M is for Mr. Fox


Henry Ryland’s “Mr. Fox” in the 1892 edition of Joseph Jacobs’ English Fairy Tales.

High school girls are surprised to hear traditional stories that include sexual violence, yet it is important for a girl to consider how Lady Mary’s boldness–or one’s own!–can overcome depraved evil. It is, in fact, the single most important attribute when it comes to safeguarding oneself.

In this tale, we also see a justifiably fearful Lady Mary hide herself when being bold would not pay off. Instead, she waits for the moment when her boldness will completely destroy Mr. Fox.

Take the tale’s advice: Be bold, be bold, but not too bold, lest thy heart’s blood run cold!


Be bold! Take hold of one of these books:

Jacobs, Joseph, English Fairy Tales. Everyman’s Library, 1993.

The Classic Fairy Tales, edited by Maria Tatar (Norton Critical Editions). W. W. Norton & Company, 1999.

Yolen, Jane, Favorite Folktales from Around the World (Pantheon Fairy Tale & folklore Library). Pantheon, 1988.

5 responses

  1. The last time I told Mr. Fox, I used it as a cautionary tale for both sexes. There were shivers throughout the audience.
    It’s also a tale I told for years without actually confronting it in my own life, which I finally did recently.

  2. We have a Hungarian version of this called the Pelican bird of the beautiful song. I also love Neil Gaiman’s mash-up short story with Mr. Fox and the Kitsune 🙂

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Tales of colors
    MopDog – The crazy thing about Hungarians…

  3. Something new to ponder from that story — Timing is everything. I’ve often thought that even with four strong brothers at my back, I’d be a trembling mass of jelly confronting Mr. Fox as Mary finally did. Her boldness extended beyond simple breaking and entering. Thanks for the insight.