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Literature / The Fox and the Hound

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A novel written by Daniel P. Mannix and published in 1967. It has a Disney movie very loosely based on it, which is much better known than the book.

The plot stars a human-raised red fox named Tod. After Tod causes the death of a hunter's prize hound, Chief, the hunter pursues Tod in a fit of vengeance, aided by his aging half-bloodhound Copper. Of ten chapters, Copper gets four as the viewpoint character and Tod six. The novel takes great pains to show both characters' distinctly non-human thought processes - in particular, scent rules their world far more than sight, especially in Copper's case.


This novel provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Animal Nemesis: The Master and Copper determinedly hunt down Tod for many years due to Tod killing Chief, one of the Master's younger hounds.
  • Animal Testing: An extremely benign example. The human who adopts Tod is also, at the time, raising a terrier puppy. He runs a simple experiment on them by rigging up a plate of food to deliver a shock if touched. The terrier takes several shocks to get the idea, and completely forgets the plate's unpleasantness in a few months. Tod gets shocked once and never goes near it again.
  • Author Tract: The final chapters rail against urbanization.
  • Bears Are Bad News: While Chief protects the hunter from a bear, Copper cowers in fear.
  • Bear Trap: Tod becomes fascinated with bear traps when they first appear and he makes a game out of causing them to snap shut without getting himself caught in them. This becomes more difficult as they become more elaborate, and one time he gets caught in one so badly that when he manages to escape by a miracle, he holes up for days and never goes near them again. His first mate also meets her demise through one.
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  • The Berserker: The catch dogs, who in their frenzy will more often go after the hounds than whatever quarry the Master is after. Tod's first mate is also driven temporarily insane by her pregnancy.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses:
    • From the reader's perspective, Tod and Copper's amazing senses of smell can come across as this.
    • Copper's eyesight is so bad that he seems to consider clear colour vision to be a Bizarre Human Sense.
  • Blood Lust: The two viewpoint characters are carnivores. Do the math. While Copper is well-trained enough to not go after animals he isn't sicced on, that doesn't mean he isn't really tempted sometimes. Tod hunts for a living, and during a bad drought actually gets most of his water from the blood of his prey.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The animal characters don't have human morals, priorities, or cognition. This can make them come off as evil to some readers, but to others makes them come off as merely alien in their thinking.
  • Born Lucky: Some of the times Tod survives some grisly fate are due to sheer luck rather than foxy cunning.
    • After escaping the bear trap, Tod collapses from exhaustion and nearly gets caught by Copper and the Master, but they pass him by completely. Even Tod can't believe in his luck.
    • He somehow never gets rabies despite several violent run-ins with infected foxes.
    • He only doesn't eat a lard ball containing strychnine because he gets distracted by two mice scurrying by. When he does eat strychnine, it's already passed through many animals, so the effect is lessened, but he's still traumatized.
    • A greyhound grabs him and throws him in the air for her teammate to catch, but said teammate is fallen because of making too close a turn while running, so Tod can barely escape.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Various terrified animals.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Essentially how Tod and his kind's entire mindset works. His repertoire of hunting skills and evasive maneuvers are made up of various tricks that worked once and are repeated verbatim - he doesn't question why something works, he just knows that it does.
  • Cunning Like a Fox:
    • Tod engages in a back and forth battle of wits with the hunter, who constantly uses new traps and new hunting methods to try and catch Tod.
    • After noticing Chief tailing him, Tod waits in front of a railroad track for a train to arrive, and dashes across at the last minute. Chief follows... and you can guess the rest.
  • Death of a Child:
    • A human child ends up eating the poison the hunter leaves out for foxes and dies.
    • Almost none of Tod's pups that he sticks around to raise make it to adulthood. One lone pup possibly survived - at the very least, it drops out of the narrative without explicitly dying.
  • Determinator: The Hunter will get his revenge on Tod.
  • Dogs Are Dumb: Played with. Untrained curs are dumb— hounds can smell right through most fox tricks.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Tod the tod.
  • Downer Ending: Tod himself is finally killed, and with most of his property gone and no more purpose in life, the hunter retires to a nursing home that does not allow dogs, so he's forced to shoot Copper.
  • Evil vs. Evil: One interpretation of the novel finds all the characters in the story to be unsympathetic at best, in particular Tod and Copper.
  • Fragile Speedster: Tod courses with greyhounds in one of the later chapters. They're fast, so fast he works harder to escape them than he ever has before, but one dog is going so fast it doesn't see a fence and ends up breaking its back on it.
  • Ghibli Hills: Subverted. The forest and the Master's land all get eaten up by urbanization.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • Copper, an aging Bloodhound-mix who'd fallen out of his master's favour, absolutely hates Chief, a younger dog who is challenging his role as head dog. He's overjoyed when Chief is killed prematurely.
    • As far as the foxes go, Tod's first mate is outright murderous when it comes to territorial boundaries and other vixens (Truth in Television).
  • Groin Attack:
    • What Chief uses to distract a bear about to kill his master.
    • Foxes will go for the groin if it's available in both battle and hunting.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: A few uses of "gaily" and "queer".
  • Henpecked Husband: Tod's first mate is an older and more experienced vixen who picks him because as a young fox, he's easier to mold. For the most part she calls the shots and trusts her own experience rather than Tod's, and Tod conforms himself even when he doesn't like her decisions (like her choice of burrow, which proves fatal to their litter).
  • Heroic RRoD/Villainous RRoD: Tod has a very difficult time escaping two greyhounds, and it's noted at the end of the chapter (nine) that Tod's stamina was never the same again because of it.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: Copper knows that "human beings had strange powers that no dog could understand", such as the ability to miraculously scent trails where he cannot (or, as it may be, visually follow footprints and other sign). The formal foxhunters are even more bizarre and inscrutable. Tod is probably the character least awed by humans, and even then they still do things he finds inexplicable from time to time.
  • In Harm's Way: Tod is an adrenaline junkie.
  • Insistent Terminology: Mannix acknowledges that some people might find his habit of calling baby foxes pups instead of cubs a little odd, but defends himself by saying "Foxes are actually little wild dogs and so would have pups". He alternates between the two terms, but generally prefers "pup".
  • Jerkass: Both title characters. There's Tod, who hangs around by the hunter's dogs and taunts them while they're chained. When Chief finally gets loose and chases Tod, he kills the dog by leading it into a trap via a train. And Copper, whose jealously toward Chief makes him so hateful of the dog that he's happy when Chief is killed by the fox.
  • Kick The Fox: The hunter kills at least two of Tod's mates and at least two litters of Tod's kits.
  • Kill 'Em All: Both of the eponymous characters themselves. See Downer Ending.
  • Kill Steal: One reason Copper hates Chief is the latter's habit of picking up scent trails by luck and leading the hunting pack off along it, rather than the methodical way Copper works out the trails. He also refuses to kill steal himself when the young hound Red opens his first line - he just confirms the find and elevates the newbie to a full member of the tracking pack.
  • Last of His Kind: Eventually, Tod, Copper, and the hunter are the last of the wild old guard.
  • Mockumentary: Of the serious sort.
  • New Meat: Red the July hound. He opens his very first trail on the bear hunt, and the bear later kills him.
  • No Name Given: The hunter, who is referred to as the Master by Copper and the hunter or the Man by Tod.
  • The Noun and the Noun
  • Old Dog: Copper
  • Pet the Dog:
    • A different hunter killed both Tod's mother and siblings, but kept and raised Tod as a pet.
    • Despite coming across as heartlessly opportunistic for much of the story, Tod has a few moments when he shows something akin to compassion. When he finds a strange fox stuck in a trap, he feels compelled to help, but has no idea how. He still stays with the doomed fox until he senses the hunter approaching. Another time is when he meets his second mate; a male fox is trying to force himself on her and Tod chases him away. Instead of treating the vixen the same way as that male fox, he goes to find food for her and waits for her to calm down and trust him. Only after that's achieved does he mate with her.
  • The Plague: Rabies.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Foxes of course do not have language, so fox parents cannot simply tell their offspring that winter is coming and that it would be a good idea to learn hunting skills in summer. Tod cannot communicate to his family that the hunter is using a rabbit-scream call as bait.
  • Predators Are Mean: They certainly take extreme pleasure in killing things. Skirts the edge of the trope since they're still only trying to make a living.
  • Properly Paranoid: Tod, on multiple occasions:
    • His original mate picks a birthing den that's a single tunnel leading to a single burrow. Tod, having spent his short time as a wild pup in a generations-old fox den with multiple entrances and burrows, thinks it's a Death Trap. He's right.
    • During the rabies epidemic, strychnine baits are left out for population control. Tod never eats one directly, but he gets a dose via some carrion that has passed through no less than six previous victims. The experience so traumatises Tod that he lives on fruit and roots for a few days, and never eats meat from anything he didn't kill himself ever again.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: At the end of the story, the hunter has managed to kill Tod. However, he has to retire in a nursing home and shoot Copper to avoid abandoning the old dog.
  • Roman à Clef: The final chapter is based on a real hunt in which a part bloodhound named Boston chased a fox named Baldy for a day and half, covering 150 miles. Both animals dropped dead at the end of the hunt.
  • Shown Their Work: Mannix spent over a year studying foxes, which included watching them in the wild, interviewing hunters and even keeping a pair of red foxes in his home. He was also extremely well-versed in how scent tracking works. It shows.
  • Shoot the Dog: To avoid abandoning him in his old age.
  • Snow Means Death: Primarily because prey is scarce, but also because winter is trapping season.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Chief dies in the novel and the book of the film, but not the Disney film that inspired the book of the film of the book. There's also the matter of the two title characters surviving.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: In this case, Tod uses a train to off Chief.
  • Tempting Fate: After first being persued by Chief, Tod is completely worn out from the chase and hopes to never see the hunter and his dogs again. Given this is the second chapter...
  • Through His Stomach: Tod decides being a mated fox might not be so bad after his first mate helps him kill a pheasant and later proves that a hunting pair is a lot more successful than a lone fox.
  • Time Skip: Chapter nine begins with noting that years have passed and Tod's range has changed nearly completely due to urbanization.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Yes, little boy, go ahead and pick up and eat that hog crackling you found on the side of the road.
  • Villain Protagonist: In one interpretation, both the eponymous characters Tod and Copper.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the last surviving pup of Tod's second litter?
  • Xenofiction: None of the animals can talk, and much of the book is spent characterizing them without dialogue.