Brer Fox tackles Brer Tarrypin, 1881

"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.

This article discusses foxes in culture.

Cultural connotations

In many cultures, the fox appears in folklore as a symbol of cunning and trickery, or as a familiar animal possessed of magic powers. The common iconism of fox as a cunning creature most probably originates in the old indo-Iranian fables gathered in the Kalīlah wa Dimnah.

In Dogon mythology, the pale fox is the trickster god of the desert, who embodies chaos.[1][2]

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.

The term "foxy" in English is defined as meaning - as the obvious "having the qualities of a fox" - also "attractive" and "sexy", as well as "red-haired".[3] And "to outfox" means "to beat in a competition of wits", the synonym of "outguess", "outsmart" or "outwit".[4]

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 terrorised by a nine- tailed fox

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.[5] 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.


nine-tailed fox, from the Qing edition of the Shan Hai Jing

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.

The words "fox" or "foxy" have become slang in Western 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.

The fox theme is often associated with transformation in European and East Asian literature. There are four main types of fox stories:

  • 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

In the Middle Ages and even into the Renaissance, foxes, which were associated with wiliness and fraudulent behavior, were sometimes burned as symbols of the Devil.[7]

Arthur Koestler notes in his autobiography [8] that when he attended the University of Vienna in the 1920s, Freshman students were known as "Fuechse" (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.

Literature (in chronological order)

Obake Karuta 3-01

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.

Gatto e volpe

The Fox and the Cat in Pinocchio, as drawn by Enrico Mazzanti.

Young Children books

  • 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.
  • 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.

Books with loose fox motifs

  • 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 - 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


Feature Movies

Popular Music

Folk Music


The_World_of_David_the_Gnome 1980-1990's animated show

Video Games, Card Games, Comics

  • 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. Eevee is a most likely based on the fennec fox. Zorua and Zoroark are the Tricky Fox and Illusory Fox Pokémon, respectively. Fennekin is more clearly based on the fennec fox.
  • Vyper, a kung-fu fox whom Benson the Cat has a crush on from The Agents franchise.
  • Fiona Fox, a red, female fox who was originally portrayed as a robot; then an organic version was later created for Sonic the Hedgehog, whom Tails had a crush on until she revealed that she was too old for him, then subsequently dated Sonic and finally Scourge, becoming a sexy villain.
  • Inspector Carmelita 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.



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



Morris and Folk Dancing




  3. Foxy in Wikitionary
  4. Outfox in Wikitionary
  5. Katherine Berrin & Larco Museum (1997). The Spirit of Ancient Peru:Treasures from the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York: Thames and Hudson.
  6. Shenanigan, Your
  7. Benton, Janetta Rebold (1 April 1997). Holy Terrors: Gargoyles on Medieval Buildings. Abbeville Press. pp. 82. ISBN 978-0-7892-0182-9. 
  8. Arthur Koestler, "Arrow in the Blue - An Autobiography", London, 1953, Ch. 10
  9. Nihon Shoki Chapter 7
  10. David Garnett (1922). Lady into Fox. London: Chatto and Windus, retrieved from Gutenberg
  12. "Foxes Jumping on my Trampoline Video". 
  13. Benton, Janetta Rebold (1 April 1997). Holy Terrors: Gargoyles on Medieval Buildings. Abbeville Press. pp. 83. ISBN 978-0-7892-0182-9. 

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