Fox (Animal), by Martin Wallen

Download Fox (Animal), by Martin Wallen

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Fox (Animal), by Martin Wallen

Fox (Animal), by Martin Wallen

Fox (Animal), by Martin Wallen

Download Fox (Animal), by Martin Wallen

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Fox (Animal), by Martin Wallen

We know very little about the fox and its habits—and our ignorance, Martin Wallen argues, is rooted in the fox’s bad reputation. Lowly, sly, and classified as vermin, foxes raid henhouses and garbage bins, spread disease, and injure domestic pets. At the same time, foxes are often considered beautiful, mysterious, and even oddly human. This book is the first to fully explore the fox as the object of both derision and fascination, from the forests of North America to the deserts of Africa to the Arctic tundra.

Whether portrayed as an unrepentant thief, a shape-shifter, or an outlaw, the fox’s primary purpose in literature, Wallen demonstrates, is to disrupt human order. In Chinese folklore, for example, the fox becomes a cunning mistress, luring human men away from their wives. Wallen also discusses the numerous ways in which fox-related terms have entered the vernacular, from “foxy lady” to the process of “foxing,” or souring beer during fermentation. Thoughtful and illuminating, Fox shows that this lovely creature is as beguiling as it is controversial.

  • Sales Rank: #699006 in Books
  • Brand: Brand: Reaktion Books
  • Published on: 2006-12-15
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: 7.50″ h x .70″ w x 5.38″ l, .79 pounds
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 206 pages


  • Used Book in Good Condition

“Incisive and erudite.” (The Independent 2007-01-18)

About the Author
Martin Wallen is professor of English at Oklahoma State University. He is the author of Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner”: An Experimental Edition of TextsandRevisions and City of Health, Fields of Disease: Revolution in the Poetry, Medicine, and Philosophy of Romanticism.

Most helpful customer reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful.
Fascinating Exploration of the Fox in Human Culture
By Elizabeth M.Tobey
Throughout Martin Wallen’s book, “Fox,” the author demonstrates how the fox has long been viewed by humans as an ambiguous creature living on the boundaries of civilized society. Just as a fox evades capture in the hunting field through its wit and cleverness, the fox also escapes simple definition.

Each of the six chapters reads as an individual essay. The opening chapter deals with efforts to classify the fox over time, beginning with the philosopher Aristotle, who believed foxes to be literally made of earth. Many creatures throughout the world share the name and the general appearance of “fox” – from the Arctic fox to the South American culpeo to the African fennec – but vary greatly in behavior and habitat.
Another chapter explores the fox in legend and myth in both Western and Eastern cultures. In Western thought, the fox is often a malevolent being, both trickster and thief living on the edges of society. Wallen recounts the fox in Aesop’s Fables, the Reynard legend from medieval France, and early Christian and medieval depictions of the fox as the devil in disguise. The legend of the kitsune, or spirit fox, migrated to medieval Japan from China, and kitsune possess the ability to shapeshift into human form, thus crossing the boundaries between man and animal and the spirit and material worlds. Subsequent chapters deal with the topics of foxhunting, the commercial fur industry, and the metaphor of the fox in twentieth-century cinema.

In his chapter on foxhunting, Wallen traces the evolution of the sport and the way it was portrayed in English art and literature. While eighteenth century depictions emphasized the violent death of the fox, emphasis shifted over time until the pageantry and rules of the sport became more important than the actual capture and death of the animal.

Martin Wallen’s carefully-crafted book gives readers an appreciation of this mysterious animal that has excited human imagination.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
Excellent survey of the lives and lore of foxes
By Daniel
It was Wallen’s fine book on foxes that introduced me to Reaktion’s excellent Animal series, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. This is definitely my favourite volume in the series. Well written, thoughtfully considered, and insightful. His writing style is engaging and illuminating, and he never talks down to readers–he’s a careful and astute scholar, an accessible writer, and an impressive observer of both the natural world and human interactions with it. Like all books in the series, it takes up natural as well as cultural history, and Wallen manages the balance with exceptional skill. You’ll never look at foxes the same way again! In fact, I was inspired to try my own hand at a volume in the series as a result of Wallen’s contribution, so I’m particularly grateful for the inspiration of *Fox*.

Some readers have been a bit put off by a couple of the graphic photos (even though there are over 100 images in the book), but I think it’s a shame to dismiss this fine and engaging study for those reasons. Yes, there are two gruesome images, but the reality is that in addition to inspiring much beautiful art and spiritual beliefs, foxes also suffer terrible abuse at the hands of humans–that’s part of the context that Wallen writes about. We can’t understand foxes or their symbolism without also understanding the terrible price they pay for being so fascinating to humans. I get squeamish at these images, too, but they represent a powerful truth, and we owe it to the animal and to ourselves to face these things directly.

A well-informed and well-written book that avoids Disney-esque simplicity and takes up the full complexity of these marvellous animals. Highly recommended!

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
You’ll never be outfoxed again.
By lyndonbrecht
This is the “Animal” series formula, mixing some natural history, culture, legend, the arts, and exploitation of the animal, engagingly written and excellently illustrated. The formula works again, and I must like it because I have read dozens of books in the series.

Perhaps the most interesting chapter is on fox hunting, one that gives some history of the hunt and its current status. The chapters are The Fox in Nature; Vulpine Myth, Folk Tales and Allegory; The Linguistic Fox; Fox Hunters; The Commercial Fox; 20th Century Fox and the Cinema. These cover evolution and natural history, distinguish the separate varieties of fox (21 species!), the fox as pest, as fable (as in The Fox and the Grapes), as hunted, as source of furs. This last is the saddest fox.

It’s easy to forget the cultural fox, but remember phrases such as foxy lady, the old fox, to outfox someone and many others.

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