Once upon a time, o best beloved, when the world was young and you my little one were not yet born, there lived a fox. He was not the elegant yet secretive gentleman that we know now, dressed in a coat of red and with boots of black. No. He was the purest white and where ever he went he was noticed. It is true that it was more difficult to notice him in the snow and ice of the northern lands but still the people there would see his black nose and say “either there is a piece of coal floating on the wind or it is fox, and as it moves along so fast it must be him”.
Now at that time all the beings living upon and in the earth had needed something to do. They grew bored and asked for purpose and something to give them worth. And so one day the Creator called them all to his fire and appointed to each creature the job which would most suit them.
The bee he asked to pollinate the flowers from the top of the highest mountain to the shore of the sea, the mouse he asked to creep through the world and take care of the little things which are so often neglected. The eagle was to carry prayers from all creation up to Creator, the wolves were to guard the dark forests with the bear, and the salmon was to carry news of what was happening from the salty ocean to the sweet streams inland.
To creatures great and small he gave work to do and teachings to bring into the world, forever on from those first sunrises to the last sunset. Even the plants and rocks, though they are silent now, were given things to do. All day he spoke to the animals and plants, the rocks, and the waters giving each his task and each his purpose. So away they went smiling that they had purpose. Everyone was busy, and everyone was happy. Everyone that is except the fox.
Each time the fox drew near Creator would turn away and bend to speak to a different animal. Fox would move so he was facing Creator and yet quickly turning and speaking still there was no way for him to catch Creator’s eye and ask his purpose and his work. Finally Creator reached humanity. Pausing he looked at the sky and down at the earth then gazed lovingly at mankind. Taking a breath he explained in gentle, wonderful tones what he needed mankind to do.
Creator explained that because humans were still young and not so very many he had decided that rather than give them work to do he would set them a responsibility. Humans he said should be the stewards of the earth. Once they had learned to love and care for it as they should then he would give them medicine to share with others and work like all the other beings. All they had to do he said was to love the whole of creation, to treat it with respect, and not to take more than they needed. He nodded quietly to himself knowing that this was the right way to do things. And so he walked away the fox watched him sad that he had been left out.
As he sat by the fire and looked at the beauty of the stars Creator felt something brush against his leg. There sitting with his head bowed and his nose barely touching Creator’s leg sat fox looking most dejected. “Little one,” Creator said “I’m glad you’ve come and I can guess the reason. Come and sit by my on my blanket and be warm.” Fox moved closer leaning into the Creator’s side and wrapping his long brush around Creator’s waist to keep him warm. “You did not give me a job today Creator” the fox said. “No job, not even a responsibility. Am I of no use to you? Am I the only thing in creation that you do not feel you have a need for?” Bitter tears ran down the fox’s mask and dripped from the end of his nose. Gently Creator lifted up the fox’s head and cupped it in his hand. He stroked fox’s fur of white and brushed away the bitter tears.
“Little one, my precious little one. It’s me who should be sad not you for I must ask you to face great dangers and use all your skills to do the work I have for you. Before I came to give creation the work it must do I sat before my fire and looking in the flames.” As the sparks of the fire rose high into the dark night they became stars and planets and it seemed an eternity before Creator spoke again. When he did his face looked older, more tired, and there were tears in the corners of his eyes too. “Little one. I have seen all that was, and all that is, and all that will be and I am sad. There was a reason that I gave mankind no medicine and no job to do. There was a reason that you too were not given work or medicine in front of all creation. Mankind has a bitter twist inside him and I am afraid that if he doesn’t listen to creation then he will destroy it. That is the reason he became steward for this earth. He must learn to love it before he is ready to be part of the work. And yet I think that he will fail unless he truly listens.”
Fox shifted closer still, squirming his body closer as he felt Creator shiver. “Little one. You I need to be my messenger. Eagle will bring me the prayers of all creation but you must bring me news. You must use your skills to seek out what is truly happening on the earth and how well your brother man is really doing. But you must be careful. I see in the fire that if they find out you are my messenger they will give you a new name. I see that if they suspect that you are bringing me news of their behaviour they will call you Spy and seek to destroy you. That is my sadness little one. I love you and yet I must ask you to risk not only your life but that of your family for my service. I see great pain for you but you will always dance for me and bring joy to my heart. Can you do that for me little one? It is a great deal to ask and there will be no reward expect the knowledge that your dance will bring me joy? Will you become my messenger?”
Fox sat and watched the flames of Creator’s fire. Within the dancing sparks he saw nothing but he sensed what Creator had told him was truth and felt a fear trickle down from his nose, along his spine, and to the tip of his brush. In a little voice he said “I sense that it will be hard for me and my family but I must trust the gifts that you have given me. I must trust to my skill to do what you ask and though I wish you had given me happier work I will do it. We foxes will bring you news from the world of man and trust that we will always dance beside your fire for you. It is enough to know that we will bring you joy even though we die in doing your will. I will be your messenger.” Creator placed his hand upon the fox’s head and saying a blessing looked deep into his eyes. With tears falling he simply said “thank you little one.”
And so the fox would run from the far north to the south, he would run with the sun as it rose in the east and set in the west. All through creation he would watch man quietly and each night share Creator’s fire telling him the news. As dawn came he would go out again and see the progress of man upon the earth. At first the news he brought was good. Man seemed to love creation and delight in it. He would sit and laugh with Creator by the fire as he described the things man did. How he caught he first fish, how he discovered the warmth of a fire, how man was indeed a good steward and was learning to love creation. “Who know’s” said fox “perhaps in a few more years you might give him a medicine and a task”. Each night the news was good and each night the fox danced before Creator and made him laugh for joy until tears fell down his cheeks.
One day, however, as fox was walking through the earth he saw something different. Some men were planting hedges round the land and forcing others to work in the fields that they created. While some grew fat and rich the ones who worked became hungry. He saw men fighting men for the land and spilling each others blood for the control of it. Each night he returned to the fire his news was a little sadder and his dance a little less joyful. But still his white fur gleamed in the firelight and he danced his dance.
With the news Creator became sadder and sadder. He still walked the earth and spent time with the bear and the moose. He spoke with salmon and buffalo. He spoke to the trees and flowers, the rocks and streams. Each had a tale to tell which backed up what fox was telling him. But though Creator walked the wild places he would not come to the dwellings of men. His heart was breaking because man had proven the truth of what he had seen in the flames and so he would not walk with men. Instead he relied on fox to tell him of all the news of men.
Fox would sit beside the fire and wrapping his tail around Creator’s waist spoke sadly to him. “Things are more difficult than you told me they would be Creator. Each time I visit man there is more pain and more death created by their hands. They are seeking to become you and they are destroying your work in the process. There are some who still follow your commands, some who truly love the earth and all creation, but the majority seek only to own it and to make it theirs. They have forgotten your gift to them and your task for them to become stewards and instead they choose to destroy what they cannot own. Already there are some who are killing buffalo just so others might not eat. They take the land and set fences round it so that the old ways of following the herds are restricted. They have gone out into the world and enslaved their own kind like the ants do. They have created wars for no reason other than that they need more land and more resources. They seek power and destroy everything which does not feed that need. Creator the world will die if they continue like this. Creator I am scared.”
Creator looked into the fire and stroked the fox’s head. “Little one” he whispered “little one. While there is still one man who will stand up for creation and for me there is hope. Though I am pained by your messages there is still hope. Keep to your task and dance for me.” So fox danced amongst the flames and though his heart was sad he still caused Creator to laugh.
While this was going on man began to notice that the visits from Creator were shorter and less frequent. At first man puzzled and in his heart said “we are the stewards of creation, isn’t it a little odd that Creator would choose not to come and see how well we are doing?” Talking amongst themselves they remarked on this, they pondered on the absence, and began to wonder if creator really did exist. As the generations came and went they began to forget him and in their forgetfulness his nature and character began to twist so that he became more like them, greedy and unyielding. With their dogs they went out into the world and claimed it as their own. It was a dog who brought the fox low.
One night as fox sat in the shadows he was spotted by man’s greatest servant. A dog had been sitting quietly chewing on a bone that had been thrown to him when he spotted the fox in the deepest shadows watching the works of men. “Something is off here” said the dog “it is my duty to my master to find out who this creature of white is and what he is doing.” So when the fox returned to the Creator’s fire he followed him and learned the fox’s purpose and his job. Going to his master he told him of the sneak and the spy. He told man how fox delighted in dancing for Creator regaling him with all the things man did and how he danced for joy as Creator wept.
Man became angry. Furious he rose up and wanted to hunt the fox down and make him suffer for revealing what, in his heart, man knew was wrong with his race. He was angry for having been revealed. He shook with rage and commanded his servant the dog to seek out and destroy man’s greatest traitor.
The next day fox was walking through the woods when he came across dog digging up his den. Amidst the ruin lay the bodies of his cubs bleeding and dying and around dog’s mouth there was the fur of vixen. Foaming at the mouth dog turned and snarled at fox. “You have brought disgrace to my master. You who are so white and look so pure are nothing but a traitor. With your stories you have made creator cry and with your lies about the good men do to look after and improve this earth you have brought shame upon mankind. Forever will I chase you, forever will I seek out your young and destroy them so that they cannot continue your lies. Forever will you and I be enemies.”
With that dog leapt at fox and chased him over hill and dale. He chased him into the towns of men and there before a bonfire he caught him by the throat and threw him into the flames. The fox stood and laughed at dog and at the men who cheered. Slowly his feet became black as coal. his fur took on a toasted reddish brown and where the tip of his tail and his chest were not touched by the flames he stayed the purest white. He was transformed.
Leaping from the flames he turned and faced the crowd. Lifting his face to the sky he said “I have danced in Creator’s fire and made him cry tears of joy and so your fires cannot harm me. I have brought Creator news of all that you have done in his name and your own and it was that which caused his tears of sadness. You not I drew those onto his cheeks. So dog you and your masters will always chase me. Yes you will destroy my home as you destroy the homes of other men in your anger and your greed You will change my purpose in your stories into that of traitor and sneak but your will not change the purpose Creator made me for. I will become the reflection of the twist which you have allowed to take control of your spirits. Each time you catch me you will pretend that it has covered your shame, but each time I escape you will know that you have been found out and that Creator has heard of your crimes.”
With that fox darted out into the woods and though man and dog pursued him they could not catch a sight of him. In time he married again and raised many cubs. Each one would go out into the world and watch the acts of men. Each night they would return to Creator’s fire and dance for him to help him laugh after he had cried at what men were doing to creation.
And to this day, o best beloved, that is why the fox is red and white and black not white. Since that day he was chased into man’s fire he never regained his coat of white but he never mourned it. He had won instead his colours and carried within his coat the colours of all men. The good, the bad, the weak and the powerful, and though men grew to hate him he would dance in the Creator’s fire and bring him joy. And that, o best beloved, was enough for fox.