Mr Fox

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A skeleton of the tale


(The rather "fleshy" skeleton below may help you to tell the story yourself.)

Lady Mary, seven brothers, and many suitors. Rejected all, until she met Mr Fox.
No one knew who he was, nor where he came from. He told her about the house where they would live, but never took her there.

She wanted to know.

Day before the wedding, rode through the forest to find it.
Came to a wall, above the gate was written: Be bold, be bold.
She was bold went through the gate.

Came to the house, above the door: Be bold, be bold. But not too bold.
But she was bold went in.

Staircase went up.
Small door: Be bold, be bold. But not too bold lest that your heart's blood should run cold.
But she was bold opened the door.

Hanging from hooks on the wall, row upon row, bodies of young women, white wedding-clothes stained red by their own blood.
Screamed, ran down stairs.
Saw through window, Mr Fox coming, dragging yet another woman, her white wedding-clothes stained red with her own blood.

Lady Mary hid as Mr Fox dragged woman to stairs.
Young woman with last strength put out her hand (a hand with a ring) to hold onto banisters.
He saw the diamond ring. Drew sword, cut off hand.
Hand flew through air, landed on Lady Mary's lap.
He couldn't find hand, dragged body upstairs to bloody chamber.

Next day, wedding feast. "My dear, you seem so pale."
Bad dream.
"Oh, dreams are always the opposite. But tell me your dream."

I dreamt I rode to look for your house wall gate Be bold, be bold.
Mr Fox: "It is not so, nor it was not so."

I dreamt I saw a door Be bold, be bold. But not too bold.
"It is not so, nor it was not so."

I dreamt I saw a small door Be bold, be bold. But not too bold lest that your heart's blood should run cold.
"It is not so, nor it was not so."

I dreamt I saw bodies.
"It is not so, nor it was not so. And God forbid that it should be so."

I dreamt I saw you dragging another young woman.
"It is not so, nor it was not so. And God forbid that it should be so."

I dreamt I saw her hand with a diamond ring.
"It is not so, nor it was not so. And God forbid that it should be so."

But it is so, and it was so. Here's hand and ring I have to show.

Lady Mary's brothers drew swords cut Mr Fox into a thousand pieces!


Watch the tale here

About the tale

This is a story that was old in Shakespeare's time. In Much Ado About Nothing, Benedick says:
Like the old tale, my lord: 'it is not so, nor 'twas not so, but, indeed, God forbid it should be so.'

Teaching activity

For an article on the methodology of using a story to initiate classroom discussion, see Discussing Mr Fox in Humanising Language Teaching (Year 4, Issue 4, July 2002).

Article on horror in folk tales

Here is a short examination of the role of horror in traditional tales and the process of disneyfication which has been going on for many years, taking that horror out: And they lived happily never after.

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