Foxes in popular culture

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Monument of Bystrouška, Janáček's opera "The Cunning Little Vixen" at Hukvaldy, Janáček's hometown

The fox appears in the folklore of many cultures as a figure of cunning or trickery, or as a familiar animal possessed of magic powers. The fox is also sometimes associated with transformation.

In Europe, in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, foxes, which were associated with wiliness and fraudulent behavior, were sometimes burned as symbols of the Devil.[1]

The term "foxy" in English ("having the qualities of a fox") can also connote attractiveness, sexiness or being red-haired. The term to "outfox" means "to beat in a competition of wits", the synonym with "outguess", "outsmart" or "outwit".

The fox in various cultures[edit]

In Dogon mythology, the pale fox is the trickster god of the desert, who embodies chaos.[2][3]

The Medieval Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard was nicknamed "Robert the Fox" as well as the Resourceful, the Cunning, the Wily - underlining the identification of such qualities with foxes.

In Scotland, the trickster figure of the fox (or tod in traditional Scots) was represented as Lowrence, as in the Morall Fabillis of Robert Henryson.

In Finnish mythology, the fox is depicted usually a cunning trickster, but seldom evil. The fox, while weaker, in the end outsmarts both the evil and voracious wolf and the strong but not-so-cunning bear. It symbolizes the victory of intelligence over both malevolence and brute strength.

There is a Tswana riddle that says that "Phokoje go tsela o dithetsenya" translated literally into Only the muddy fox lives meaning that, in a philosophical sense, only an active person who does not mind getting muddy gets to progress in life.

In early Mesopotamian mythology, the fox is one of the sacred animals of the goddess Ninhursag. The fox acts as her messenger.

Prince Hanzoku terrorized by a nine-tailed kitsune (fox spirit). Print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 19th century.

In Chinese, Japanese, and Korean folklores, foxes (huli jing in China, kitsune in Japan, and kumiho in Korea) are powerful spirits that are known for their highly mischievous and cunning nature, and they often take on the form of female humans to seduce men. In contemporary Chinese, the word "huli jing" is often used to describe a mistress negatively in an extramarital affair. In Shinto of Japan, kitsune sometimes helps people as an errand of their deity, Inari.

The Moche people of ancient Peru worshiped animals and often depicted the fox in their art.[4] The Moche people believed the fox to be a warrior that would use his mind to fight. The fox would not ever use physical attack, only mental.

The Bible's Song of Solomon (2:15) includes a well-known verse "Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom" which had been given many interpretations over the centuries by Jewish and Christian Bible commentators.

To the Jewish sage Matteya ben Heresh, of the 2nd century AD, is attributed the maxim: "Meet each man with friendly greeting; be the tail among lions rather than the head among foxes".[5] "The head among foxes" in this context is similar to the English expression "A big frog in a small pond".

The words "fox" or "foxy" have become slang in English-speaking societies for an individual (most often female) with sex appeal. The word "vixen", which is normally the common name for a female fox, is also used to describe an attractive woman—although, in the case of humans, "vixen" tends to imply that the woman in question has a few nasty qualities.

In European and East Asian literature, the fox is sometimes associated with transformation. Such fox stories include four main types:

  • The word shenanigan (a deceitful confidence trick, or mischief) is considered to be derived from the Irish expression sionnachuighim, meaning "I play the fox."[6]
  • Description of life of more or less realistic animals
  • Stories about anthropomorphic animals imbued with human characteristics
  • Tales of fox transformations into humans and vice versa

An Occitan song dating from the Middle Ages, 'Ai Vis Lo Lop', features a wolf (lo lop), a fox (lo rainard) and a hare (lebre) dancing and circling a tree. It has been suggested that the three animals represent the King, Lord and Church who were responsible for taxation (the lyrics go on to refer to money gained over the year and how nothing was left after seeing 'the wolf, the fox and the hare').

In the Uncle Remus collection of 19th-century African-American folktales adapted and compiled by Joel Chandler Harris, "Br'er Fox" is a major character, often acting as the antagonist towards the stories' main character, "Br'er Rabbit".

Arthur Koestler notes in his autobiography[7] that when he attended the University of Vienna in the 1920s, Freshman students were known as "Füchse" (German for "Foxes") and had their own distinct organization within the student fraternities, presided over by the "Head Fox". All this was derived from centuries-old student traditions and lives on in the so-called Studentenverbindung, such as the German Student Corps.

During World War II, the German commander in North Africa, Erwin Rommel, was grudgingly nicknamed the "Desert Fox" by his British adversaries, as a tribute to his cunning and skill in operational art.

See also specific pages for Foxes in Japanese folklore/Kitsune, Foxes in Chinese mythology/Huli jing, Foxes in Fiction.

Literature (in chronological order)[edit]

This Japanese obake karuta (monster card) from the early 19th century depicts a kitsune (fox spirit). The associated game involves matching clues from folklore to pictures of specific creatures
The trickster figure Reynard the Fox as depicted in an 1869 children's book by Michel Rodange.
The Fox and the Cat in Pinocchio, as drawn by Enrico Mazzanti.

Young-children books[edit]

"Brer Fox Tackles Brer Tarrypin", from Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings: The Folk-Lore of the Old Plantation, by Joel Chandler Harris. Illustrations by Frederick Stuart Church and James H. Moser. 1881.
  • 1908 and 1912 - Beatrix Potter included foxes in her anthropomorphic children's tales—as pursuer in The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck and as title character in The Tale of Mr. Tod.
  • 1913 - Thornton W. Burgess's The Green Forest: Reddy Fox.
  • 1924 - Aquilino Ribeiro, Romance da Raposa: Portuguese adaptation of the medieval story of Reynard.
  • 1961 - Peter Spier, The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night: an adaptation of the folk song of the same name.
  • 1963? - Miyoko Matsutani, The Bread with Color of the Fox's Tail: story about friendship between a girl and a boy-werefox.
  • 1970s - Richard Scarry, series of books, Fixit Fox, a mechanic; also animated
  • 1970 - Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox: Mr. and Mrs. Fox and their four pups.
  • 1972 - Nonny Hogrogian's children's book "One Fine Day": a story of a fox that has its tail chopped off
  • 1982 - William Steig's children's book Dr. Desoto contains an unnamed vulpine patient.
  • 1990 - Judith Mellecker, The Fox and the Kingfisher: Picture book about brother and sister who tried to run away from stepmother and changed their selves into a fox and a bird.
  • 1998 - Michel Gagné, A Search for Meaning—The Story of Rex : Continues in comics magazine Flight (comic)
  • 2006 - Ali Sparkes, Finding the Fox: the first of a series of novels about a boy who has the ability to change into a fox.
  • 1900s - Irina Korshunow, The Foundling Fox: Picture book about a fox who loses his parents and is adopted by another mother.
  • 1965 - Dr. Seuss, "Fox in Socks". Dr. Seuss' story about tongue-twisters.
  • 1966 - David Thomson, "Danny Fox" An episodic journey story in which the wily Danny Fox seeks food for his wife Mrs Doxie Fox and hungry children Lick, Chew and Swallow. Loosely based on folk tales, two more books followed;
  • 1968 - David Thomson, "Danny Fox meets a Stranger", in which Danny Fox meets and pits his wits against a wolf
  • 1976 - David Thomson, "Danny Fox at the Palace" Danny Fox meets royalty, although not for the first time.
  • 2013 - Ylvis and Svein Nyhus, "What does the Fox Say?", picture book based on the YouTube hit
  • 2015 - Inbali Iserles's fantasy fox series, Foxcraft, debuted with book one, "The Taken", published by Scholastic.[11]
  • 2016 - Jonathan Schork, "The Love of Simon Fox", in which a talking fox living in an enchanted forest befriends a little girl[12]

Books with loose fox motifs[edit]

  • circa 65-75 - Gospel of Luke: Jesus calls Herod Antipas that old fox.
  • 1919 - Johnston McCulley, Zorro: Stories about a masked avenger whose alias means "fox" in Spanish.
  • 1947 - Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger, the protagonist, a 15th-century Italian soldier, got this nickname for his cunning.
  • 1986 and 2001 - Michael Moorcock's The City in the Autumn Stars and The Dreamthief's Daughter: The von Beck family met with Reynard, one of the last of fox-human people, eradicated by Christians.
  • 1992-1998 - Roger Zelazny's Amber series of novels include a tricky red-haired character named Rinaldo (alias Luke Reynard) who is suggestive of the fox archetype.
  • 2012 - Martin G. Parker's They Also Raise Chickens has a central character called Charles Todd - Charlie and Mr Todd being nicknames used by hunters for the fox. The title of the book is a quotation from Chapter 21 (The Little Prince and the Fox) of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.


Animated movies and series[edit]


Feature movies[edit]

Popular music[edit]

Folk music[edit]

  • Mr Fox 1970s folk rock band.
  • Heather Dale's song, "The Black Fox", based on the Graham Pratt poem,
  • June Tabor - Reynard The Fox
  • What Time Is It Mr Fox? --Boston area eclectic band; name derived from Victorian children's game.

Band's logo is a mixture of an anthropomorphic fox and a question mark.


Video games, card games, comics[edit]

  • Miles "Tails" Prower, a two-tailed fox that can spin his tails like a helicopter to fly, from the popular Sonic the Hedgehog series by a branch of Sega; Sonic Team.
  • Fox McCloud, James McCloud, and Krystal from the Star Fox series of Nintendo video games.
  • Keaton of the Legend of Zelda video games.
  • Pokémon - Vulpix and Ninetales. Zorua and Zoroark are the Tricky Fox and Illusory Fox Pokémon, respectively. Fennekin is more clearly based on the fennec fox.
  • Luigi wearing the Super Leaf in Super Mario 3D Land, New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario 3D World. Luigi's Tanooki form is now kitsune-themed and called Kitsune Luigi.
  • Vyper, a kung-fu fox whom Benson the Cat has a crush on from The Agents franchise.
  • Inspector Carmelita Montoya Fox, a police officer in the Sly Cooper series of video games.
  • Rif and his girlfriend in the computer game Inherit the Earth: Quest for the Orb.
  • The James Bond parody Spy Fox, star of a computer game series.
  • Connecticut Fox, character of the Stewniverse.
  • Crazy Redd, the black market salesman from the Animal Crossing games.
  • Sherlock Holmes parody Slylock Fox comic strips from Slylock Fox & Comics for Kids
  • Fox in Animal Kaiser card namco fighting animals kitsune
  • Raposão/McFox, a character from the Brazilian comic series Lionel's Kingdom.
  • Fix and Foxi, a German comic series where the title characters are two fox brothers.
  • In Trickster Online, Fox is the female sense type character.
  • The character Reynard in the comic 'Fables' is a fox based at the 'upstate Fable community' or 'The Farm' where all non-human Fables have to live. He is one of the good Fables and has helped save central characters.
  • In the trading card game Magic: The Gathering, Eight-and-a-Half-Tails is a legendary fox monk of great power and purity.
  • Video game series, Metal Gear Solid, the special forces group is known as "Fox-Hound". It has a logo of either a fox carrying a knife in its mouth, or a cartoon fox with a grenade in one hand, and a machine pistol in the other. Fox is also the highest level codename an operative can receive, designating the highest level of skill. The title of Grey Fox was given to Frank Jaeger.
  • Ninetails, a major boss character from the game Ōkami. Its source of power is the Fox Rods, which contain nine Tube Foxes, one for each tail. During battle with Ninetails, the tails turn into women and must be defeated individually. (It should be noted that this character's name is spelled differently than Ninetales'.)
  • Titus the Fox: To Marrakech and Back, fox mascot in a platform game
  • In the Image Comics series Kiss: The Psycho Circus #14 and #15, the members of Kiss are portrayed as supernatural beings who train a Feudal Japanese samurai to outsmart supernatural foxes. The warrior outsmarts the fox spirits by applying the fox makeup identity of the late Kiss drummer Eric Carr
  • In the video game Drawn To Life for the Nintendo DS handheld system, the charters of the village are "Raposas" which is Portuguese for fox
  • In the webcomic The Whiteboard three characters are foxes: Swampy, Red, and Sandy.
  • Kitsune (or Fox) in Persona 4 who is part of the social links.
  • Jade Empire, the RPG by BioWare, contains fox spirits as well as a non-playable character who uses the alias Silk Fox.
  • Psycho Fox, the main character in a Sega Master System game of the same name.
  • Ninjara, a character who appeared in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Archie Comics. She was also Raphael's girlfriend.
  • The main female protagonist in Neil Gaiman's "The Dream Hunters" illustrated novella, and comic is a legendary Kitsune (Asian Fox-spirit).
  • Scarlet Ann Starfox and the Solar Foxes whom feature in the anthropomorphic comic book series Extinctioners.
  • The 2009 video game League of Legends includes a kumiho character named Ahri, the nine-tailed fox.
  • The Android game Happy Street features a main character who is a red fox named Billy.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic series from IDW Publishing features the character of Alopex, an Arctic fox ninja.
  • The popular horror game Five Nights at Freddy's features the animatronic character Foxy the Pirate Fox.
  • Also in Five Nights at Freddy's (but exclusive to the second game), the Mangle is a pile of haphazardly assembled animatronic parts featuring a head which is similar to that of Foxy the Pirate Fox, but fashioned to resemble a ventriloquist's dummy.
  • Gregg is one of the main characters of the video game Night in the Woods.




The fox and castle on the coat of arms of Châteaurenard, France
Reynard and vixen supporting the arms of La Boussac, France


Morris and folk dancing[edit]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Benton, Janetta Rebold (1 April 1997). Holy Terrors: Gargoyles on Medieval Buildings. Abbeville Press. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-7892-0182-9. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Katherine Berrin & Larco Museum (1997). The Spirit of Ancient Peru:Treasures from the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York: Thames and Hudson.
  5. ^ Pirḳe Abot, iv. 15 [1]
  6. ^ Shenanigan, Your
  7. ^ Arthur Koestler, "Arrow in the Blue - An Autobiography", London, 1953, Ch. 10
  8. ^ Nihon Shoki Chapter 7
  9. ^ David Garnett (1922). Lady into Fox. London: Chatto and Windus, retrieved from Gutenberg
  10. ^ Fox Affair at Sunset with English translation at BabelMatrix
  11. ^
  12. ^ The Love of Simon Fox, Schork, Jonathan, sms2 2016
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Foxes Jumping on my Trampoline Video". 
  15. ^ Benton, Janetta Rebold (1 April 1997). Holy Terrors: Gargoyles on Medieval Buildings. Abbeville Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-7892-0182-9. 

External links[edit]