Fantastic Mr Fox, by Roald Dahl
The main character is a thief. The thief is about to get punished by three murderous farmers. The main character continues to steal. This doesn’t sound like the classic children’s story you would find on the shelf but this is, of course, a Roald Dahl novel. A Roald Dahl novel means three things – a grotesque imagination, punishment of bad characters and breaking all of the rules.
Fantastic Mr. Fox tells the story of Mr. Fox, father of four who steals from the three horrid farmers: Boggis, the fat chicken farmer, Bunce, the small duck-and-goose farmer and Bean the tall turkey-and-apple farmer. When their anger towards Mr. Fox stealing from them hits its peak they decide to seek revenge. They gather together their guns, hunt down the foxes hide out and wait to murder him.
Once again Dahl has created a tale of strange beauty. The rules the story breaks is what makes it fun. Fantastic Mr. Fox is quite unlike any other Dahl novel. The main character is not a stereotypical good character – he is a thief but he steals for his family thus we sympathise with him. Using this simple character Dahl tares our opinions down the middle – yes, he steals but if this was a good world would the farmer’s not just share their food?
What sticks out most about the novel is not its short, quirky length but the language it uses. It’s simplistic language but also fun language. Children derive with new words to roll off the tongue and Dahl is full of them. He constructs sentences of a very British manner but sentences that are comedic – the conversation between Mr. Fox and Mr. Badger is, in parts, laugh out loud funny which reaches not just children but adult audiences also.
Mr. Fox is a very Dennis the Menace type character – a naughty person who children love. Mr. Fox, however, does his ‘bad things’ for the right reasons thus we are allowed to like him. Children love naughty characters and that’s why this is a favourite of Dahl’s books. He takes us through the ups and downs of the adventure Mr. Fox goes through with a serious, quite bleak alternative lurking in the background.
Although a slim read Fantastic Mr. Fox is compact with adventure. It is a short, whimsical tale of mischief and fun where children will wish they were scurrying through the dirt with the fantastic fox.