Lady Into Fox by David Garnett
HardPress Classics, Miami, 2010
A short, mysterious novel first published in 1922. This little book is a fantasy, almost a folktale or myth.
Sylvia (nee Fox) and Richard Tebrick are a newly married young couple facing a bright future. One day, while on a walk in the woods near their house Richard hears the call of the hunt and races up a hill to get a better view. Sylvia hangs back and finally snatches her hand away. Richard turns to her..
Where his wife had been a moment before was a small fox, of a very bright red. It looked at him very beseechingly, advanced towards him a pace or two, and he saw at once that his wife was looking at him from the animal’s eyes. You may well think if he were aghast: and so maybe was his lade at finding herself in that shape, so they did nothing for a half an hour but stare at each other, he bewildered, she asking him with her eyes as if indeed she spoke to him: “What am I now become? Have pity on me, husband, have pity on me for I am your wife. From page 3.
Tebrick knows this fox is his wife, Sylvia knows she is a fox. At first she does everything she can to keep her human qualities but eventually the fox takes over. Richard sends everyone away from their home, spends pleasant hours with his vixen wife and worries constantly about her getting out into the wild, afraid of dogs and hunters. He is at times appalled by her wildness and yet is filled with love for her. Eventually he releases her into the woods, she finds a mate and has litter. Richard grows to love them. In the end he cannot save them.
What an odd little book. I enjoyed it as a fantasy and had problems with the high romanticism and Richard’s sense of propriety. I would have loved to hear more from Sylvia, as she grew into her wildness.