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Literature / Fantastic Mr. Fox

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Fantastic Mr. Fox is a 1970 children's book by Roald Dahl.

In 2009, it was adapted into an animated film by Wes Anderson, which greatly expands on its premise.

The book has examples of:

  • 11th-Hour Ranger: Badger joins Fox and his children in the last quarter of the book, before they raid Mr. Bean's farm.
  • The Alcoholic:
    • Rat, who lives in Bean's cider cellar.
    • Bean himself, to such an extent that he never eats, he only drinks the cider he makes. Mabel, one of his servants, even says to herself that Bean drinks too much.
  • Alliterative Name: The names of the farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean, often listed together.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: Bunce correctly guesses that Mr. Fox has a family, and Bean states that they shall kill all of them when they capture them.
  • Artistic Licence – Biology: When collecting food for all the animals, one of the little foxes thinks to get carrots for the rabbits, rather than nothing but meat. Carrots aren't actually good for rabbits, though this is understandable under Stock Animal Diet. However, no one seems to notice that there is nothing for the moles (they eat worms and small insects) to eat.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: When one of the little Foxes asks if there is any chance of survival if they make a run for it, we get this:
    "No chance at all," snapped Mrs Fox. "I refuse to let you go up there and face those guns. I'd sooner you stay down here and die in peace."
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Boggis, Bunce and Bean (one fat, one short, one lean), which is attributed to their diets: Boggis eats nothing but chicken, Bunce only eats duck and goose, and Bean eats nothing, but drinks cider.
  • Bizarre Dream Rationalization: Mr. Fox and his children subvert the three farmers' plan to starve them out by breaking into Boggis's chicken house and stealing three plump, juicy hens. He sends one of his children to take the hens back to their weak and starving mother, who thinks she's dreaming when she sees them.
    Mrs. Fox: I'm dreaming.
    Small Fox: You're not dreaming, Mummy! They're real chickens! We're saved! We're not going to starve!
  • Carnivore Confusion: Badger reports that his family, along with the weasels, moles, and rabbits are holed up together while starving. Badgers and weasels eat rabbits and moles (as do foxes), yet this never seems to even have been thought of by them.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Bunce after his and Bean's attempt to dig up the hill and capture the Foxes fails. We don't hear any of it thanks to Narrative Profanity Filter.
  • Dark Is Evil: The tractors Bunce and Bean use to dig up the hill and attempt to capture the Foxes with are stated to be black.
  • Determinator: Boggis, Bunce and Bean are all this when it comes to catching Mr. Fox, and eventually swear an oath that they won't go home until they have caught and killed him. By the end of the book, they are still waiting for him to come out of hiding.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Bean's plan to starve the Foxes out, which also includes keeping watch through the night and using the headlights of the tractors to keep watch so the Foxes can't escape. Boggis then says Mr. Fox could simply dig through the hill and emerge on the other side to escape. Having not thought of that, Bean proposes a solution that sees 108 men (35 from Boggis' farm, 36 from Bunce's and 37 from his own) to surround the hill with weapons and torches (flashlights). As seen later, even this fails.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": All of the animals, including the Foxes, the Badgers, the Moles, the Rabbits, the Weasels and Rat.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Bean has his wife, Mrs. Bean, who appears as The Voice when Mr. Fox and Badger raid Bean's cider cellar.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Mabel notices the smell of rats in the cellar under the Beans' farmhouse, yet apparently fails to notice the hole in the wall that Mr. Fox, Badger and Mr. Fox's son used to enter the cellar.
  • Fast Tunnelling: The Foxes (and later Badger) are able to tunnel a distance of what must be at least a mile or two in a single day (while in a severely weakened state - they're on their third day of no water), and no mention is made of where all that dirt goes - even if the tunnel is relatively small due to the size of the animals, that's still several tons of earth that would need to go somewhere.
  • Fat Bastard: Boggis, not only because he's one of the antagonists, but because he eats three boiled chickens smothered with dumplings every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Food End: The book ends with all the animals having a banquet and an assurance that many more banquets are to come, when Mr. Fox's network of tunnels allows him to safely raid all three farms.
  • Foreshadowing: Boggis says that Mr. Fox could dig through the hill and come out on the other side when Bean outlines his plan to starve out the Foxes. Mr. Fox does indeed dig through the hill later, but it's to raid the farms without being discovered and avoid starving to death.
  • Gargle Blaster: Tasting farmer Bean's cider proves to be much too much for one of the Fox kits. The narration specifies that Bean's homebrew is potent stuff, totally unlike the fizzy store-bought weaksauce.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: The rudest thing that gets said is "Dang and blast", which is always uttered by Boggis. When Bunce swears, we don't find out what he said.
  • Happily Married: Mr. and Mrs. Fox. She frequently calls him a fantastic fox and they mostly use pet names such as "darling" and "sweetheart" when they speak to each other.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: The plot to steal from the farmers after the siege begins. Never mind that they were stealing things before the farmers set themselves against the hill—which makes the line about "decent peace-loving people" rather jarring (though the animals all get along with each other - even though many of them should be eating the others).
  • Kid Has a Point: In Bunce's storehouse, the smallest of the four little Foxes says that they have to take some carrots with them. As foxes are mostly carnivorous, Mr. Fox at first rebuffs this. His son points out that it's not for them, it's for the Rabbits, as while foxes don't eat vegetables, rabbits do. Realizing his son is correct, Mr. Fox commends him for being so thoughtful, and tells the others to take ten bunches of carrots with them.
  • The Napoleon: Bunce. He is described as being a pot-bellied dwarf, who is so short, his chin would be underwater in the shallow end of any swimming pool in the world.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: After the attempt to dig up the hill fails, Bunce vents his feelings by cursing Mr. Fox with "dirty words than cannot be printed". In other words, it's a Cluster F-Bomb without revealing any of the swearing.
  • Noodle People: Bean is apparently as thin as a pencil because he never eats any food at all and subsists entirely on gallons of his homemade apple cider.
  • Nutritional Nightmare:
    • Boggis is a Fat Bastard due to eating three boiled chickens smothered with dumplings for every meal for God knows how long.
    • Bunce eats nothing but doughnuts filled with mashed goose liver paste. This diet is said to give him stomachaches and a terrible temper.
    • The two above, for all the foulness of their diets, actually eat. Bean, on the other hand, consumes nothing other than hard cider.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Mr. Fox has one early on when he realises, while emerging from his hole, that the bright thing he can see behind a tree is the barrel of a gun, pointed right at him.
    • Mr. Fox later that night when he realises the farmers are digging them out of the hill.
    • All of the Foxes when Bunce and Bean use their tractors to dig up the hill. Mr. Fox instructs the others to dig for their lives.
    • Mr. Fox (and presumably Badger and Mr. Fox's son too) in Bean's cider cellar when the door opens and Mabel enters. They barely escape being found.
  • The Pig-Pen: Bean, who never washes or takes a bath. This means that his ears get clogged with wax and junk, which makes him deaf, and also means that Mr. Fox can smell him from at least a mile away.
    Mr. Fox: I can smell that man Bean a mile away. He stinks.
  • Rule of Three:
    • There are three farms, and three farmers: Boggis' chicken farm, Bunce's duck and goose farm, and Bean's turkey and apple farm.
    • Boggis, Bunce and Bean attempt to kill Mr. Fox by shooting him (they only manage to shoot off his tail), digging him out of the hill, and then starving him out of it.
    • Also, Mr. Fox's final plan to avoid starvation or being shot involves digging three tunnels, one to a hen-house on Boggis' farm, another to a big storehouse on Bunce's farm, and a third to the cider cellar under the Beans' farmhouse.
  • Schmuck Bait: Defied. Boggis attempts to use one of the chickens he's eating to tempt the starving Foxes to come out of their hole. One of the little Foxes is sorely attempted to do so, but Mrs. Fox warns him not to do it, as it's just what the farmers want them to do.
  • Slasher Smile: Bean makes one before he announces his plan to kill Mr. Fox by starving him out.
  • So Proud of You: Mr Fox has a silent moment of this towards his four cubs. When he almost gives up on his escape plan, because he fears the family are too weak to dig any further, the small Foxes eagerly insist that they can do it, and that he can as well. Mr Fox beams with pride at their strength and resilience and, realising he must not fail them, promptly agrees to try the plan out.
  • Take a Third Option: The Foxes are eventually trapped in their hole with two options facing them: make a dash for it and be killed by the farmers, or stay where they are and starve to death. Mr. Fox eventually comes up with a plan to avoid both of these: dig tunnels to the farms so they can be raided undetected.
  • Title Drop: In several places, mostly by Mrs. Fox.
    Mrs. Fox: I should like you to know that if it wasn't for your father we should all be dead by now. Your father is a fantastic fox.
  • Villainous Glutton: Boggis, one of the greedy farmers, is enormously big and fat because he eats nine boiled chickens a day — three for breakfast, three for lunch, and three for supper.
  • The Voice: Mrs. Bean. Justified, she's upstairs in the farmhouse while the action takes place down in the cellar.
  • We Wait: Having failed to dig Mr. Fox out of his hole, even with mechanical shovels, the three mean farmers decide to starve him out, waiting to shoot him dead if he emerges. They do this for three days, until Mr. Fox thinks of a way to escape. The three farmers are still waiting at the end of the story.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Averted, then played straight. The first thing we see the farmers do is attempt to shoot Mr. Fox. All they manage to do is shoot off his tail. Boggis even says they should have fired their guns when he first emerged from the hole, as they would almost certainly have killed him. Later, they attempt to dig him out of the hill, then starve him out of it.
  • Woodland Creatures: Foxes star in this story, with a supporting cast of other animals such as badgers, weasels, moles and rabbits, living in the English countryside.
  • You Dirty Rat!: Rat is a rude fellow who hangs out in Bean's cider cellar and tries to tell off Mr. Fox for drinking "his" cider, though ultimately he's mostly harmless.