There may be political interpretations of current events read into
the story if one is inclined to read into such stories such things—and
if so, there is also a solution.
Greed, envy, egotism, anger, theft, philosophy, love and good counsel
are handled beautifully and humorously.
What is told between the lines is full of meaning, clear as crystal
and enchantingly told.
The frog liked to show how far he could jump, the deer always wanted
to run a race, the monkey would put up a target for them to throw at,
the bear would dance on his hind legs while the crickets and the
grasshoppers were the band, and when the circus was over, the porcupine
would invite them to a quill-ting party.
Or, if they grew tired of fun and frolic, the pouyou would tell them
stories about a land far beyond the Sun's Nest, where the birds and
butterflies, the parrots and lizards were redder than red and greener
than green; and again, of a wide world of water with houses that rocked
all the time, floating on top of it; but where these houses came from
or where they went, he had been much too sick to find out, although he
had been in one of them for a whole month!
And when the thunder rumbled and flashes of lightning shot through
the leaves, the owls shut their eyes in terror and the poor little
fireflies put out their lights, and they would whisper to each other
that the dragon must be around. Then they would all scamper away and
hide until morning—or what they thought was morning.
And then when it was daylight for sure, they wouldn't be a bit
afraid, and each one would say the other one ran first, and he only ran
because some one behind pushed him and he couldn't help it. And they
would pooh! pooh! and declare in a chorus that they didn't believe
there was any such thing as a dragon! But the fox, who was usually a
big talker, never had anything to say except once, when he told them
quite seriously he hoped there was a real, true, live dragon. But no
one believed him.
They did not know that when he was a baby fox, only about the size of
a cat, and lived in the Fertile Plain of Sweet Flags, one cool and dewy
night, his mother made a bed of leaves behind a log and, as she cuddled
him close to her warm body she told him how to know if the dogs were
She said when the wind brought him a hot breath out of a cold nose, a
breath that smelt like it had a bark in it, he must listen with both
ears, and after that if he heard a sound that was neither hungry nor
angry, but came full-tilt out of a throat just bursting with joy, he
would know that the dogs were on his trail, for they only chased
animals for the fun of catching them, and because a fox was so cunning
it was great sport to run him down. And if he saw strange tracks, in
which had lodged a caterpillar's hair on an ant's egg, the dogs had
passed the day before, but if the tracks were bare, the feet that made
them were not far away.
And she added, if he were smart enough never, never to let the dogs
get after him, when he was a thousand years old a dragon would give him
nine golden tails! It was true no one had ever seen a fox with more
than one tail, but in the Legend, or Tails of Ancient Things, which was
written on the bark of the oldest trees, it had always been said that
there would be one fox who would in this way become the hero of all
foxdom, and perhaps he would be that very one if he learned to be
clever and careful. And, as his mother was the wisest fox on earth, he
knew that she knew what she was talking about, and he was glad now to
hear there was a real dragon somewhere about.
In fact, Napantantutu was exactly the kind of a home the fox was
looking for, dragon and all, and he was quite sure he could pass a
thousand quiet years here without ever hearing the bark of a dog. He no
longer jumped at the sound of every crackling twig or put his ear to
the ground before he sat down to rest, and often he would lie for hours
on some cool knoll licking his paws and thinking up some prank to play
on his neighbors. And he grew fat and saucy and lazy, and whisked his
one insignificant tail proudly as he walked.
But alas! there came an end to these delightful days. Late in the
afternoon of his hundredth birthday, as he stood watching two ants wage
a fierce battle over a grain of rice, close behind him he heard a sound
that made his very blood run cold. He raised his head and sniffed the
air, then stood trembling.