Mother Fox


Mother Fox

Grateful Crane

From the northern area, cold winter came to the forest where a mother fox and her cub lived.

One morning, the cub tried to get out from their cave.

“Ouch!” he cried, holding his eyes with his front paws as he rolled down to his mother, and said,

“Mom, something has stuck in my eyes. Take it out for me quickly.”

Mother Fox was surprised and nervously removed the cub’s paws from his face in a panic.
But she found nothing there.

The mother fox understood why, soon after she got out of their cave.
The pure-white snow fell heavily last night.
The sunshine was dazzling above it, and the snow was glary.
Since the fox cub had never seen any snow, he thought something had stuck to his eyes when he was blinded by the strong snow-reflection.

The cub got out of the cave to play.
As he ran around on the puffy snow, the snow-powder flew all over like a splash, and a tiny rainbow appeared.
Then something suddenly fell with a thud behind him, and he was covered by soft breadcrumb-like snow powder.
The cub was so surprised that he ran rolling down about ten meters in the snow field to escape from it.
He wondered what that was and looked back.
But he couldn’t find anything.
It was a lump of snow which slid off from a momi-fir.
Some white silk-thread-like snow was still falling down from between the branches.

Soon the fox cub returned to the cave, and said,

“Mom, my hands are cold. They are throbbing.”

He stretched out his hands to his mother, which were wet and turned pink.
The mother fox breathed on his cold hands and covered them with her warm ones softly, and said,

“They’ll become warm soon, when you touch the snow with your hands.”

Then she thought that she’d go to the town after dark to buy woolen gloves for him which would fit his hands so as not to get frostbitten.

The night became very dark.
It covered the fields and forests with its shade like a wide-spread furoshiki, a wrapping cloth.
But the snow was so white that it was still white under the night shade.

The two silver foxes, mother and son, left the cave.
The cub was walking under her mother’s belly, and was looking around here and there with his round eyes blinking.

Soon a light could be seen ahead of them.
The cub found it first, and asked,

“Mom, the star is lower at that place, right?”

“That’s not a star,”
she said.
She felt the strength leaving from her paws.

“That was a light in the town.”

As soon as she saw the light, she recalled her terrible experience when she had gone to the town with her friend.
She’d tried to stop her friend’s attempt to steal a farmer’s ducks, but her friend hadn’t heard her.
The two foxes had been found and chased by the farmer, and they had to run for their lives.

“Mom, what are you doing?
Let’s hurry to the town,”
the cub said to her under her belly.
But the mother fox couldn’t step ahead.
So she reluctantly made her son go to the town by himself.

“Hey, give me your hand, Kid,”
said the mother fox.
She held the cub’s hand for a while, then, it turned into a cute child’s hand.
The cub curiously opened it, made a fist, pinched it, and smelled it.

“I feel strange, Mom. What’s this?”
the cub said, staring at his new hand which was turned into a child’s.

“That’s a child’s hand.
Listen, when you reach the town, you’ll see a lot of people’s houses.
At first, look for a house which has a sign of a round hat.
Then knock on the door, saying,
‘Good evening.’
And then someone will open the door for you just a little bit.
Put this hand, see, your child’s hand, into the opening.
Say, ‘Will you give me a pair of gloves which are just right for my hands?’
Never put the other hand into it,”
the mother fox told her son.

“I don’t know why?”
the cub asked.

“You see, people don’t sell anything if they see their customer is a fox.
In fact, they’ll catch it and put it in a cage.
People are really awful.”

“Is that so?”

“Never put the other one into the opening.
Only this one, the child’s hand.”

The mother fox put two nickel coins in his child hand and make him hold them.

The fox cub toddled ahead in the field by the snow light.
At first, he saw one light in the town at a distance, then he saw two, three…ten lights.
The cub thought the colors of those lights were various; red, yellow, and blue…just like stars.

Soon he entered the town.
All the houses on the street had already closed, only the warm-looking light from their high windows showed on the snowy street.

But the signs on the main street mostly had little lights, so the cub could keep looking for the hat shop.
There were various signs; a bicycle’s, glasses’… some were newly painted, some others’ paint had peeled off.
He didn’t know what was what, since it was his first visit to the town.

Finally he found the hat shop.
As his mother said, the sign with a big black-silk hat was hanging on the wall shown with a blue light.

He knocked on the door as he was told, saying,

“Good evening.”

Then some sounds were heard, and the front door was opened about three centimeters.
A belt of a light stretched over the white snow on the street.
The light was so dazzling that the cub got flustered and put his wrong hand, the hand his mother told him not to show, into the opening of the door.

“Will you give me a pair of gloves just right for my hands?”

Then the owner of the hat shop thought,

“Oh, no, that’s a fox’s paw.
The one with the fox’s paw is asking me to sell a pair of gloves.
It might pay with a leaf instead of money.”

So he said,

“Give me the money you have first.”

The cub obediently handed him two nickels which he’d held all the way.
The shop owner put it on his index finger and clanked them together.
They made light sounds.
Since he believed they weren’t counterfeit, but real money, he took a pair of gloves for a child from a shelf, and handed them to the cub.
The fox cub said thank you and he started going back on the same street to their cave.

“Mom said people are terrible, but I don’t think so, because the hat shop owner didn’t do anything when he saw my hand,”
the cub thought.

But he wanted to see what people were like.

When he passed under a window, he heard a person’s voice.
What a gentle, beautiful, and placid voice it is!

Sleep, sleep. In the mother’s breast. Sleep, sleep. In the mother’s hands…

He thought the singing voice must be someone’s mother’s, because his mother also rocks him with such a gentle voice when he sleeps.

Then he heard a boy’s voice,

“Mom, during this cold night, a fox cub in the woods, must be crying, ‘I’m cold, I’m cold.’”

Then with his mother’s voice,

“The fox cub in the woods is trying to sleep in their cave with his mother’s song, isn’t he?
Now, be a good boy and go beddy-bye.
Who will be a better boy, you or the cub in the woods?
I’m sure you are the one.”

Hearing their conversation, the fox cub started missing his mother, and was hopping to the place where the mother fox had been waiting for him.

The mother fox had been worried about him, shivering with cold, and impatiently waiting for him coming back.
So when she saw him come back again, she felt so happy that she wanted to hug him tightly to her breast.

The two foxes went back to the forest.
The moon was seen that night, so that the foxes’fur looked silver by the reflection of the moon and their tracks colored cobalt.

“Mom, people aren’t awful at all, I think.”

“Why do you think so?”

“I put my real hand to the opening by mistake.
But the hat shop owner didn’t catch me.
He actually sold me these nice warm gloves,”
he said clapping his hands wearing gloves.

“Oh, dear!” the cub’s reply amazed her, and she murmured,

“People really have a good nature?
They are actually good things?”

Original by Nankichi Niimi

The end