marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

The Cult of the Fox

The Cult of the Fox by Xiaofei Kang

An intensive, indepth look at the position of the foxes in Chinese lore.

Early on it discusses translations.  "Fox fairy" comes up. Which would be a pretty good translation, since they are rather in the same category as the, ehem, Fair Folk -- to be sure, they don't go after babies; they are vulnerable to virtuous officials rather than iron; when they present you with gold or the like, the problem is more likely that it's stolen goods than it's illusionary, but the principle's the same -- if only most people thought of the Fair Folk when thinking "fairy."   (Plus the whole worship business.)

It goes through the legends, and the acquiring of power.  Any animal that lives out centuries will acquire new powers, such as the ability to change into human form.  The perils of foxes living nearby -- note that a grandfather fox, presiding over a family of foxes, is a venerable figure, while a lone young man or woman is perilous -- and the options of either exorcism or worship to deal with.  Beneficent foxes who were your grandfather's mistress or concubine and so wish to help you.  The use of fox-spirit mediums.  The interactions between officials and foxes -- many officials worshiped foxes as the Great Guardian of the Imperial Seal, but this appears, from the legends, to be a way to prevent the mischievous foxes from stealing their badge of office.

Occasionally slips into using the fox legends to perpetuating some fairly standard boiler-plate about power-relations, but otherwise chock-full of interesting stuff.
Tags: history reviews: far east, world-building: creatures, world-building: deities, world-building: non-human characters, world-building: religion

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