‘The Running Foxes’ by Joyce Stranger

By oldenglishrose - Last updated: Friday, December 17, 2010 - Save & Share - 3 Comments

Title: The Running Foxes

Author: Joyce Stranger

Published: Corgi, 1967, pp. 142.  Originally published 1965

Genre: Young adult fiction

Blurb: The magic is of foxes running wild over the Cumberland hills, of an otter cub adopted by a poacher, of young hounds caught in a badger-run, and of dour, lakeland farmers who hunt on foot and are out-witted and out-run by a vixen and her cubs.  It is the enchantment of a swiftly-passing England, an England of countrymen and stone-walled cottages.  And it is the magic of an era that, in the hills and tarns of Cumberland, has not entirely died.

When, where and why: I can only assume that I acquired this book when I was in the rabid, animal-loving phase that most little girls go through (as opposed to the rabid animal loving phase, which I should imagine fewer experience).  Joyce Stranger wrote loads of good animal stories, but somehow I must have passed this one by.  Clearly it is ancient, and so it becomes book 34/50 for my Books Off the Shelf Challenge.  I picked it up to read now because I needed something light (literally and figuratively) to read on the tube while I was reading Quicksilver.

What I thought: Although The Running Foxes is a children’s book I’m very glad that I unintentionally waited until I was older to read it, as I don’t know that I would have appreciated it so much when I was little.  It is a subtle, quiet book with a relatively sparse storyline, but remarkably touching.  Joyce Stranger has filled her book with the well-created and maintained atmosphere of the fells in a fading era.  The penetrating cold and damp of the morning mist on the hills and the warm, smoky camaraderie of the local pub are almost tangible in The Running Foxes. This simple but magical world is populated by a cast of gruff but good hearted old men whose lives revolve around animals both for work and recreation and who I thoroughly enjoyed following as they hunted over the fells, made bets or came to terms with their loneliness.

As the title suggests, foxes and fox hunting play a large part in this book, and I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a book which managed to address this in quite such a balanced way.  The author admires the foxes for their cunning and trickery, but also admires the men for their dedication to their animals, their country skills and the sense of community that the hunt brings.  Both fox and man seem to enjoy the thrill of the chase.  Of course, it helps that there are no fox killings in the book, but nonetheless it was refreshing to read something which is able to see both points of view and present them alongside one another.

All in all, this was a good, quick read, perfect for the winter.

Where this book goes: I think I’m going to keep this one for now.  According to LibraryThing, it’s the first book in a trilogy about Dai the local vet, so I may be tempted to acquire the other two for when I feel like returning to the Cumberland hills for some escapism.

Tea talk: As this was exclusively a train book, there was no tea with this one.  There definitely should have been though, as all that reading of walks on frosty mornings and coming home to roaring fires called for a pot of tea.

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3 Responses to “‘The Running Foxes’ by Joyce Stranger”

Comment from Eva
Time December 18, 2010 at 10:30 am

This sounds quite lovely, since none of the foxes are killed! I read a novel featuring foxes a couple of years ago (The Fox Woman), and I’ve been meaning to read more since then. :)

Comment from oldenglishrose
Time December 20, 2010 at 11:02 am

It was a lovely book, although unexpected. I was surprised at how impressed I was by it. I’m not sure that it’s in print any more, but it’s definitely worth reading if you happen to come across it.

Comment from Getting pregnant after miscarriage
Time January 10, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Reading it I believed it was very enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this post together. Just as before I discover myself shelling out way too much time both reading and commenting. Although so what, it was nonetheless significant!

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