Skip to main content
Ages 13+
Under 13
A red fox in the woods.

Foxes: Possessors of the Most Beautiful Look in the World


A red incarnation of intelligence and guile, messengers and masters of deceit, foxes possess immense power, even in the world of men.

There are few things as powerful as a look, from deep within the eyes of a wizard or a warrior or from the eyes of the animals with whom we share the world. Of all the creatures inhabiting the planet, foxes have been endowed with human characteristics, represented prolifically, and honored in multiple and mysterious ways. Thus they’ve been for thousands of years. They’re also the purveyors of a powerful and seductive mythology.

It was long believed that seeing a fox was a sign of the world of the dead. (Perhaps this was because they are already deeply portentous.) Nearly all cultures have endowed these beautiful animal with magical powers and unmatched intelligence. Sometimes foxes are masters bearing great wisdom. At other times they are touched by evil beings, thanks especially to their ability to deceive.

A messenger in ancient Mesopotamia, the fox played an important role in the cultures of all Asia. For the Chinese, the fox is an animal related to the afterlife. In Korea, the fox is a master swindler capable of seducing and then stealing women. The Japanese, though, saw the fox as a symbol of longevity and a spirit of the rain, as well as the messenger of Inari, a god of rice.

To the Celts the fox was a guide, (no one knows the forest, or the world of the spirits, as does the fox). The ancient Greeks perceived an animal characterized by its great capacity for trickery, cunning and deception. Remember the foxes of Aesop’s fables: incarnations of greed, they were beings capable of betraying any other animal that crossed their path.

For Native American cultures in the north, the fox embodied an animal-messenger. But for those on the southern plains, the fox is a dexterous beguiler, an animal that leads men to death.

In the Christian world of the Middle Ages, the fox was related to the Devil. An incarnation of evil, he was a swindler with base skills, always envious of his adversaries. Calling a woman a vixen remains, even today, not only a complaint over her loose morals, but over her quarrelsome and contrary nature.

Collage of illustrations of foxes in world myth.

Playful, agile and inspiring of an immense tenderness, the fox and the accompanying mythology speak deeply of human nature, rather than of any true characteristics of this beautiful canid. An animal and a mirror, the fox is capable of reflecting the highest human virtues like wisdom and spirituality, and also the basest vices; opportunism and lies.

It might be worth asking: what’s in this red and shiny coat, in those sweet, nearly childlike eyes? And in its agility, speed and quickness? What is it in this dramatic essence, that has inspired the infinite readings bestowed upon the fox by humankind?

Related Articles