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Gon the fox cub


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Gon the Fox Cub by Niimi Nankichi with illustrations by Kuroi Ken

What does it mean to be good?

Gon is an orphaned fox cub who likes to do all kinds of pranks. For him, a peasant fishing in the river is just a chance to play, so he steals his fish. Gon later learns that he had fished them for his sick mother. A few days later, Hyōjū's mother passes away, and a remorseful Gon seeks to make amends and help the now alone Hyōjū.

The story of Gon, the orphaned fox cub, gives rise to intense emotions in children's souls, but also to essential questions about life. How well do we understand others? How well do others understand us? Can we make mistakes without wanting to? Can we always fix our mistakes? What does it mean to be good?

I heard this story as a child, from Mohei, an old man from the village where I was born. It is said that in ancient times, on Nakayama Hill, near our village, there was a small castle, the owner of which was a nobleman of the same name. Not far from the castle, deep in the mountain, lived Gon. An orphaned fox cub, Gon spent his days alone in a den he had made among the bushy ferns in the forest. Whether it was day at noon or night, Gon used to wander around the village near the mountain and do all kinds of pranks. From the fields he would dig and take out the sweet potatoes, which he would then throw over the furrows of the earth. He would set fire to the dried canola stalks or sneak behind the houses and pull the ropes hanging from the eaves on which the peasants had strung hot peppers in the sun. After the feat, he would run off eating the ground, the ropes dangling behind him.
(translation from Japanese by Iolanda Prodan)

NIIMI NANKICHI (1913–1943) was one of Japan's foremost authors of children's literature. He wrote stories and short stories, poems, songs and plays, most of which were published after his untimely death from tuberculosis. For Gon, the fox cub, which he wrote when he was 18, Niimi Nankichi was inspired by an old story he heard in the village where he grew up.

Gon's story was first published in children's literature magazine Akai Tori (Red Bird) in 1932. Starting in 1956, it was included in Japanese language and literature textbooks for elementary school.

Age group: 3–9 years
24 × 28 cm/ hardcover book/ 36 pages.
ISBN: 978-606-8996-15-8/ Year of publication: 2019
Translation by: Iolanda Prodan

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