Monday, October 6, 2014

What Does the (Medieval) Fox Say?


            In popular culture, the term “she’s a fox” is commonly used to describe a woman who is very beautiful. However, with the medieval connotation behind foxes, what does this say about women? A woman who is foxy can be seen as someone who is sly in her ways and although gorgeous, is untrustworthy. Contrastingly, older men are often described as a “silver fox.”

            The fox, especially in medieval times, was known to be a cunning and deceitful creature. It would roll in red mud in order to trick it’s prey into thinking it was dead and covered in blood, only then to attack and eat them. Classified as a beast, the fox was a devious animal that would never run in a straight line. In medieval literature it is seen as an allegory for the devil. 

          The fox was often depicted as stealing chickens from the peasants and yet was also a common animal to be hunted by the nobility. Under Reynard the Fox, a medieval Europe’s trickster figure that was featured in a serious of beast epics, the fox had opposing roles of being hunter and hunted.  He was always getting into trouble but was able to talk his way out of it. Reynard the Fox alternates between tricking his victims and running away from them. This opposed image of the fox as hunter and hunted further added to it’s similarities to the devil, being threatening and threatened.
            In using the term “silver” when describing men, the notion of foxes rolling in blood is dismissed. Women’s blood, in medieval texts, was seen as polluting. Menstruating women were seen as unclean and the church taught how menstruation was a curse from God as a result of Eve’s temptation. In referring to a woman as a fox suggests that although she is attractive and sexy, she is cunning in her ways and tricks her preys with her “red” color.    
        Men, as previously mentioned, are silver foxes. They lack the connotation of blood or the impurity it implies. Medieval men feared menstrual blood for it’s corrosive capabilities and representation of female power. One particular belief was that it, menstrual blood, could damage the penis on contact. Although men could be seen as crafty and sly, they do so without becoming impure. Furthermore, a silver fox is used to describe older men. A man that may be deceitful, but since he is older, now has wisdom and knowledge to better his previous ways.          
            To be “foxy” means to have a certain sex appeal. Yet to be a vixen, the word for a female fox, tends to imply that the woman in question has a few controversial, albeit nasty, qualities. To say that “she’s a fox” brings about a meaning that questions a woman’s motives. She may be beautiful , but she is also polluted, devious, and cunning in her ways. She is not like the male counterpart, silver fox, whom has matured in his ways and is now a good-looking, older gentleman. The silver fox is not polluted for he lacks the color red in his description and is therefore free of the blood. The medieval belief about a fox being the devil and never running in a straight line may no longer prevail in popular culture. However, the underlying connotation of the “sly fox” and medieval notions of women and blood are still muddled in their references on what the fox says about people.

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