Fox Talk 

kale vos
(Photo: internet)

‘What is that traipsing along the field?’ A fox’s head with a bald tail? no – a cat, no – a dog, no – a fox. Or is it? Someone in the village thought he saw a mongoose, but that animal doesn’t have a pointed face nor long legs. Could it be a jackal that smuggled itself from Samos (where packs of them still live)? No, nor does it really look like that wolf-like garbage eater. But there are bald foxes: foxes that are ill or have a very rare genetic variation: the Samsonfox , who has short and a bit curly hair – so from far away he looks bald.

Turkey is a pretty big country and who knows what members of the animal kingdom are hiding there. I suppose it is possible that this super rare fox could have stowed away on one of the many Turkish ferries visiting Lesvos this summer. Although it is more plausible that it is just a diseased local fox (sarcoptic mange, would make him loose all his hair: a real bald fox). I have now seen him a second time, much closer this time, and he seem to me to be a very healthy, merry fox, looking for cat food and chickens.  

Lesvos is home to many foxes. You regularly see them sneaking by. Sometimes they cause mayhem in a chicken coop with a bloody invasion, they steal shoes left outdoors and they even know how to make telephones disappear. They are not beloved, especially by the farmers, because they love to devour lambs and chickens. That is why they are a prized target to be shot, or hit by car on the streets, even though it is forbidden to kill foxes. To give an awful example they are sometimes even hung in trees. This bald fox does not have much chance of survival, even though such a fox is worthy of being in a museum. Unless of course the farmers have the same reaction as I did: ‘what on earth is that?’

The Gods answer to that question would be to petrifying the beast. They have done that before. The story goes that long ago the inhabitants of the ancient city of Thebes did not admire Dionysos and were not even nice to the other gods. This enraged Dionysos and he sent a gigantic fox to Thebes: Teumessus, who not only collected sheep for his dinner plate, but also human beings. And nobody could kill him, that had been decreed by the Gods. That is why the king of Thebes decided to offer a child each month to Teumessus to satisfy him.

Amphitryon, son of a king and stepfather of Heracles, came one day to Thebes. He was looking to form an army in order to avenge the death of his brothers in law. The king promised him all necessary help if he managed to get rid of Teumessus. After a few days running after the gigantic fox Amphitryon realized that, indeed, the animal was protected by the Gods. So he thought about another solution and recalled Laelaps, the hunting dog that always knew how to get his prey. Amphitryon went in search for this mythical animal and brought the dog to Thebes, where he set him on the trail of Teumessus. This way the Gods had to deal with a conundrum: the dog that ‘always got his prey’ and the fox that ‘never was to be caught’. Observing this sad duo, Zeus became a bit pissed off. He petrified both the dog and the fox and put them with their own zodiac sign between the stars (Canis Minor and Canis Major). This way Thebes got rid of the giant fox, though the dog is still running after the fox, but in the sky vault. 

Sometimes you wish that the Greek Gods had never been banned to the mythological world and that they could still intervene, for instance in the stalemate of today’s war: mighty Russia against motivated Ukraine. Perhaps the Gods could petrify Putin and put him in a very far away galaxy, so that the Ukraine can breathe free again. That chance of that is, of course, as small as the wandering bald fox really being a Samsonfox.