Mr. Fox, looking fantastic

On my way to the neighbors’ house yesterday, thinking of myself as a chicken farmer, a rhyme arose spontaneously in my head: Boggis and Bunce and Bean/One fat, one short, one lean/These horrible crooks/So different in looks/Were nonetheless equally mean.

This, of course, is limerick from Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, which happens not only to be my favorite childhood book, but also the book I used while tutoring the neighbors’ youngest son in reading. He and I both knew the story well, and loved the descriptions of the three farmers scheming to kill Mr. Fox. There’s Boggis, the fat chicken and duck farmer; Bunce, the pot-bellied dwarf who only eats donuts filled with goose liver paste; and Bean, the turkey farmer who is thin as a whip from ingesting nothing beyond apple cider. These three unmarried and unhappy farmers are excellent villains, yet one can’t help feeling a little bad for them. Their only purpose in life is to raise poultry, and they are bedeviled in this by the thieving Mr. Fox. I can only imagine how upset I would be if some of my neighbors’ chickens were murdered on my watch by a cunning predator. Of course, Mr. Fox is only trying to provide for his young family and is remarkably charming (even for a fox). Still, the final scene in which the three farmers sit outside the fox hole in the rain, waiting endlessly for the fox family to emerge, is utterly pathetic. Perhaps they should consider starting CSAs instead–Mr. Fox wouldn’t be at all interested in the produce and the farmers would probably see an improvement in their outlook on life with a change in diet. After all, donuts filled with goose-liver paste are bound to put anyone in a perpetually bad mood.

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