What is the most clever animal in stories? The fox! I’ve collected the best fairy tales, folktales, and fables about foxes for you.
Every time I see a fox, it makes me happy. The reddish-brown of its fur, the beautiful tail, the clever face. Every time I marvel at how small they are.
Most fairy tales with foxes feature a very clever fox, a trickster who outsmarts others. Not all, though. Sometimes the fox itself is a victim.
There are many more fox stories being told around the world. Here you find the foxes I came across while studying the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Let’s go!
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1. Listen to the fox (that isn’t a fox)!
Three brothers set out to capture a golden bird. Out of the forest jumps a fox, offering its advice.
The oldest brother shoots at the fox. The middle brother shoots at the fox. Finally, only the youngest one listens to the fox.
With the help of the clever fox, he gets all the treasures that he wants. The fox wants only one thing in return: to be killed. When the youngest brother kills the fox in the end, he changes into a man.
It turns out this clever fox was under a magic curse. That’s something else, isn’t it?
2. Fox fable: the fox and his cousin
The Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales include many fables in which a fox plays an important part. In these fables, you see the cunning and guile of the fox.
Fox and Wolf are cousins. So when a young wolf is born, the fox is asked to be godfather. He enjoys the feast, but tricks the wolf into attacking a chicken coop. The wolf ends up hurt badly and the fox leaves, laughing his develish laugh.
The fox is simply mean in this story. He tricks the wolf, but why? Maybe because the she-wolf is a chattery girl that only asks him to be godfather for her profit?
It’s stories like this that make the fox very unsympathetic. Cleverness used to inflict pain on others.
3. Fox fable: the fox and the cat
Sometimes the fox is too clever for his good.
In the fable ‘The Fox and the Cat,’ cat and fox discuss how to escape from the hunting dogs. Cat knows only one trick: climbing a tree. Fox looks down at the cat and sneers that he knows at least 100 tricks. When the dogs appear, the cat is gone up the tree, and the fox is caught.
It shows that even when you are clever like a fox, it’s better not to think you know everything better than everybody else!
4. Fox fable: the fox and the geese
Not only can the fox become a victim of his arrogance, but he can also be tricked by the simplest of animals: geese.
In the fable ‘The fox and the geese’ the fox finds a meadow full of tasty geese. Before starting his feast, one clever goose looks up to him and asks him if they can first pray before he eats them. The fox agrees and the geese start to cackle… Today they are still cackling.
Wow. I can see the fox getting more hungry by the minute. Of course, I would have started eating anyway if it were me, but that’s not how it works in stories.
5. Fox fable: the fox and the horse
Finally, a fox story in which the fox uses his cleverness for good.
It all starts with a familiar motif in animal fairy tales: a too old animal that is kicked out.
The horse is kicked out by its owner. It needs to bring back a lion to show its strength. The fox helps the horse trick the lion and carry it back to its owner. The horse is welcomed back.
At the end of this fox story, you might wonder what the fox gets out of it. Not much, so it appears. But I can see him somewhere in the forest, secretly chuckling about his clever trick.
6. Fox fable: the wolf and the man
The clever fox is always happy to help somebody else learn a lesson. Especially his bigger not-so-smart cousin wolf (here: more wolf stories)
Fox says that you should be clever to get away from men. Wolf disagrees. Fox takes him to the road. When the wolf charges a huntsman, he gets shot and hit and returns bloodied and broken. Yes, says the fox, now you see what a braggart you are!
I think this was a straightforward setup. Talk to the wolf about the strength of men until he feels so challenged he will want to meet one. And then take him to a hunter to get his ass kicked. Somewhere in the forest, I can hear the fox is chuckling.
7. Sexy fox fairy tale: the wedding of Mrs. Fox
“Are there no female foxes?” you might ask.
“Yes, there are!”
In the two variants of this tale, Mr. Fox has died. Or so it appears.
In the first variant, Mr. Fox thinks his wife is cheating on him, so he plays dead. Soon the suitors for the paw of Mrs. Fox arrive. She all sends them away with curious remarks about their tails.
Their tails? Well, a certain kind of tail that gets very hard and strong. Oh, she well remembers the nine tails of Mr. Fox. 😉
As soon as she finds a young fox with the same qualities and starts the marriage ceremony, Mr. Fox awakes and kicks them all out of the house.
In the second variant, Mr. Fox is dead. There is no talk about tails in this version, just different suitors who come to ask for her paw. And finally, a young fox marries her.
8. Fairy tales with a fox as supporting character
In these last three Brothers Grimm fairy tales, the fox is only a supporting character.
- In The Hare’s Bride, the fox assists as a clerk with the marriage of the hare.
- In The Wonderful Musician, the fox is one of the three animals wanting to become the companion of the musician.
- In Thumbling’s Travels, the fox eats Thumbling and brings him home at the end of the fairy tale.
Trickster Reynard the Fox
Here I have to add a little about the fox of foxes: Reynard. He needs to be mentioned in a blog post about fairy tales with foxes.
I grew up with the stories of Reynard the Fox. These stories were quite old, part of a collection of satirical stories written in the Middle Ages. Animal fables about how Reynard outsmarted King Lion and Cousin Wolf. Of course, everybody in that time knew who those animal characters represented.
There are a lot of interesting things to write about Reynard the Fox. I might write a separate post about him. Until then, read more about Reynard the Fox on Wikipedia.
Want to discover more animals in the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales?
➡ Check out my Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales Animals List
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