Le Renard et L’Enfant (The Fox and the Child), by Florence Reynaud from the film by Luc Jacquet
6/10, a children’s book of an adventure between a young girl and a wild vixen
The movie “Le Renard et L’Enfant” is being advertised all over Paris. Distributed by Disney, written by Luc Jacquet (who wrote “March of the Penguins” and seems to be challenging Jean-Jacques Annaud (“The Bear,” “Two Brothers”) in the “French directors who make animal films” category, which one would think is not particularly hotly contested), it’s the story of a young girl who lives near a forest and meets a fox and forms some kind of friendship. That much, you can get from the posters.
I don’t usually go for novelizations, but French is my second language (third chronologically, second in proficiency) and I figured I wouldn’t know the difference. So I’m not going to comment much on language usage, focusing a little more on the story. Which is pretty good overall. The heroine is a “willful” girl who loves walking in the forest and just wants to be friends with the animals she meets. She is especially entranced by a fox she glimpses, and after living the friendship strongly in her mind, she accustoms the fox to her presence with ham treats and gentle behavior.
Throughout the story, the fox behaves pretty much as a wild animal would. There’s one rather unbelievable scene where a pack of wolves corners the fox, but the rest of the girl’s adventures and misadventures come from her trusting the fox too far and either being rewarded or being let down. The climax of the book comes when she tries to bring the fox into her life, instead of always going to its life. It follows her to her bedroom, but once shut in, it starts to panic. That’s when the girl realizes that this is really a wild animal, and not a friend.
There’s not much impact in the book to the loss of that friendship. One can imagine a story in which the girl is forever mistrustful of people, always looking for that element of wildness in them that precludes true friendship. But in the end, it is revealed that she is telling this story to her son, who is now the age she was then, in the hopes that he will learn about animals as she did without having to go through the same ordeals.
This is no masterpiece, but if you read French and like foxes, it’s an entertaining enough read, and the message it sends is worthwhile. I wish half the people who write to me at my fox ecology site would understand the distinction between wild animals and pets as well as this movie/book does.