Once upon a time, there was a fox, as sly as foxes are. She’d been prowling for food all night and couldn’t find any. When dawn broke, the fox crawled to the side of a road and lay down under a bush. She wondered what else she could do to find something to eat.
As she was lying there with her head on her paws, she caught a whiff of fish. She raised her head a little. Looking down the road, she saw a cart approaching, pulled by two oxen.
“Good,” the fox thought. “Here’s the food I’ve been waiting for.”
Without wasting a moment, she ran out from under the bush. She stretched out in the middle of the road, pretending to be dead.
As the cart drew closer to the fox, the man driving it saw her. Thinking she was really dead, he shouted to stop the oxen: “Whoa! Whoa!”
The oxen stopped. The man approached the fox and peered at her closely. He saw that she was not breathing.
“Oh my word!” he said. “How did this fox die here? What a nice little jacket I’ll make for my wife from its fur!”
On saying that, he lifted the fox by the scruff of the neck. He dragged her to the cart and lifted her onto it, leaving her on top of the fish.
Then the man urged the oxen to move on: “Giddy-up, Joian! Giddy-up, Bourean!”
The oxen began to plod onwards. The man walked by the oxen, prodding them with a stick to make them move faster. He was keen to get home and skin the fox.
As the oxen plodded forward, the fox started to push the fish off the cart with her legs. The man was prodding, the cart was squeaking, and fish were falling off the back.
After she had pushed off plenty of fish, the fox hopped out and hurried to gather them off the road. After collecting the fish into a pile, she took them to her den and started eating. She was ravenous!
The fox had just started eating when she received an unexpected visitor, the bear!
“Happy eating, my friend. Wow! What a lot of fish! Can I have some too? I’m craving fish!” begged the bear.
“Well, crave away, my friend. I’m not working to fill someone else’s tummy. If you crave fish so much, go and dip your tail in the pond as I did. You’ll soon have plenty of fish to eat,” said the fox.
“Teach me how to do it then, please,” said the bear. “I don’t know how to catch fish.”
The fox grinned and said, “Is that so, my friend? But don’t you know that desperation takes you to places you don’t want to go and teaches you things you can’t imagine? Go to the pond at the edge of the forest tonight. Dip your tail in the water and sit without moving until almost dawn. When the sun starts to rise, pull hard towards the shore. You’ll take out plenty of fish, maybe double or triple what I caught.”
Without saying anything, the bear ran to the pond at the edge of the forest. He dipped his whole tail in the water and sat still.
That night a cold wind started blowing. It was harsh enough to freeze your tongue in your mouth. The water in the pond froze solid and trapped the bear’s tail. After a while, unable to stand the pain anymore, the bear yanked once with all his might. And, poor bear, instead of catching lots of fish, he was left without a tail!
He growled terribly and jumped up and down with pain. Angry with the fox for having tricked him, the bear went to the fox’s den.
However, the sly fox knew how to dodge the bear’s anger. When she saw the bear coming without a tail, she ran from her den and hid in a hollow tree nearby.
“Well, well, my friend!” called out the fox. “Did the fish eat your tail, or were you too greedy to leave any fish in the pond?”
When he heard the fox laughing at him, the bear dashed towards the tree. However, the hollow opening was narrow, and the bear could not get in. He looked for a curved branch with a pointy end like a hook. Then the bear started fishing inside the hollow to bring the fox out.
Whenever he caught one of her legs, the fox would shout: “Go on, pull, you fool! You’re pulling the tree; why should I care?”
Whenever the hook caught the tree, she would shout: “Ouch, my friend! Don’t pull; you’re going to yank my leg off!”
The bear tried and tried, but he could not reach the fox.
In the end, the fox snoozed smugly, having tricked not only the man but also the bear who would have taken her food!
That’s the story of the sly fox and her tricks.Enjoyed this story?
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Gordon Moulds CBE, KidsOut CEO