The Trickster in Your Own Backyard

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

As our towns and housing developments encroach on the private domain of wildlife,  there are more and more sightings of foxes on manicured suburban lawns.  Foxes are resourceful and adaptable creatures. In Japanese mythology, they are supernatural beings whose wisdom increases with age. In Finnish folklore, the fox is a cunning trickster, acting more for his own benefit than with any malice toward others. The word shenanigan (a deceitful confidence trick, or mischief) very likely comes from the Irish expression sionnachuighim, meaning “I play the fox.”  Here are a few meditations on what we might learn from these encounters, and why it’s advantageous to consider the fox in us.

Blessing by the animal still goes on in our civilized lives…Let’s say you have a quick and clever side to your personality. You sometimes lie, you tend to shoplift, fires excite you, you’re hard to track and hard to trap; you have such a sharp nose that people are shy of doing business with you  for fear of being outfoxed. Then you dream of a fox!

Now that fox isn’t merely an image of your “shadow problem,” your propensity to stealth. That fox also gives an archetypal backing to your behavioral traits, placing them more deeply in the nature of things. The  fox comes into your dream as a kind of teacher, a doctor animal, who knows lots more than you do about those traits of yours. And that’s a blessing. Instead of a symptom or a  character disorder, you now have a fox to live with and you need to keep an eye on each other.    

— James Hillman, Imaginal Psychologist

 

She lowered her eyes, and suddenly saw the fox. He was looking up at her. Her chin was pressed down, and his eyes were looking up…She was spellbound — she knew he knew her. So he looked into her eyes, and her soul failed her. He knew her, he was not daunted.
― D. H. Lawrence, The Fox

 

By Winslow Homer - The Athenaeum: Home - info - pic, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8825940

In folktales,   Russell, my first name, means “sly fox.” It comes from a word meaning “red” and that red got associated with the red-tailed fox. People who know me know I am true to my name. I had a dream once in which I saw a hole in the ground around my home. An odd light emanated from it, seemed to quiver in that curious way one sees (air) on a hot highway. The morning of the dream I went walking about the land and what caught my eye was a stone that was sparkling in the sunlight. I sat down there and watched that light. Then I could feel “something else.” I looked up, and a few feet away stood a fox. He was watching me. I watched him. 

After a time, he turned and walked back into the woods, stopping several times to look back at me. The dream of the light from a hole in the ground led me to a rock that was sparkling in the sunlight and that led me into being face to face with a fox. I lay back on the ground, full of this encounter with the fox, and what happened then was a flood-tide of memories… of  a story I had written in junior high school called “When Dreams Stopped.” It was a story about what happened to the world when there was no more time for dreams. The dreams rebelled by disappearing altogether, and the world was without dreams for a long time.

Then a young boy began to experience strange things in this sleep. His worried parents took him to doctors, and he was declared “mad” because he would speak “nonsense” about animals talking to him in his sleep, about trees talking to him, about rocks and plants telling him things and that these things would “come true” and they would happen in the world. By then no one knew (these were) dreams. 

Over the years, I have wanted to turn this story into a novel and always got stopped,  just like the dreams got stopped in the story, and as… in the dream I had that prompted the story in the first place. More recently, and sparked by dreams—especially by a dream owl with a quill pen—I have begun writing again, and this time I am making progress.                 

—Russell Lockhart, Jungian Analyst in conversation with Rob Henderson

By Ibn al-Muqaffa' - http://www.bridgemanartondemand.com/art/77364/The_Fox_and_the_Crow_illustration_from_The_Fables_of_Bidpai, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10686316

One bright morning as the Fox was following his sharp nose through the wood in search of a bite to eat, he saw a Crow on the limb of a tree overhead. This was by no means the first Crow the Fox had ever seen. What caught his attention this time and made him stop for a second look, was that the lucky Crow held a bit of cheese in her beak.

“No need to search any farther,” thought sly Master Fox. “Here is a dainty bite for my breakfast.”

Up he trotted to the foot of the tree in which the Crow was sitting, and looking up admiringly, he cried, “Good-morning, beautiful creature!”

The Crow, her head cocked on one side, watched the Fox suspiciously. But she kept her beak tightly closed on the cheese and did not return his greeting.

“What a charming creature she is!” said the Fox. “How her feathers shine! What a beautiful form and what splendid wings! Such a wonderful Bird should have a very lovely voice, since everything else about her is so perfect. Could she sing just one song, I know I should hail her Queen of Birds.”

Listening to these flattering words, the Crow forgot all her suspicion, and also her breakfast. She wanted very much to be called Queen of Birds. So she opened her beak wide to utter her loudest caw, and down fell the cheese straight into the Fox’s open mouth.

“Thank you,” said Master Fox sweetly, as he walked off. “Though it is cracked, you have a voice sure enough. But where are your wits?”

The flatterer lives at the expense of those who will listen to him.

The Fox & the Crow.  From the Æsop for Children

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