The Fox's Kettle
Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian Studies at
Concordia University and an avid outdoor recreationist. She is also the
author of The Mountain Is Moving: Japanese Women’s Lives, Kurlek, and
Margaret Laurence: The Long Journey Hom
Laura Langston’s delightful adaptation of a Japanese folktale blends
realistic detail with fantasy, featuring foxes as farm workers and
samurai in feudal Japan. The heroine is a gifted storyteller who lives
with her parents in a rural inn. When a traveling samurai begs food and
drink, Akoya’s parents are frightened by his long nose, but the brave
and beautiful Akoya insists on serving him well. In return, the fox
gives her a large black kettle with magical properties that will protect
the village rice fields.
In time, the kettle yields foxes who care for the rice, but when the
local landowner forces the girl to move to his mansion to serve as his
storyteller, she can no longer care for the foxes and the rice crops
fail. After various complications and hardships, a female fox takes
Akoya’s place at the mansion while the girl slips away for two days to
care for the foxes, who in turn save the rice crop.
Langston’s text is whimsical yet earthy, humorous, and philosophic.
The language is often poetic, with such phrases as “when the moon hung
in the sky like a great white ball of rice.” Victor Bosson’s
illustrations evoke the same blend of realism and fantasy. His colorful
palette ranges from the muted tones of a rice field at night to the
vivid colors of antique textiles. Highly recommended.