35. The Fox and The Thunder
IT is said that when a fox makes the elixir of life he can change his shape. But he must escape death by thunder three times before he can achieve it, and that is not easy. However, there are several ways in which a fox can escape his fate. Sometimes he may hide in the house of a nobleman or under the bed of a scholar or monk.
Anyone who saves his life in such peril is richly rewarded and his whole family benefits from it. If anyone kills him without reason, then he will be pursued by his everlasting hatred and the fox will not rest until that man and his whole family are ruined. Thus the foxes clearly show their likes and dislikes. Some of them are even superior to humans in that they know that they are up against an inexorable fate for which no one can be held responsible.
There was once a huntsman who was resting in a cool melon field on a hot summer’s day. Suddenly black clouds appeared on all sides. Thunder and lightning succeeded each other continuously. A fiery ball rose from the earth, leaving behind a smell of sulphur. It rose to the top of a tree and then fell down again. When the huntsman looked more closely he saw a huge fox in the branches of the tree; in his front paws he held a small red flag. Whenever a fiery thunderbolt came too close to him he brushed the little flag over it and the fire instantly sank to the ground. This went on for a good hour and the thunder was unable to hurt the fox.
The huntsman’s gaze was still fixed on that strange spectacle when a black cloud descended to the ground. Curled up in it was a dragon. It was hovering just above his head. Then the dragon turned towards the tree. Then it turned about again and approached the huntsman. The huntsman was frightened at first but then he thought to himself: ‘He is probably asking my help.’ so he loaded his shotgun and took aim. The dragon once more made for the top of the tree and the flash of lightning went with him. But the fox again parried it with his little flag. Quickly the huntsman fired his gun and hit the fox. The little red flag fell to the ground. At once there was a violent clap of thunder and the fox was consumed by the fire.
The huntsman picked up the little flag and looked at it. It was made from an old woman’s skirt. Evidently the dragon had kept away from it because it was unclean.