Fantastic Mr Fox
First edition cover
Fantastic Mr Fox is a children's novel written by British author Roald Dahl. It was published in 1970, by George Allen & Unwin in the UK and Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S., with illustrations by Donald Chaffin. The first UK Puffin paperback, first issued in 1974, featured illustrations by Jill Bennett. Later editions have featured illustrations by Tony Ross (1988) and Quentin Blake (1996). The story is about Mr Fox and how he outwits his farmer neighbours to steal their food from right under their noses. In 2009, it was adapted into a film by Wes Anderson.
The story revolves around an anthropomorphic, tricky, clever fox named Mr. Fox who lives underground beside a tree with his wife and four children. In order to feed his family, he makes nightly visits to farms owned by three wicked, cruel and dim-witted farmers named Boggis, Bunce and Bean and snatches the livestock available on each man's farm. Tired of being outsmarted by Mr. Fox, the evil farmers devise a plan to ambush him as he leaves his burrow, but they succeed only in shooting off his tail.
The farmers then dig up the Foxes' burrow using spades and then excavators. The Foxes manage to escape by burrowing further beneath the earth to safety. The trio of farmers are ridiculed for their persistence, so they decide to surround Mr. Fox's hole and wait until he is hungry enough to come out. Cornered by their enemies, Mr. Fox and his family, and all the other underground creatures that lived around the hill, begin to starve.
After three days trapped underground, Mr. Fox devises a plot to acquire food. Working from Mr. Fox's memory of the routes he has taken above ground, he and his children tunnel through the ground and wind up burrowing to one of Boggis' hen and chicken houses. Mr. Fox kills several chickens and sends his eldest son to carry the food back home to Mrs. Fox. On the way to their next destination, Mr. Fox runs into his friend Badger and asks him to accompany him on his mission, as well as to extend an invitation to the feast to the other burrowing animals to apologize for them being caught up in the farmers' hunt. Aided by Badger, the animals tunnel to Bunce's storehouse for ducks, geese, hams, bacon and carrots - as noted by one of the small foxes, the rabbits will require vegetables - and then to Bean's cider cellar. Here, they are nearly caught by the Beans' servant Mabel, and have an unpleasant conversation with the cellar's resident Rat, but have a narrow escape. They carry their loot back home, where Mrs. Fox has prepared a great celebratory banquet for the starving underground animals and their families.
At the table, Mr. Fox invites everyone to live in a secret underground neighbourhood with him and his family, where he will hunt for them daily and none of them will any longer need to worry about the farmers. Everyone joyfully cheers for this idea, while Boggis, Bunce, and Bean are left waiting for the fox to emerge from his hole. The author concludes "And so far as I know, they are still waiting."
The book was adapted into a film by director Wes Anderson. It was released in 2009 and features the voices of George Clooney as Mr Fox, Meryl Streep as Mrs Fox, Bill Murray as Badger, Hugo Guinness as Bunce, and Michael Gambon as Bean. The movie's plot focuses more on Mr Fox's relationship to Mrs. Fox and his son, which is pitted against Mr. Fox's desire to steal chickens as a means of feeling like his natural self. The movie adds scenes before Mr Fox attacks the three farmers and after their bulldozing of the hill, as well as a slightly altered ending and more background on Mr Fox's past life as a thief of food. The Fox's four children are replaced by Ash, a small and insecure fox who seeks his father's approval, and Mr Fox's nephew Kristofferson, who excels in athletics and is a source of jealousy for Ash.
The book was adapted into a play of the same name by David Wood and was first performed at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry in 2001. The play is licensed (in UK only) through Casarotto Ramsay Ltd. for repertory performances and Samuel French Ltd. for amateur performances.
Tobias Picker adapted the book into an opera (the only adaptation with origins in the US) which had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Opera performing 9–22 December in 1998. the Opera starred Gerald Finley as Mr Fox and Suzanna Guzman as Mrs Fox. A specially commissioned new version of this opera by Opera Holland Park was performed in the gardens and natural scenery of Holland Park in the summer of 2010 staged by Stephen Barlow. This version starred Grant Doyle as Mr Fox, Olivia Ray as Mrs Fox, Henry Grant Kerswell, Peter Kent and John Lofthouse as Farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean.
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