10 thoughts on ““Foxfire, Foxfire,” by Yoon Ha Lee”

  1. Oh, good choice! This was the first story this year that really truly delighted me. I’ll squee over it in more detail once you’ve had a chance to read it.

  2. It starts with such a strong, flavorful premise – a fox, killing a hundred times to become human.

    That’s masterful. Resonant. There’s a fantastical, storytelling-logic sense to it, and you immediately want to start filling in details – you could write a hundred different stories about foxes killing a hundred men to become human, and the idea that who they kill determines who they become is ripe with potential. It sets up so many promises with such a straightforward premise.

    And the story nails every single one of its promises. Its plot is concrete, down to earth, but full of significance. It’s fast-paced, introducing new elements right up to the end. The ending is woven together beautifully, with all the story’s major elements playing critical roles, each of them entirely themselves, and yet creating a conclusion that feels fresh and powerful.

    Very, very good.

  3. "I drew in my breath and took on human-shape. The small gods hissed their laughter. This time, when the pain receded, I was wrapped in a dress of green silk and a lavender sash embroidered with peonies. My hair was piled atop my head and held in place by heavy hairpins. The whole getup would have looked fashionable four generations ago…" It is the costume of a gisaeng, a Korean entertainer similar to a geisha; the profession pretty much died out at the end of the 19th century. http://infinitelyexo-m.tumblr.com/post/77980295483/epichair

    1. I wonder why this fox has such an affinity for inhabitants of the nightlife district, and his mother said that prostitution was a profession especially suited to foxes? I guess it is a reflection of traditional stories about gumiho, which focus heavily on them becoming beautiful women who seduce men before eating them. Traditions are falling down on all sides, the end of the Abalone Throne being just one; the fox’s shift from seduction to war is another innovation… But at the same time, the traditional knowledge about the nature of spirits is still valid.

  4. When adopting human form, Baekdo doesn’t restrict himself to one gender, and why should he? The difference between fox and human is great enough to make the difference between male and female humans seem quite insignificant.

  5. "’You may as well call me Jong,’ the pilot said. ‘It’s not my real name, but my mother used to call me that, after the child and the bell in the old story.’" Why the F would a mother call her daughter "Bell" after a story about a child who was sacrificed to give a bell a beautiful ring? Did she suspect that her child would be "sacrificed" to the metal of mechanized warfare? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_of_King_Seongdeok [[SHARE]]

    1. Just so many clever little details in this story. Like the foreign-made mobile armor called "cataphracts" after a Greek name for Central Asian armored cavalry. Or the story of the bell which Jong calls "old" but which Baekdo, the expert in tradition, doesn’t know — Wikipedia says it may actually have originated in the 20th century. Tradition changes and grows….

  6. "You were right, Mother, I wanted to say. Better a small life in the woods, diminished though they were from the days before the great cities with their ugly high-rises, than the gnawing hunger that had driven me toward the humans and their beautiful clothes, their delicious shrimp crackers, their games of dice and yut and baduk. For the first time I understood that, as tempting as these things were, they came with a price: I could not obtain them without also entangling myself with human hearts, human quarrels, human loyalties." Falling in love with being human… the tiger-sage thinks it never ends well, just like "No romance between a fox and a human ever ended well."

  7. "A gilded statue dominated the mouth of the cave, lovingly polished. It depicted a woman sitting cross-legged, one palm held out and cupping a massive pearl, the other resting on her knee. The skull of some massive tusked beast rested next to the statue. The yellowing bone had been scored by claw-marks." This is Kwanyin; the pearl represents wisdom. (Statues more often depict her holding a vase and a willow branch with which she sprinkles water that heals physical and spiritual suffering.) She is often depicted riding on an elephant; I can’t find any specific symbolism attributed to the elephant, but it is particularly associated with Samantabhadra, the bodhisattva who inspires doing good deeds. So… foxes think of the tiger-sage as wise; she is not particularly kind or benevolent — thus she keeps a statue of Kwanyin with the attributes of wisdom rather than compassion, and sharpens her claws on the elephant of Samantabhadra?

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