p 12 “The fox ached with hunger and watched the phantom army gather at twilight…”
Many parents know this. Often when cleaning up their children’s rooms, they come upon a small treasure. Something lost or forgotten, yet something that touches the heart. It is no different for librarians. We tidy. We straighten. We order the disordered. And, once in awhile, we come across a forgotten title – one carrying an ache for all living things.
The Fox At Drummers’ Darkness by Joyce Stranger is a poignant narrative of the life of a young fox intertwined with Welsh histoy. It is told without the overly sentimental tone seen in other anthropomorphic novels, such as Redwall (Brian Jacques). It is told with a realism. A story of the wild fox trying to survive. Sentiment is sparingly saved for the Huntsman, the farmer and his wife as their lives become more desperate during a long drought. Stranger’s style of sparse and pointed writing – choosing just the right adjectives and adverbs in cleanly constructed sentences – effortlessly evokes empathy. She reminds us that all are living in the kingdom, Mammalia.
Welsh author, Joyce Stranger (born Joyce Muriel Wilson) was also an accomplished biologist and observer of animals, not unlike author Jean Craighead George, and her expertise comes through in this short but powerful novel. William Geldhart’s exquisite pen and ink illustrations add to the sombre tone and give pause for reflection. Any reader to feels a tenderness towards Steinbeck’s The Red Pony or Gibson’s Old Yeller, can add this to his or her list.
Stranger, Joyce. The Fox At Drummer’s Darkness. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1976. Print.
N.B. Out of print; available in used copies