The Old Man And The Fox

My friend told me this story:

“Ten years ago, I visited an old man who lived deep in the mountain. He was in his mid-seventies. He had lived on this mountain for nearly thirty years with his wife, who died one year before my visit. He lived alone in his little cottage; his daily work was taking care of the vegetables and fruit trees he had planted, and watching his livestock. 

It was a lovely place to live. Every day the air on the mountain was so fresh; his cottage was surrounded with a lot of flowers. There were endless wild fruits and nuts for him to pick, otherwise they would fall on the ground when they were ripe, and rot slowly. Of course, mushrooms were everywhere, especially after rains.

He used to hunt a lot to get some meat, such as pheasants, rabbits, and deer. But in recent years he was getting old and weak, so he didn’t do that anymore. He told me that his livestock supplied him with enough meat and protein, and each Autumn he killed quite a few of them to brine and hung them to dry as a whole Winter’s meat source.

It might be just because of his age, he lived quietly and contently. He didn’t feel lonely at all—He had his own fun. Most of his fun was from a fox. This fox had lived on this mountain as long as he had, if not longer. Even though the old man had enough food to eat, this fox was always hungry. It seemed that this fox didn’t really work hard to get its own food, it became smarter to beg for food from the villagers: At the beginning the fox just stood by the side of the door or the fence, however it always got nothing, and people just chased it away; later it started to transform itself into a human being—Sometimes an old woman, sometimes a disabled man. People occasionally gave it some food; then the fox figured out that if it transformed into a gentleman, or a decent lady, people most likely would invite it into their houses and serve something much better. So even though sometimes its little trick was caught, in general this fox lived an easy life. 

The most interesting part was, since the old man’s wife died, quite often this fox transformed into his wife and entered his house directly looking for food. ‘It must have learned that we always want to see someone important to us, and even if we know we are tricked, we don’t refuse. What a smart fox!’ The old man commented.”

“‘But how can people distinguish that this gentleman or lady is transformed from the fox?’ my friend asked curiously. The old man smiled: ‘An animal forever is an animal, no matter how decent it tries to look. It comes for food. So once you serve it some food, it at once forgets whom it is supposed to be, and starts to act like an animal—Instead of using utensils, it only eats and drinks with its front paws. That’s why I always know. But I will never tell the fox.’”

“So how is this old man now? And is the fox still there?” I asked my friend.

“Three years ago,” My friend continued, “I happened to pass somewhere near that mountain, thus I decided to revisit that old man. The house looked much more ragged than I remembered. His precious vegetable yard was barren, and there were no livestock running around. The old man didn’t change that much compared to how he looked ten years ago, but he couldn’t remember my name. He repeated that his age was mid-seventies and his wife died one year ago. There were a lot of things he couldn’t answer or remember, so I thought he must have lost his memory. But strangely he kept begging me to buy him food—‘There is a new store at the foot of the mountain, their ham and roasted chicken are very good. Can you buy me some? I am too old to go there; I am a widower.’ I felt sorry for him and bought as much as I could. When I carried the food to the table, he immediately jumped from the armchair, used his teeth to tear apart the wrapped paper, then he ate greedily with his two hands—Or perhaps his front two paws?”



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