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THE FOX WOMAN by Kij Johnson


by Kij Johnson

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-312-85429-3
Publisher: Tor

Reworking of a Japanese fable, told through entries in a gentleman’s notebook, a fox’s diary, and a wife’s pillow book. In medieval Japan, nobleman Kaya no Yoshifuji, unable to obtain a position at court, retires to his country estate with his wife Shikujo and their young son Tadamaro. The estate’s been badly neglected, with a fox family living under the floor of Yoshifuji’s wing: young Kitsune, her Brother, Grandfather, and dim-witted Mother. Kitsune and Yoshifuji fascinate one another, but Shikujo, convinced foxes are evil creatures, urges her husband to have them killed. Refusing, he observes Kitsune, and writes poems about her. Disgusted, Shikujo takes her son back to the capital. Grandfather, it emerges, knows how Kitsune might take human form—once he did so himself—using fox magic and a human skull. This powerful magic provides the foxes with human bodies, clothes, human dwellings, and even shadow servants. Finally, Kitsune and the fox magic beguile Yoshifuji, and he goes to live with Kitsune and her family. Kitsune bears a son; Yoshifuji and Brother enjoy hunting together. Then, while Shikujo attends the princess at the palace, a message arrives: Her husband is missing; she must return to search for him. Slowly, Kitsune’s dream unravels. Mother dies in a hunting accident. Shikujo arrives and, presented with Yoshifuji’s bloodied, ripped clothing, assumes him dead and summons a priest. The priest dispels the fox magic, kills Grandfather, drags Yoshifuji away, and drives Kitsune off. Finally, Kitsune realizes that Grandfather was Shikujo’s lover. An exquisitely fashioned but hopelessly overextended debut.