A few Saturdays ago, while nursing my sick, three year old little girl Mia, I decided to pop in The Fox and the Hound DVD, which she had never seen. Normally our viewing choices consist of Thomas the Tank Engine, Frozen and Curious George, and when myself or my husband Mike, suggest something new, she firmly contests, but on this particular snowy Saturday, she obliged without a fight; a small victory in motherhood for me.
As she sat nestled in her daddy’s arm on the couch, her big brown eyes filled with wonder, I started to think about why I loved The Fox and the Hound so much as a little girl in the 80’s and why my daughter seemed so mesmerized by it now, some twenty years later.
After only a few scenes of Tod, the orphaned red fox, and Copper, the playful hound, blissfully frolicking about together, and vowing to remain “friends forever” the answer was crystal clear…. We all want to be accepted and loved for who we are, and this polar pair gives us hope that no matter what our differences, we are all really just the same.
A little time went by and I heard Mike, from the other room, explaining to Mia why crotchety, old Amos Slade was shooting his gun at Tod and hollering like a seething maniac. He simply said that Copper was a hunting dog and that hunting dogs hunt foxes like Tod. Mia looked at him blankly. He went on… “Amos is a hunter and hunters want their hunting dogs to catch the fox, not play with him.”
Mia’s eyes were glued to the screen, her little hand reaching for a piece of popcorn in the bowl beside her. I stood there for a moment, watching her watch the movie, and noticed that every time Amos appeared, she furrowed her brows, but when Tod and Copper emerged, happily playing together, her grimace transformed into a grin. I was amazed…At three years old, she was capable of really understanding love and hate, even if she didn’t understand the motivation behind either of them.
We watched The Fox and the Hound three times that day, laughing at Amos’s zaniness and tearing up, Mike and I, at just how relevant of a tale it still is: the reality that some things never quite change, heartbreaking.
As a mother of a biracial little girl, stories like The Fox and the Hound resonate deeply with me. In a world where our differences are magnified and hate and judgement is justified, it’s important to provide our children with lessons of love and harmony; to build characters with integrity, who stand up for what is right and who dare to be different, unique and happy being who they are. We need to create storylines based on unlikely pairs, who embrace each other’s differences instead of allowing their differences to divide them, like the Mo Willem’s Elephant and Piggie series, which are a huge hit in our house.
Stories, whether told through books or movies, allow us to escape to other times and places. They grant us the ability to be other people, to live other lives. Diverse stories yield the very same thing; but not only that, they teach our children about love and equality. They allow innocent children to see life as it should be and not as it sometimes is.
They say that it takes all kinds to make up the world, and it does. May more authors and illustrators have the courage to create characters who resemble the beauty in each of us, giving all children the opportunity to see themselves, and their lives, in the books on the shelves.
Tod and Copper got it right, or rather, Daniel P. Mannix, the author who drafted The Fox and the Hound, did. He beautifully told the tale of two friends who were scolded repeatedly for being together because they were different. However, he allowed them to follow their hearts and stay true to the vow they made to each other, to be “friends forever,” teaching us that though we are all a little different on the outside, on the inside, we are all just the same.
Be good to yourself and to one another.