Fantastic Mr Fox
|Fantastic Mr. Fox|
First edition cover
|Illustrator||Donald Chaffin (original)
Jill Bennett (first 1974 UK Puffin paperback edition)
|Publisher|| George Allen & Unwin (original UK)
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (original US)
Penguin Books (current)
Fantastic Mr Fox is a children's novel written by British author Roald Dahl. It was published in 1970 by George Allen & Unwin in the UK and Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S., with illustrations by Donald Chaffin. The first UK Puffin paperback edition, first issued in 1974, featured illustrations by Jill Bennett. Later editions have featured illustrations by Tony Ross (1988) and Quentin Blake (1996). The story is about Mr Fox and how he outwits his farmer neighbours to steal their food from right under their noses.
The story revolves around an anthropomorphic, tricky, clever fox named Mr. Fox who lives underground beside a tree with his wife and four children. In order to feed his family, he makes nightly visits to farms owned by three wicked, cruel, dimwitted farmers named Boggis, Bunce, and Bean and snatches the livestock or food available on each man's respective farm. Tired of being outsmarted by Mr. Fox, the farmers devise a plan to attempt to shoot him by sneaking up on him a certain distance from his hole, blasting shots at their enemy, only to shoot off his tail.
In order to successfully kill the fox, the farmers dig up his burrow using caterpillar tractors, although fortunately the family manages to escape by burrowing further beneath the earth to safety. The trio of farmers are ridiculed for their persistence, so they decide to gather by Mr. Fox's hole with tents and pointed guns in order to shoot him when he emerges. Cornered by his rivals, Mr. Fox and his family (along with all of the other families of underground creatures) are left to starve.
Suddenly, Mr. Fox devises a plot one day to acquire food. He and his children tunnel through the dirt and wind up burrowing to Boggis's hen-house, just as he had planned. Mr. Fox kills several chickens and sends some of his young to carry the food back home to Mrs. Fox for her to prepare a meal. Along the way to their next destination, Mr. Fox runs into his friend Badger and permits him to accompany him on his mission, and the group proceeds to tunnel to Bunce's farm and then to Bean's cider cellar (where they are nearly discovered by a hired woman named Mabel when she enters the room to collect a few jars of apple cider for Bean). They carry their findings back home, where a great celebratory smorgasbord is being served to the starving underground animals and their families. At the table, Mr. Fox invites everyone to live in a secret underground neighbourhood with him and his family, where he will hunt for them daily and no longer need to worry about predators. Everyone joyfully cheers for this idea, whereas Boggis, Bunce, and Bean are left waiting for the fox to emerge from his hole.
The book has been adapted into a film by director Wes Anderson. It was made using stop-motion animation and features the voices of George Clooney as Mr. Fox, Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox, Bill Murray as Badger, Hugo Guinness as Bunce, and Michael Gambon as Bean. The movie's plot focuses more on Mr. Fox's relationship to Mrs. Fox and his son, which is pitted against Mr. Fox's desire to steal chickens as a means of feeling like his natural self. The movie adds scenes before Mr. Fox attacks the three farmers and after their bulldozing of the hill, as well as a slightly altered ending and more background on Mr. Fox's past life as a thief.
The book was adapted into a play of the same name by David Wood and was first performed at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry in 2001. The play is licensed (in UK only) through Casarotto Ramsay Ltd. for repertory performances and Samuel French Ltd. for amateur performances.
Tobias Picker adapted the book into an opera (the only adaptation with origins in the US) which had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Opera performing 9–22 December in 1998. the Opera starred Gerald Finley as Mr. Fox and Suzanna Guzman as Mrs. Fox. A specially commissioned new version of this opera by Opera Holland Park was performed in the gardens and natural scenery of Holland Park in the summer of 2010 staged by Stephen Barlow. This version starred Grant Doyle as Mr. Fox, Olivia Ray as Mrs. Fox, Henry Grant Kerswell, Peter Kent and John Lofthouse as Farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean.