The cover to Hunter's Moon
|LC Class||PR6061.I39 H86 1989|
Hunter's Moon, known as The Foxes of Firstdark in the United States, is a novel by English fantasy author Garry Kilworth, published in 1989. It concerns the lives of a group of foxes, who are anthropomorphised to some extent, but are not shown as performing any action physically impossible for the species.
The protagonist of the story of O-Ha, a beautiful yet proud vixen fox who keeps to traditional and conservative country ways. The story is rich in mythology and the author creates stories about the fox and animal cultures. The foxes perform prayers before eating, after eating and before entering the den. The foxes believe in a Perfect Here, which is supposed to be a heaven for animals.
O-ha is a young vixen that has found happiness with her mate A-ho. Soon thereafter, however, a fox hunt ends with A-ho's death. O-ha attempts to move on and moves into a badger sett in which she meets the badger Gar. When she feels that she is about to give birth to her cubs she moves out into a shed and her six cubs are born. On one of her food forages into a manor garden, O-ha is assailed by Sabre, a ridgeback hound. She escapes him, but Sabre leads his master to the shed, and O-ha is unable to save any of her cubs. Sabre, however, swears to one day kill O-ha, as no other creature had ever escaped him as she did.
Meanwhile, Camio, an American Red Fox, is being held in a zoo. One night, he escapes from the zoo. He hops a train into the countryside. His travels eventually lead him to Trinity Wood, near which a town is now being constructed. There, he meets O-ha and falls in love with her, but she refuses his attempts to approach her. At one point, O-ha tells Camio that any fox who could kill Sabre would receive her love. Soon after Camio departs, and O-ha, believing that he had gone to confront the hound, heads to the manor to intervene. Camio had instead consulted a fox mystic, who tells him O-ha was herself heading to the manor, thinking he was there already. He rushes to rescue her and with Camio's help and the appearance of a flock of geese travelling south do they escape the clutches of Sabre. O-ha and Camio become closer, and they finally move into an earth together. O-ha and Camio eventually mate. However, when a fox mystic commits ritual suicide in the middle of the new town's square, the residents believe that there has been an outbreak of rabies and systematically begin killing all animals that they encounter. O-ha and Camio barely escape and they flee north to the marshes. There they encounter Breaker, an old Foxhound that had once led the hunts, but who had with age been deposed and sent to a farm, and eventually chased away when feared to have rabies. Finally, they decide that enough time has passed since the humans attacked the animals, and O-ha and Camio return to the town, where they move into the depths of a scrapyard, and Breaker returns to his farm. At the scrapyard, O-ha gives birth to four cubs, but one does not survive the first night. The three other are given the names O-mitz, A-cam, and A-sac (who is an albino). Soon the time of dispersal approaches. O-mitz decides to drop the traditional gender distinction before her name and calls herself Mitz. A-sac and his sister grow up as normal cubs, but A-sac expresses his desire to become a fox mystic, to his parents' dismay, after talking to a rangfar (A wandering fox).
One day A-cam and Mitz decide to go to the manor to see what their parents were always warning them about, and are attacked by Sabre, who bites off A-cam's tail. He barely escapes and makes it out to safety, but is dizzy and weak from blood loss. He collapses on a nearby road, and is picked up by some humans who take him away. Mitz returns to her parent's earth and informs them of what happened to A-cam, whom they mourn. Soon thereafter, Mitz goes out to search for an earth of her own, whiles A-sac goes off to meet the fox mystic O-toltol. At the same time, Sabre has escaped from the manor and goes into the town seeking to find and kill O-ha and her family. Mitz almost encounters him, and flees into a nearby house with an open door. The human occupants, unsure of what to do, call in a man that expertly manages to capture and cage her. He then drives to his home, where Mitz meets the friendly St. Bernard dog Betsy. The man who kidnapped her spends some time studying Mitz, before putting a tracking collar around her neck. He drives her back to the city after Betsy explains that he plans to follow Mitz around from a distance, simply taking notes. When Mitz informs her of Sabre, Betsy promises that she'll be safe as long as she can be followed because of the collar.
Further north, A-sac has been making his way through the dangerous marshes to O-toltol, who resides within an ancient human tomb, in order to become her assistant. When he finally reaches her, he is disappointed by the crude condition that her home, as well as herself, is in. After being shown into the damp, cold tomb and hearing O-toltol's strange views on humans, A-sac decides to return home. He begins suspecting that something is strange about O-toltol. A-sac becomes even more suspicious when he finds a pile of large bones in one of the tomb's corners. O-toltol insists that A-sac stay to rest and lays down by the exit, barring the way. A-sac feigns to be sleeping, and in the middle of the night O-toltol approaches him and tries to nudge him over, to expose his throat. A-sac fears for his life and clamps his jaws down on her throat, wrestling to hold on to her as she struggles to get away. Finally, he throws O-toltol against the tomb and her back collides against its corner. She loses all her strength and goes limp, slowly dying. A-sac, frightened and shocked, shouts his suspicions that she had been a cannibal who had got rangfars to send young foxes to her. Although not talking directly to him, what could be O-toltol's spirit or A-sac's own consciousness rebukes his accusations. Unsure of whether the vixen had been guilty or innocent, A-sac leaves, emotionally and mentally shaken. He makes his way to the sea and becomes convinced that the fox deity A-O has given him the mission to purge the Earth of evil. He comes to believe that killing O-toltol had been his first mission, and that he now has to go back to the town and kill the 'giant'. He makes his way there, and quickly encounters Sabre. Sure of his quarry, A-sac savagely attacks Sabre, but proves no match for the giant Ridgeback and is killed.
Shortly afterwards, Camio and Mitz find themselves outside the safety of their earth when they encounter Sabre. They flee and the giant dog takes up pursuit, but are saved when Betsy and her master interfere. Camio is convinced that the humans must be able to catch Sabre soon, as the giant dog has been roaming the streets for several days. As these events have unfolded, A-cam also had an adventure of his own. After being picked up by the humans, he was driven to a veterinarian that treated his wound. The humans then left A-cam on the side of the road by a nearby field, not realizing that they had left him far away from his home. Completely lost and having problems with his balance after the loss of his tail, A-cam manages to live off the countryside and travels far in an attempt to find his way home again, slowly adapting to his lack of a tail. Shortly after sighting the first landmark, A-cam stumbles upon a fox farm, which he must cross in order to get home. As he traverses the compound, he meets the twin vixens O-sollo and O-fall, whom he agrees to help escape. After escaping the compound under gunfire, O-sollo agrees to become his mate. As winter approaches, A-cam decides to visit his parents one last time, to inform them of his good condition and ask them for advice on living through the winter. He makes it to their earth, much to the family's jubilation, but just then Sabre finds their home. He tries to make his way through the trash and metal in order to reach them, but he is too big and he destabilizes the heap, bringing scrap metal falling down on himself. As the family of foxes escapes, Sabre is captured by the humans.
Peace returns as A-cam moves away to live with his mate and start a family, and O-ha and Camio create a new earth by the new railway, with Mitz temporarily moving in with them. As winter falls upon the land, Camio becomes sick. In order to try to save him, O-ha goes out foraging in the middle of a blizzard. She fights her way onward, and when the blizzard stops and the sun breaks through the clouds, O-ha finds herself in the situation that she had so often seen in her nightmares: standing in the white snow as the sun makes the shadows of trees fall around her like black bars. Just then, Sabre appears, being walked by his master. Upon sighting O-ha, who flees, Sabre breaks free of his master's grip and gives chase. She manages to elude him all the way to a farm, where she flees into a barn. There, Sabre reveals that he had killed A-sac and then tries to kill O-ha, biting his jaws into her ear. She tears herself away and flees deeper into the farm, with Sabre close on her heels. Just as he is about to reach her, she is saved by Breaker the foxhound, who is mortally injured after a brief struggle with Sabre. O-ha runs onto a frozen pond and Sabre follows her, but his greater weight is too much for the ice and he falls through. Nevertheless, he continues to try to reach O-ha by breaking the ice towards her, and comes as close as clamping his jaws down on her hind leg and trying to drag her down with him, but she escapes him and Sabre sinks to his icy death alone. O-ha goes over to Breaker and thanks him for saving her, but the Foxhound's injuries are mortal, and he dies. O-ha then returns to Camio, bringing him some food, and when questioned about her ear she replies that it was just a little tussle with an ermine.
O-ha and Camio finally find a lasting peace. They have two more litters, and Mitz finds a mate of her own and has her own litters. A-cam, who changed his name to A-salla in order to respect the tradition of reflecting his mate's name, has also established a happy life. At the conclusion of the story, O-ha and Camio are old and after leaving their earth one winter, O-ha lies down and dies peacefully. She follows a spirit to the Perfect Here after Camio performs the last rites on her, and after informing Mitz of her mother's death, he returns to his earth, contemplating the loneliness that he now feels.