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Martin Wallen


From when we are very young we are likely to hear stories involving foxes, and these are likely to affect our views concerning these creatures as we grow older. In Fox, Martin Wallen looks at how foxes are viewed in different cultures, and how this has shaped our relationship with them.

Aristotle classified foxes as lower creatures, since they burrowed in the earth, but also as 'wicked and villainous'. Wallen shows how this view developed over time, with the fox being portrayed as a cunning rascal in folk tales. In such tales Reynard was often cunning enough to get away with his crimes, but in the Christianised versions he was more likely to get his comeuppance. Foxes are also prominent in non-western cultures, such as Japan, where spirit-foxes may take human form. The book has chapters on how our low view of foxes has encouraged us to persecute and exploit them via foxhunting and the trade in fox fur. The last chapter looks at the role of the fox in the cinema, showing how it is used to reflect the complex relationships between people.

My one quibble with the book is that it seems to be classified as a natural history book. The book does have information about the different species of foxes and their habits, but I would say that it is more about humans than about foxes. But as long as you know what you're getting, you will find this book an interesting and enjoyable read.