The Flying Fox

"Friendship is love without his wings"

- Lord Byron 

Once upon a time, there lived a very unusual fox. It was a small creature, all red fur and white paws. He had a brown nose and a pair of lively, sparkling eyes. The little fox lived in a forest, as any animal creature was prone to. But he was a very unusual fox as he desperately, illogically, uncommonly, sporadically, wanted to fly.

He would climb the biggest rock possible, perch on its top and gaze at the sky in wonder. The shrill cries of magpies or gentle twitter of sparrows – all seemed to attract his gaze. He would follow the birds’ flight for hours, from the early morning to the late night.

Other animals mocked the little fox.

“This behaviour is unbecoming of a decent animal,” would say the bear. “Why would a true predator want to have something to do with birds?”

“They only chirp and spook the prey!” would tut the wolf.

But the little fox was not swayed. “I want to learn to fly!” he said, unconcerned about what other animals thought of him.

Once he saw a sparrow’s nest on the tree, from which tiny brown birds were jumping out on the branch. He watched as an elder bird showed its offsprings how to beat their wings and, jumping off the tree, catch the wind. Little sparrows were light as a feather, so they effortlessly rose in the sky.

So the little fox thought, he could do the same. He jumped up on the lowest branch of a big oak and climbed as high as the tree could hold his weight. Other forest animals gathered under the tree; all were whispering to each other, waiting to see what would happen next.

It can’t be that difficult, said the little fox to itself. The birds can do that. And they are so tiny, and their wings are so fragile. If I move my paws up and down very fast, and my paws are much stronger, I would be able to fly.

Saying so, the fox moved to the edge of the branch and leapt into the air. But no matter how hard he moved his paws in the mimicry of beating wings, the air didn’t hold the little fox up. So he crashed down. He landed awkwardly among the watching animals.

“Pft! I told you!” said the rabbit. “You can’t fly.”

“You need wings for it,” added the moose.

So the little fox cried because it was very unfair and his paw hurt a lot, where he landed on it awkwardly. But there was nothing he could do about it, and he went to his burrow.

Hurt and sad, the little fox crawled into the nest of dry leaves and branches, which served as his bed. There he spent three days and three nights dreaming of the vast blue sky and fluffy white clouds while his paw healed.

On the fourth day, he woke up, startled by a loud crash noise near his burrow. Limping outside, he saw a black mass of feathers on the ground. A big crow was flopping his wings, trying to rise into the sky.  But a thick rope was tied to his leg with a big rock on the other end. The crow could rise no more than a foot above the ground, too tired to lift himself and the rock higher.

Seeing the little fox, the crow began to flop his wings faster, wanting to escape the predator. But he was too tired, so eventually, the crow dropped on the ground in defeat.

“Don’t eat me, little fox,” pleaded the crow. “I’m old, and my meat would be dry and tasteless.”

The crow wasn’t that old, but he was very cunning and thought that he could fool the little fox.

But the little fox didn’t want to eat the crow. He was gazing at the long black wings in wonder. “I can promise not to eat you if you give me your wings,” said he finally.

The crow was surprised, “Why would a small fox like you need the wings of an old crow?”

“I want to be able to fly!” explained the fox.

“What nonsense!” exclaimed the crow. “I have never heard of such thing! Besides, it’s not possible – I can’t give you my wings.”

“But there must be some way!” cried the little fox in despair. “I can’t live like this. The sky is calling for me, and I want to see the world from the birds-eye view.”

“Hmm,” hummed the crow. “Perhaps I have an idea who might be able to help you.”

The little fox jumped up and down in excitement.

“Old crows used to say that deep in the forest one might find the fairies, who can grant any imaginable wishes. I bet they could even give you wings!”

The crow paused, “I think I know where that place might be. But, first, you will have to help free me from this stone.” The cunning crow pointed at his leg with a beak.

The little fox moved to the rope, but then stopped. “How do I know that you would really bring me to the fairies if I help you now?” he asked.

The crow let out a sigh, “I promise to help you.”

And the crow, the wisest and the oldest bird, was known to keep his promises.

With a quick snap of jaws, the rope was cut, and the crow was free. Joyfully, he rose high into the sky, stretching his wings and enjoying the acute feeling of freedom. After making a couple of circles, the crow landed before the little fox, who was watching him with a wondrous expression on his muzzle.

“Follow me,” said the crow and they set off.

*****

They went through the forest, quickly reaching the end of the familiar grounds. Days went on, as they travelled deeper and deeper into the forest. They met an owl on their way, who told them that they should look for a meadow inside the forest – an unexpected clearing, surrounded by the highest fur-trees with a crystal spring in its very middle. So they went on and on. Sometimes the crow would rise high above tree crowns to search for their destination point.

They travelled during the day and slept at night, although the little fox sometimes hunted during the twilight as well. Once they were almost caught by a big white-tailed eagle that decided to pray on a much smaller crow. If it weren’t for the fox, who found shelter under a bush, and a sudden rain that started, they would have both been dead.

There under the bush, the crow and the little fox lied together as the rain pitter-pattered on the leaves above them. The little fox curled his bushy tail around the crow, as the bird in his turn arched a black wing over the fox’s head to keep the rain away.

Throughout their journey, they encountered many hardships, which made their unlucky friendship grow stronger. Many of the animals they met and asked for directions couldn’t or didn’t want to help them. In spite of that all, the little red fox refused to lose his hope.

Then one day, a fortnight after their journey had begun, when the crow rose high into the sky, he let out a victorious cry, “I can see it! I can see it!”

With renewed strength, the little fox and the crow moved through the forest to their destination. As they came closer to the clearing, they saw a strange, eerie light coming from it. Stopping at the very edge of the meadow, they both looked in wonder at the dozens of tiny winged creatures moving back and forth.

That was the source of light they had seen. These were the fairies; their tiny wings beat enticingly as if mocking them.

“Are you ready, my friend?” asked the crow. Gaping at the wonderous sight before them, the little fox gave a short nod.

Together they stepped into the clearing.

*****

The little fox was bitter. The fairies had been his last hope. He felt that his life had come to an end. The animals laughed at him – he didn’t think he would be welcome to return to his home forest. He failed. Nothing made sense anymore. All he wanted was to fall asleep and never wake up.

The crow watched as the little fox curled into a tiny ball of red fur and silently cried. Deep sorrow nested in his breast, throbbing in sympathy with his friend’s pain. He didn’t know what he could do to help him, so he turned and flew to the fairies to try and reason with them.

But the fairies were firm. Shaking her head, the Queen Fairy said, “We are sorry, but there is nothing we could do. We can’t grow him a pair of wings.”

The crow thought for a moment because he was quite wise and had seen a lot of the world in his years. He thought about the warmth of the morning sun and the joy of flying and being alive and happy.

“And what if you had a pair of wings? Could you sew them to his body? Would he be able to fly?” he asked.

The Queen Fairy looked at him thoughtfully, “That could work, yes. But we don’t have any spare wings. And if we had, the wings of a fairy won’t be able to hold the fox up, even such a small one.”

“What if I gave you mine?” asked the crow.

“But it would mean that you would die.”

“Do it,” said the crow solemnly. “But give him not only my wings, but also my heart, because he would need not only the ability to fly but also the courage to rise above the trees.”

The next morning came, and the little fox woke up feeling both rested and elevated. He moved to stand up and suddenly with a jolt of surprise realized that there was a pair of wings attached to his back.

They were big and strong and covered with black think feathers. Ecstatic beyond words, the fox jumped up and beat his wings. Slowly, awkwardly, he rose up and up until he was far above the ground.

Dropping down on the ground, the little fox went off searching for the crow, wanting to share the good news with his best friend. But he was nowhere to find.

Confused, the little fox ran to the fairies. Finding the Queen Fairy, he asked, “Have you seen my friend, the crow? I can’t find him. I want to show him the wings you gave me.”

But the tiny creature only shook her head sadly. “I am afraid, he is gone,” she said. “He has fulfilled your wish and gave you his wings.”

An anguished cry tore from the little fox’ chest. The pain he had never known before blossomed in his heart. It was not possible. It just couldn’t be true! 

“But you said, I could never fly!” sobbed he. “How could the old crow give his wings to me?”

“Because he was your friend and wanted your dream to come true,” said the Queen Fairy.

She looked at the crying fox with pity.

“He did have one wish, that we had to make true as well,” added she. “He asked to give you his heart together with his ability to fly because he wanted to give you enough bravery to bear the weight of these wings. Listen carefully, little fox, and you will hear it.”

Indeed as he listed, the little fox could feel a second heartbeat inside his ribcage. Immediately, the warmth filled him, soothing his pain and drying his tears. All of a sudden the little fox knew that his friend not only had given him his dream but also had given him his strength to bear the loss of the one and only friend.

“No dream is worth losing a friend,” said the fox sadly and left never to be seen again.

Still the story about the little fox who wanted to fly was passed from one animal to another. The rumours of the forest said that someone saw a lonely fox sitting on a tree branch, silhouetted against the night sky. He was sadly looking at the moon, his wings wrapped around his body.

Some said that in the stillness of the night it was possible to hear two hearts beat in perfect tandem.