Gon, the Little Fox
|Original title||ごん狐 Gongitsune|
|Translator||Mariko Shii Gharbi|
|Genre||Fable, Children's literature|
|Media type||Print (paperback), (hardback)|
Gon, the Little Fox (ごん狐 Gongitsune) is a Japanese children's story about the life of a little fox called Gon. The story is considered the masterpiece of Niimi Nankichi, also sometimes known as the Hans Christian Andersen of Japan.
Gon (Japanese: ごん) is a little fox. Looking for food he comes to a little village where he repeatedly steals food and creates other mischief, constantly evading the angry villagers.
One day Gon steals an eel in front of Hyoju, which Hyoju (Japanese: 兵十, ひょうじゅう) wanted to give to his sick old mother. His mother subsequently dies. Gon realizes his mistake and tries to make it up by secretly giving Hyoju gifts he stole, although the villagers now accuse Hyoju of stealing and beat him up. Afterwards, Gon only gives mushrooms and nuts he collected in the forest. Hyoju is grateful for the gifts, although he does not know where they come from. One day, Hyoju sees the fox sneaking around, and shoots him to death out of anger about the death of his mother. Only afterwards does he realize to his horror that the fox he just shot gave him all the mushrooms and nuts.
Japanese stories do not always have a happy end. In this story, Hyoju's mother dies, Gon gets shot by Hyoju while trying to make up for his errors, and Hyoju feels guilty for shooting the fox that was trying to help him. The moral is often interpreted that everybody has to accept his fate.
Foxes (see kitsune) are also seen in Japanese culture as magical and often mischievous animals. Some folk tales tell stories how foxes change shape to impersonate other beings and objects. Gon also mimics humans on occasions, although there seem to be no magical powers involved.
The eel stolen by Gon may have accelerated or caused the death of Hyoju's mother. Dishes with eels have a reputation in Japan for providing strength, especially during the heat of the summer (see kabayaki).
Nankichi wrote the story in 1930 when he was seventeen, based on a Japanese folk tale he heard. He wrote the story in Handa, Aichi prefecture, the town where he was born. He also lost his mother when he was 4 years old, and was touched deeply by the tale. Like Gon, Nankichi also did not live very long and died at age 29 of tuberculosis.
Gon, The Fox received favorable reviews. Marilyn Taniguchi writing for the School Library Journal described it as a "poignant tale (that) will resonate with older readers, who will empathize with the struggles of a lonely outsider." and suggested "Teachers will also appreciate the glimpse into Japan’s rich culture." Kirkus Reviews wrote "A lot of information about Japanese culture and custom is imparted in the course of this telling," and commented "(Illustrator Genjirou) Mita’s beautiful and delicate original watercolors offer readers’ eyes large and lovely resting places as they make their ways through this long tale." concluding "The startling and violent ending may make it difficult to find an audience, but it is a valuable introduction to a non-Western storytelling aesthetic." JQ Magazine called it "a valuable read for young people".
- Marilyn Taniguchi (May 2015). "Gon, the Little Fox". School Library Journal. 61 (5): 90. ISSN 0362-8930. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
- "Gon, The Little Fox". www.kirkusreviews.com. Kirkus Media LLC. 3 March 2015. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
- Rashaad Jorden. "JQ Magazine: Book Review — 'Gon, the Little Fox'". JQ Magazine. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
- Japan Mint: 2007 Coin Set with the story of Gon, the Little Fox
- Gongitsune (film) at Anime News Network's encyclopedia