I have recently read Fantastic Mr. Fox, an 81-page fantasy book published in 1970 written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake. Roald Dahl is a famous British children’s book author who has sold over 250 million copies of his stories across the world. Fantastic Mr. Fox won the Read Aloud Bilby award in 1994, and seven years later was adapted to a play by David Wood and a musical modification was performed around Christmas 2016 at the Nuffield Theater. In 2009 a movie was adapted from the book by Wes Anderson with actors such as George Clooney, Bill Murray and Meryl Streep as just a few of the voices. I read Fantastic Mr. Fox because I wanted to read a good book, so I looked through my bookshelf to try and find a novel that seems good. I found Fantastic Mr. Fox near the back of the shelf. I already knew there was a movie adaption of it that I liked, and that it was written by Roald Dahl. Practically all of Roald Dahl’s books are great, so I took the book out of the shelf and began to read.
Fantastic Mr. Fox starts off by introducing the antagonists of the story, Farmer Boggis, Farmer Bunce and Farmer Bean each having distinct sizes being fat, short and lean respectively. Every night, Mr. Fox asks his wife, Mrs. Fox, and his four children what they would like for dinner. A chicken from Boggis, a turkey or goose from Bunce, or a turkey and cider from Bean. Once they decided, Mr. Fox would go out and steal from one of the farmers. The farmers knew what was going on, so one day Bean had the idea to wait outside the hole on the hill that Mr. Fox lives in and shoot him once he came out to go steal from one of their farms. Mr. Fox did come out that night, but he ran back as soon as he saw the guns. One of the farmers did manage to shoot him, but only in the tail. This angered the farmers even more, so Bean suggests that they can dig them out faster with excavators. Bunce and Bean go back to their farms to grab them while Boggis keeps watch on the hole. Mr. Fox and his family began to hear the excavators and dug as fast as possible straight down to avoid being killed by the farmers. The excavators dig up the entire hill that the original hole was on until it became a crater. The farmers stop digging because they realize they can starve Mr. Fox out of his hole. After three days of non-stop waiting by both the farmers and the foxes, Mr. Fox comes up with a plan. He told them it might not be possible because they were weak from not eating for three days and the plan involves digging. The small foxes tell him they are ready to dig anyway. So Mr. Fox and the four small foxes begin digging at an exact angle until they reach wood above them, then Mr. Fox pushes open the wood and they are all in Boggis’ chicken house. Mr. Fox tells one of his children to go back with a few chickens and tell Mrs. Fox to begin preparing a feast. The other children and Mr. Fox then dig straight to Bunce’s storehouse of plucked ducks and geese. But before they reach the storehouse they meet up with Badger and his son. Badger tells Mr. Fox that Mole, Rabbit, Weasel and all of their wives and children are being forced into hiding with nothing to eat or drink. Mr. Fox tells Badger that they were just in Boggis’ chicken house and are on their way to Bunce’s storehouse and they are preparing a feast everyone is invited to. In Bunce’s store they take ducks and geese and many carrots, for the rabbits will only eat those. Finally they go to Bean’s cider cellar. Here they meet with a greedy rat, but while they are there someone begins to open the door, so the foxes and Badger hide behind some jars of cider to avoid being caught. It was one of Bean’s workers, she happens to take cider very close to where they were hiding. Once she leaves, they take jars of cider back to the hole from the start. Everyone is there when they get back and they are about to start eating. Before the feast begins, Mr. Fox gives a speech about how they are all diggers and will now never need to go back above ground again, and the will build houses and towns underground without ever worrying about a chance of death every time they get food. And after all of that happens, we are told that Boggis, Bunce and Bean never stopped waiting outside the foxes hole, and they continue to wait there for their entire lives.
The main character, Mr. Fox, is different from most main characters, as he doesn’t have any clear flaws from the reading, he is extremely clever and a generous fox. He always figures out a plan to help everyone with what they need, but he isn’t telling us that directly. Other characters, such as his wife, call him wonderful and fantastic because of how quickly he can think of a solution. He is very nice to be around and read about because of his personality, but I feel that if he was overzealous about his cleverness then he would be an unlikable character, but he feels real enough to be one of those people who are extremely friendly and humble.
The narrative voice in the story is in the third-person, and this really makes it feel like someone else is reading the story to you. The wording and transitions between the farmers and Mr. Fox makes it seem as though someone really witnessed the story take place, like if one of the characters who didn’t speak is telling the story of Mr. Fox to his/her kids. The last sentence really emphasizes that saying, “And as far as I know, they are still waiting.” The “I” in that sentence is what makes it noteworthy, because throughout the entire book it was in the third person and “I” was only used when a character was talking. The climax of the main character’s problem was resolved a bit early, but this worked for the book because it allowed Mr. Fox to invite and help the other families stuck underground without food. We could see each storehouse and cellar with full excitement because each visit to them was spaced out well enough to enjoy and anticipate every victory to the fullest. And having the last visit, Bean’s cider cellar, have a close encounter with being caught by one of the farmer’s workers adds suspense because he already got to two giant food storages and if Mr. Fox, his children and Badger were caught then it would lead to great disappointment and sadness to their families and friends despite all of the food. The passage that I think shows the writing style of the book. This is when Mr. Fox, his smallest son and Badger are in Bean’s cider cellar happily drinking away at the jars of cider, until someone comes in.
“At that moment they heard a woman’s voice calling out in the house above them. ‘Hurry up and get that cider, Mabel!’ the voice called. ‘You know Mr.Bean doesn’t like to be kept waiting! Especially when he’s been out all night in a tent!’ The animals froze. They stayed absolutely still, their ears pricked, their bodies tense. Then they heard the sound of a door being opened. The door was at the top of a flight of stone steps leading down from the house to the cellar. And now someone was staring to come down those steps.”(p. 66)
It really feels (to me at least) that the way it is written is how a parent would tell their young children about it. Reusing words not only to add suspense, but to make it easier for a child to understand the story. They described detailed enough you get a clear image because it is an image and scene that is easily describable. And even when someone is talking, it is described how the voice sounds before they even speak, and every line of dialogue ends with an exclamation point, showing that it is being heard from far away towards someone closer. A lot of the book is like that and I absolutely love it, there are definitely some things it could some aspects of it that could be improved, but it’s really just a few minor nit-picks. I give Fantastic Mr. Fox a 9 out of 10.