The Cunning Little Vixen

Rudolf Tesnohlidek, Author, Maritza Morgan, Translator, Robert T. Jones, Translator Random House Value Publishing $19.95 (185p) ISBN 978-0-374-13346-7
First published in 1920, this hugely popular Czech tale is only now translated into English, though it has long been familiar to Americans through the Leos Janacek opera based on it. The eponymous vixen is trapped by a forester and raised for a time in his home, where she adapts for her own needs the ways of humans and their house pets. All her basest instincts are sharpened: she kills fowl less to feed her body than her pride; she flatters adoring young males for personal gain and leaves them heart-broken; she mouths church litany to allay the suspicions of woodland critics. But when a handsome young fox takes a shine to her, she is as defenseless as a schoolgirl, risking notoriety for the joys of sex. In other words, animals are neither better nor worse than humans, neither more nor less hypocritical, greedy and self-serving. That the whimsy is heavy-handed and the little vixen far from endearing may be the fault of the translation. Except in those passages where the beauty of the Bohemian landscape is evoked, the language is pedestrian and the dialogue filled with locutions difficult to utter in any tongue. But since fables and fairy tales have delighted generations of readers, this one will probably prove no exception, especially since Sendak's illustrations add enchantment and an implicit commentary: the humans are depicted as drab and dour, the denizens of the animal and insect worlds, as charming and fey. 50,000 first printing. November
Reviewed on: 05/01/1987
Release date: 05/01/1987
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