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The Outfoxed Fox: Based on a Japanese Kyogen Hardcover – 1 Sep 2007
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Hundreds of years ago in the mountains of Japan, there lived a hunter who trapped foxes. People warned him that foxes were cunning creatures that possessed great magic, but he ignored them. One day the leader of the foxes declared that the hunter must be stopped and devised the perfect plan. He decided to show the hunter just how cunning foxes really are.
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That said, while I like the essential story, the author had the young fox basically gloating about tricking the old fox and then saying that a simple solution is usually best. It would have been a much better story if the actions of the characters had been allowed to speak for themselves. Having the young fox tell the old fox how smart he is really distracts from the moral of the story. Instead of having a nice lesson about simplicity and valuing others' opinions, it left me feeling like it was about a bratty child who needed to be taken down a notch -- not what the author was intending I'm sure.
The story is a simple one that we've all heard variations of at some point. There is a hunter in Japan who is trapping many foxes, despite warnings from other humans that foxes possess magic. An old fox tells the others in his clan that they need to figure out how to stop the hunter. The old fox essentially has a plan ready to go without listening to the other suggestions from the rest of the foxes, including a good one from a young fox who thinks that the simplest solution would be best. Of course, the old fox ignores him and goes about his plan, which involves him turning into the hunter's uncle, an old priest, and convince him to stop trapping foxes. Because "he'll listen to a priest. Unlike -some- of us".
So the old fox turns into the priest and manages to convince the hunter to stop. That was simple huh? As he walks back home, he gets caught in a snare, and the hunter comes back, aware that the fox had transformed into his uncle. But it's just a trick! The hunter is really the young fox whose idea was rejected by the old one. What happened to the hunter? Just the night before, the young fox appeared before him as a ghost, and the hunter felt so bad for all the slain foxes that he swore he'd stop and left.
It's hard to say who will get the most out of The Outfoxed Fox. The story has two good morals, though one is more from a Buddhist perspective and might go over some heads, and the other goes the wrong way. As much as you should respect your elders, it's also good to respect the opinions of others and give them your attention, regardless of how old the person saying them may be. However, in this story, the elder is, as the title gives away, outfoxed. He's tricked into agreeing with the young fox more or less. There could have been another way around this. I also didn't care for the old or young foxes not having names, as they're just referred to as 'the old fox' and 'the young fox'. Oddly enough, the hunter's uncle -is- given a name. The art is nice, though a little on the plain side. This story doesn't take very long to read through, and kids 3-7 should enjoy it since it's not too long. It may be based on a kyogen, but don't let that keep you away. I just feel that a little more effort could have been put into the story.
At the outset the story seems to be about a hunter who is overhunting the local fox population. The foxes get together to have a meeting, wherein an elder asks for the advice of all but it's well-known that he won't listen to others. When a daring young fox dares to suggest a plan, he is put in his place and told that his plan is too simple. But the young fox outwits the older one and the lesson is supposed to be about simplicity. The tale isn't about the hunter after all, but about the elder fox who doesn't want to listen to anyone else's ideas.
While I like the elevated language that creates a sense of timelessness in this tale, I thought the telling was actually too convoluted. This isn't so much told as a story, but the lesson is just stated outright by one of the characters.
The illustrations in this book are lovely, and my children might look through it again for the pictures, but this isn't a story that they've asked to have read again, and I can't imagine them asking for it in the future.