (Issue 34, Summer 2012), a quarterly journal I love and highly recommend. The poem in the picture captions is from Poetry (July/August 2009). All rights reserved by the authors.

Pictures: The art above (from top to bottom) is "Ratty and Mole" by Inga Moore, "Mole" by Ernest Shepard, "Ratty and Mole on the River" and "The Picnic Basket" by Inga Moore, "The Riverside Picnic" by Arthur Rackham, "Toad and Mole" by Chris Dunn, "Mole's House" and "Lounging About" by Chris Dunn, and "The Riverbank" by Inga Moore. All rights reserved by the artists. The photograph are of the River Teign where it runs through Chagford on its way from Dartmoor to the sea. 


Come into animal presence

Encounter with a Bear by Kristin Bjornerud

Ever since humans have lived upon earth, writes Lyanda Lynn Haupt,

"we have made our homes and conducted our movements in proximity to other animals. The more prominent our enclosed modern dwellings, encapsulated modes of transportation, indoor workplaces, and every-present technology become in everyday life, the more we are separated from the presence of other animals who have always been a part of human life-making. The beloved domestic dogs and cats who share our homes are a delight, but no substitution for time alert to the vivid intricacy of wild visitations and interactions. 

"We are experiencing now an isolation named species loneliness by Michael Vincent McGinnis in a 1993 paper for Environmental Ethics. In his book Our Wild Calling, Richard Louv describes this modern human condition as 'a desperate hunger for connection with other life....All of us are meant to live in a larger community, an extended family of other species.' Without this, a number of pathologies grow within us and 'the family of humans loses comfort, companionship, and perhaps even the sense of higher power, however one defines it.' Animals, too, have evolved with humans among them -- and this distant relationship in which we currently live may be an incalculable, unknowable loss to them as well."

Caterwauling by Kristin Bjornerud

Communication between animals and humans, notes Jay Griffiths,

"is a fixture of science and has led to curious discoveries: dolphins communicating with humans will modulate the pitch of their calls to stay within the realm of human hearing; orangutans will modify their gestural signals according to the comprehension of their human audience. 

"Such unfeigned communication, unbuyable and uncommandable, delights us as if they the unfallen were in that moment inviting us to step across, right through the curtain into the Dreaming. 'Everything has and tells a story. Everything communicates, through its own language and its own Law,' say Indigenous Australian Yolngu people from Bakawa in north-east Armhem Land. Indigenous cultures have kept faith with the animals as part of what it means to belong, and the world is larger and more vivid when animals and birds and insects are imbued with spirit and significance, when there is Mind of unknowable diversity, elastic and ecstatic, until the very air is electric with Message and there are more stories than stars.

Exile by by Kristin Bjornerud

Conjuration by An Oath by Kristin Bjornerud

"The communication between animals and humans is sometimes a terrible reproach. While elephants in captivity can speak human words, wild elephants have a word for 'human being' and, points out animal philosopher Eva Meijir, in Animal Languages, it indicates 'danger.' I have always wanted to hear a koala call. I have never wanted to hear one cry for help, its fur singed, its paws and nose burned, crying little bleats of bewilderment, and whimpering with pain in the arms of the Australian woman who rescued it from one of the bushfires caused by the climate crisis. Something in me died that day, and I am not alone. We need their well-being, their voice, their happiness, their life.

In Your Skin by Kristin Bjornerud

"When other creatures speak to us, a breach feels healed into wholeness, wellness. Worldwide, shamanic lore has included the art of shapeshifting; these animal transformations are often treated as fact without much analysis but the revelation to me is that healing, whether individual or social, is thought to come about through animal mind. Animals are the Healers, if we would but let them. This is physically true, as we know that, for example, heart surgery patients recover more quickly if they have a cat on their bed. Dogs can detect certain cancers through their heightened sense of smell and some dogs are now being trained to detect Covid-19. Emotionally, animals are the first-responders for the human heart, and eschewing the natural world is life-denying, refusing its most potent medicine: vitality.

"Vitality is at the heart of healing traditions: acupuncture or yoga, the concepts of Chinese Chi or Indian Prana, the life force in flow. It is among the five 'character strengths' most correlated with happiness, according to The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, the others being curiosity, optimism, gratitude and the ability to love and be loved. Vitality means living in vividness, alert, the senses picking up everything. It is the embodiment of life, keener and more alive. It is a core strength and not necessarily correlated with age: an eighty-year-old can be elastic with vitality. It is zest, enthusiasm, energy: sheer sap-rising, the very quick of life....Vitality is the aspect of human happiness that is most keenly associated with natural connection, as natural environments improve emotional functioning and attention. To notice, to attend the world, to be alive to its co-vitalizing, amounts to biophilia, the term used by biologist and naturalist Edward O. Wilson to describe that lovely innate quality of life loving life, and the particular kind of energy it offers is that shining momentness that, in the Homeric world, surrounds the gods: energeia. It is intense presence, wildness incarnate. In this sense, wild animals are the gods still walking -- swimming, tumbling, climbing, pouncing -- in the world."

Tiger by Kristin Bjornerud

The passages above are from Lyanda Lynn Haupt's new book Roots: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit, and Jay Griffiths new book, Why Rebel. Both are highly recommended. The title of today's post is taken from Denise Levertov's classic poem "Come into animal presence," which you can read here. For animal and human relationships from a folklore point of view, see "The Speech of Animals" and "Married to Magic: Animal Brides and Bridegrooms." 

Breathing Space by Kristin Bjornerud

Beneath by Kristin Bjornerud

The images today are by Canadian artist Kristin Bjornerud, who was born in Alberta, studied at the Universities of Lethbridge and Saskatchewan, and is now based in Montreal. She's received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Saskatchewan Arts Board, the Ontario Arts Council and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. Her work has been exhibited nationally and is represented in numerous public collections

"My watercolour and gouache paintings," Bjornerud writes, "explore contemporary political themes, ecological motifs, and personal narratives through the lens of folktales, dreams, and magical realism. In these delicately painted tableaus, a world is revealed wherein dream logic pervades, where women swim with narwhals and vivify hand-knit fauna. These eccentric landscapes are uncanny projections of a possible world where familiar activities are imbued with a mythic quality while, at the same time, extraordinary deeds are carried out with unruffled poise by proud, unconventional heroines.

"My aim is to create contemporary fairy tales that act as a medium through which we may consider our ethical obligations to the natural world and to each other. Retelling and reshaping stories helps us to understand how we are entangled, where we meet, and how our differences may be viewed as disguises of our sameness."

Please visit the artist's website to see more of her wonderful work.

When You Were Wild by Kristen Bjornerud

The titles of the artworks by Kristen Bjornerud above (top to bottom) are: Encounter With a Bear, Caterwauling, Exile, Conjuration, In Your Skin, Tiger, Breathing Space, Beneath, and When You Were Wild. All rights reserved by the artist. The text quoted above is from Roots by Lynanda Lynn Haupt (Little, Brown Spark, 2021) and Why Rebel by Jay Griffiths (Penguin/Random House, 2021). All rights reserved by the authors.

A few other posts on animal/human relationships: Kissing the lion's nose, Keeping the world alive, The blessing of otters, Liam Henegan's Beasts at Bedtime, The animal helpers of T.H. White, and Wild Neighbours.


Speaking with animals

East of the Sun  West of the Moon by Kay Nielsen

Seven Little Tales

Seven Little Tales

Seven Little Tales

Brother and Sister by Edmund Dulac

"A Spell for Speaking With Animals" is one of seven little pieces of mine published in Seven Little Tales (Hedgespoken Press, 2018). For a look at the folklore behind the poem, see: "The Speech of Animals."

For general animal folklore, go here. For tales on marriage between animals and humans, go here. Or follow these links for rabbits and hares, wolves, pigs, foxes, cats, sheep, goats, bears, swans & cranes and other birds in folklore, myth, and mythic fiction.

The Lady and the Lion by Arthur Rackham

Seven Little Tales

Poor Little Bear by John Bauer

The art today is by four artists from the Golden Age of Book Illustration: East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Kay Nielsen (Danish, 1886-1957), Brother and Sister by Edmund Dulac (French/British, 1882-1953), The Lady and the Lion by Arthur Rackham (British, 1867-1939), and Poor Little Bear by John Bauer (Swedish, 1882-1918).