Fox’s Socks is my smallest small person’s favourite book. It is undeniably adorable when she collects it from wherever I’ve hidden it and crawls burbling into my lap demanding I read it to her, AGAIN.
However, I have now read it at least three billion times in the last three days alone and I am bored to tears. It could be for this reason that I’ve come to view it in a new, and somewhat disturbing light…
The re-reading of children’s classics isn’t anything new. Let’s take Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came To Tea. It has long been accepted by most that this is not, in fact, a tale about a tiger – or even a little girl called Sophie. Neither, as more literary (and creative) folk say, is it a retelling of Judith’s disrupted and disturbing childhood in Nazi Germany.
It is in fact a story about a mother. A mother, standing in front of a spouse, and trying to explain why the house is such an unholy shit pit, the children aren’t washed (or even out of their pyjamas), and despite being home all day, no, there isn’t anything for fucking tea.
Frankly, there are times when we’ve all felt like using the ol’ ‘visiting tiger’ excuse. Occasionally it feels like a more likely explanation than the actual crap that goes down in the day of your average stay-at-home parent.
This reading of Tiger has now been pretty well documented, and perhaps I can blame my new view of Fox’s Socks on this phenomenon. Perhaps it’s my own dirty mind, or the fact my life is so dull I must live vicariously through the characters of children’s literature. Maybe I was just reading Girl On The Train at a formative moment. Certainly I can’t really blame Julia Donaldson, whose words are innocuous enough (and indeed, inane after the first ten, let alone billion, repetitions). I think I CAN safely pin at least some blame on Axel Scheffler, children’s illustrating hero, who is blatantly having a laugh.
Because Fox’s Socks is not a story about a fox with a hosiery crisis; it is in fact a tale about a sordid one night stand gone horribly awry.
Let’s look at the evidence.
Poor old Fox looks like he’s lost rather more than his socks, if you ask me. He’s woken up with a start to bleary memories of the night before, no idea how he ended up half naked, telltale debris scattered all around him, and a smug looking mouse offering him a cup of coffee in a skimpy polka-dot nightie. (We’ve all been there, friend. It ain’t pretty).
Yes, I think it’s pretty clear he’s been doing his very own version of lift-the-flaps, here. Oo-er missus! Or mouses. Just look at his face. That stark horror and dawning doom. Oh, and that white square under the bed is probably a condom packet. HE HOPES.
Now look at the mouse’s face. That’s a mouse feeling well satisfied by a bit of hot foxy cock action, if ever I saw one. And if I had to take a guess, I’d say she’d been planning this seduction for some time. (She’s probably into the hipster preppy look). Certainly she’d packed that nightie in her handbag – just in case.
In the next scene, Fox is looking rather more relieved. I think this is because he can finally cover his nakedness – embarrassing in the cold light of day – and notes the mouse has found some breakfast. Surely she’ll leave once she’s eaten it, right? Oh God. Is that another condom wrapper under the chest?
Nope. She’s here for the long haul. She’s even toasting marshmallows, while clearly channeling Glenn Close’s bunny boiler. Fox has no idea how to get out of this situation. Gingerly, he clears his throat and announces he’s feeling a bit chilly, and he’s going to find his shirt.
Mouse says she’s hung it up for him. She’s trying to show her potential as a long-term partner/mouse-keeper, and directs him to the cupboard under the stairs. Who hangs a shirt in a cupboard under the stairs???
Fox is clearly terrified. “Er, in here?” he asks carefully. Yip. She may even have ironed it while he was sleeping.
Shit – now she’s rifled through his draws and is trying to give him flowers. Fox is beginning to become exasperated. And panicked.
How did his tie get in the dresser? Obviously they were rattling some plates last night on the way upstairs. Let’s hope the condom wrapper is out of shot.
She’s putting her hat on. She’s going to leave! Fox quietly rejoices.
The mirror of shame. Why won’t she leave? Why won’t she leave??
Sweet Lord, they’ve been at it in the bloody bathroom too. I don’t know how Fox’s hat ended up under the mat (and neither does he), but I’ll lay odds that he wasn’t the one wearing it last night. Yee-SQUEAK-haw!
Look at Mouse inhaling Fox’s aftershave like a psycho. This can’t end well, can it?
The awkward silence stretches out. Regret descends heavily on both participants. Maybe, Mouse thinks, in a rare moment of clarity, maybe he’s not as into it as I was. Maybe I’ve weirded him out. I must try harder!
“So, it’s time to go then,” says Fox with false cheer. “It’s been lovely to, er, have you.”
“Can I take one of your socks with me?” asks Mouse, hiding in the clock in a last ditch attempt not to leave.
(Note she has already planted her umbrella in the stand so she’s got an excuse to return. Also, who matches their umbrella to their nightie????).
Get ready for the twist.
Fox: “Sure! I’ve got loads of socks, upstairs in that box”.
Then Fox reaches for the hammer (left) to end the torment in the only way left open to him.
The jack-in-the-box welcomes Mouse to her red and yellow striped coffin with open arms. And perhaps, we realise, this isn’t the first of Fox’s dirty secrets that has been sent to die in the interestingly-cluttered attic.
Zoom in to stack of newspapers on the right, all featuring other missing animals in Acorn Woods.
I think I’ve added a certain je ne sais quoi to the original don’t you? A bit of sex? A thriller twist?
Anyhoo, good luck reading this book to your darling small people without now running this sub-text through in the back of your mind.
Coming soon – Rabbit’s Nap. The classic story of a bad mother with a stinking hangover trying to avoid her friends and family and not vom.