There once was a Fox with nine tails. This Fox-o-nine-tails was special, well-loved and adored, but forever worried that he was loved and adored only for his tails. So it was that he decided to test his Vixen by trying her faith. Through an elaborate ruse he pretended to be dead, captured by a farmer, and sent word back with his friend Possum that he had been killed. Upon hearing this the Vixen collapsed in tears and began biting and rending the fur on her own tail in sorrow.
Possum returned and reported what he had seen but Fox was skeptical.
“The loss is immediate and her grief strong, but what if she were tempted, eh? What then?”
So Fox asked a vagabond cousin if he would do him a favor and comfort his Vixen in her grief. To make things interesting Fox cut off one of his tails and tied it to his cousin so he looked like he had two tails. His cousin made a call on the Vixen.
“I could never love another, and certainly none as vulgar as you!” the Vixen said.
When the cousin reported what had happened Fox cut off another tail and sent his cousin back. Again he was sent away. Fox did this a total of seven time and seven times the cousin was sent away. Then, with eight of Fox-o-nine-tails tails attached, he was warmly embraced and allowed into Vixen’s burrow. Fox-o-nine-tails had suspected this might happen and jumped out from behind a nearby bush.
“Ah-ha! Faithless Vixen, I see you for who you are now. You cared not for me and only for my nine tails, even when attached to this vagabond cousin of mine!”
“Ah-ha yourself, jealous fool. I thought you dead, and held myself in mourning long enough. I had no reason to suspect you were still alive and sent away seven suitors before my heart healed. I cared for you, yes, and when you were no longer around I needed to care for myself.”
“And you would take up with my cousin simply because of his silly decoration?”
“Your cousin remained kind in the face of my initial rudeness, genuine in his attention and affection over time, and far better in character and temperament than you ever were. In helping you he proved himself to be a more worthy companion. And as for his silly decoration, your precious tails, where are they now? Without them I can clearly see that you are no one special, perhaps never were, Fox-o-one-tail.”
With that Fox slunk deep into the woods never to be seen again, the entrance to his former borrow lined with his eight clipped tails.
Adapted from “The Fox and Mrs. Fox” from The Complete Tales of the Brothers Grimm translated by Jack Zipes. This is story number 255, part of my on-going series of reinterpreting the Grimm tales.