Foxy Books

The Cunning Little Vixen - Rudolf Tesnohlidek
Translation copyright (c)1985 by Tatiana Firkusny, Maritza Morgan & Robert T. Jones
Pictures copyright (c) 1985 by Maurice Sendak
Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York

Originally an illustrated serial feature published by the Czech newspaper Lidove Noviny between April 7 and June 23, 1920, The Cunning Little Vixen chronicles Vixen Sharpears´ adventures with the Forester Bartos. It proved immensely popular and was later published in book form. The story begins with the forester capturing baby Sharpears and taking her home to his family. She eventually escapes captivity, exacts revenge on the humans in a number of ways, and finally starts a family of her own. There are several funny scenes in the book, my favourites being the ousting of a badger from his home, one of Sharpears´ raids on the hen house resulting in Bartos taking an unexpected manure bath, and a battle in the forester´s kitchen in which the vixen and forester proceed to destroy the entire contents of his pantry.

The story is written in a poetic manner reminiscent of fairy tales, although Tesnohlidek explores several adult themes concerning love, religion, and nature. Given the time and place it was written, it´s a fairly risque piece. The overall theme of the work is of eternal life through nature´s continuous self renewal, although it´s expressed in a rather subtle, light hearted manner, occasionally tinged with melancholy. Robert T. Jones´ afterword offers insight behind the work and provides the reader with sufficient background to understand some of the more subtle jokes.

The story inspired Czech composer Leos Janacek to write his famous opera of the same title however the novel remained in obscurity outside of Czechoslovakia. This English translation was first published in 1985 and is beautifully illustrated by Maurice Sendak although I haven´t been able to obtain permission to include any of his pictures with this review. 186 pages

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Richard T. Matheson
(c) 1997 by FoxSTAR Arts