Anno and Mr Fox


安野 光雅

I mentioned Mitsumasa Anno briefly before. And now, as I was thinking, wondering “What is the Fox doing in the Marketplace?” I turned to Anno’s Aesop (“A book of fables by Aesop and Mr Fox”)

At the foot of the Contents page is this forword to Mr Fox’s fables:

One day, at the edge of the forest, little Freddy Fox found something. He had never seen anything like it before. Perhaps someone had forgotten it, he thought. But it was rather dirty, so maybe it had fallen off the garbage truck. What could it be? Freddy picked it up and hurried home to show it to his fathe.

“That’s what is called a book, Freddy,” said his father. “Books are full of wonderful stories. People like to read them.”

“Oh, please read this book to me!” Freddy begged his father.

But his father only said, “I’m sleepy now. I’ll read it to you tomorrow.”

Maybe Mr Fox was just making excuses. Maybe he couldn’t read at all. But Freddy would not give up. He begged and begged for a story, so finally his father began to read out loud to him.

Some of the stores in this book are what Mr. Fox read to Freddy. Or was he just pretending to read? That’s Mr Fox’s secret! Let’s listen to his stories.

Then for each fable by Aesop there is Mr Fox’s reading of the fable at the bottom of the page.

It seems very clever to me to put these Mr Fox bits at the bottom of the pages. It makes a kind of book within a book. And it makes you think about interpretations, and misinterpretatations.

But Anno has a simpler idea:

“It often happens that what we have seen with our own eyes, or what we have felt in our hearts is closer to the truth than the knowledge we have gained from reading words on a page. A thing may look differently when seen from a different angle. And so, I believe that even a child who cannot yet read words can still learn many valuarble things by thinking ceatively about what he or she sees in the pictueres in this book, just as Freddy Fox does.

Because I travel so much, people often assume that I speak many foreign languages. Actually, however, this is not the case. But, even if I cannot read the words that are written on the signs when I am in a strange land, I can usually guess their meanings and find my way. And so I get along quite well, although, of course, I hope some day to study foreign languages and to be able to read and speak them properly.”

I like this picture of Anno travelling round, sketchbook in hand, in various countries. According to wikipedia he was born in 1926, so he would be, let me see, 83 this year. And he did his Anno’s Spain just five years back.

It seems a shame t hat lots of Anno’s books aren’t in print any more.*

*This is a shame with a lot of brilliant kids’ books. Maybe I will rant about this another time… something to look forward to! 😉



  1. vixen said

    In Greece we say “What is the Fox doing in the Marketplace?” when somebody is out-of-place somewhere dangerous and risks to be victimized. If a fox, caught and sold for its tail! Foxes are clever and could sell and buy things with a lot of profit but on the other hand they are a merchandise themselves because of their good looks and fur, so they’d better stay in the bushes. Though they could be “golden boys” the marketplace is not the right place for them.

    This is my life and this proverb is my motto. I must never forget it or I’m lost.

    * when I read tales to my godson, I am the “reading fox”, eh?

  2. Simon G said

    I like that. I can’t at the moment think of an English equivalent, though I have often felt fox-in-marketplace-ish.

    I had understood it another way – (here I am the ‘reading fox’!) – Someone pretending to do honest trade, but actually there for ulterior motives, to steal.

    I like the real Greek meaning best of all – I can imagine people muttering it to each other about the new guy – but I will keep my ‘bottom of the page’ meaning too!

  3. Anonymous said

    You have a box for confessions here, Simon. How on earth you got Nana to speak about her life and work? It must be that tale of the fox in the marketplace that fits her like a glove.

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