FOX (Av. raopi-, Mid. Per: rōbāh; NPers. rūbāh; Figure 1).
ii. IN PERSIA
In pre-Islamic Iran, the fox was considered as one of the ten varieties of dog (in the Avesta, cf. Vendidad 13.16), created against a demon called xabag dēw (Bundahišn, tr., Bahār, pp. 79, 103). It was considered an evil deed to eat its flesh (Bundahišn, tr. Bahār, p. 134). Muslim law is not uniform regarding its treatment. Although, according to one Hadith, it is called the worst of all wild animals (Damīrī, I, p. 247), the Shafiʿites consider the consumption of its flesh permissible, while the Hanafites forbid it (Damīrī, I, p. 254; Qazvīnī, II, p. 19; Ṭūsī, VIII, p. 280). Shiʿites also prohibited it (Abū Jaʿfar Ṭūsī, VI, p. 280; Kolaynī, VI, p. 245; ʿAlī al-Reżā, p. 114). Foxes are occasionally described in a manner reminiscent of flying squirrels (Damīrī, I, p. 249; Ḥāseb Ṭabarī, p. 126), and sometimes in a way that implies a variety of large fruit bat (e.g., Ṭūsī, p. 592). Thus, some classical sources claim that foxes could once fly because of this confusing of the species (Damīrī, I, p. 249).
Although consuming fox flesh is forbidden by most schools of law in Islam, medicinal use of various parts of the fox’s body is allowed for treatment of a variety of conditions (Damīrī, I, p. 255; Ebn Rabban Ṭabarī, p. 430; Ḥāseb Ṭabarī, p. 201; Šahmardān, p. 109; Jamālī Yazdī, p. 62). Even its droppings were used to prepare an aphrodisiac (Šahmardān, p. 109), while folk practice in Khorasan still prescribes that a bridegroom who is unable to consummate his marriage should leave the wedding party for the desert in the hope of hearing a fox howl. Once he hears the call of the beast, he can return to try again (Šakūrzāda, p. 204). Not only is the fox medicinally useful, but it is also possessed of a fair amount of medical knowledge. It can, for instance, cure its own illnesses by feeding on certain roots and bulbs (Dānešpažūh, ed., p. 406; Qazvīnī, II, p. 108).
In classical Arabic and Persian literature the fox is a symbol of craftiness and deceit as well as cowardice (Jāḥeẓ, VI, p. 305; Damīrī, I, p. 248; Balḵī, p. 425; Šāh-nāma [Moscow] VI, p. 334, ll. 220-23; Ṭūsī, pp. 591-92; Jamālī Yazdī, p. 60; Lazard, Premiers Poètes II, pp. 32, 33, 70, 75). These characteristics of the fox have been directly reflected in folklore and folk-belief. Although most types of folk tales in which the fox appears portray the animal as crafty and cunning (e.g., Marzolph, types 1, 2A, 6, 20D*, 51, 60, 92), it figures as the helper or donor figure in some stories (e.g., Marzolph, types 325, *545).
Those who believe in physiognomy interpret a fox-like visage as an indication of an evil and deceitful personality (Afšār, ed., p. 43), while dream interpretation texts consider the fox to be a symbol of a cunning and immoral man or a mendacious woman (Teflīsī, p. 284). Thus, the man who dreams of playing with a fox should be aware that either a woman is in love with him or that he will soon find a lovely mistress (Teflīsī, p. 284), while he who dreams of a fox jumping in his shoes should expect that someone will seduce his wife in the near future (Afšār, ed., pp. 123, 175).
Ī. Afšār, ed., Ḵᵛāb-gozārī, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967.
A. Aarne and S. Thompson, The Types of the Folktale, 2nd rev. ed., Helsinki, 1973.
M.-T. Dānešpažūh, ed., Baḥr al-fawāʾed, Tehran, 1345 Š./1966.
ʿAlī al-Reżā b. Mūsā (attrib.), Feqh al-Reżā: al-feqh al-manṣūb le’l-Emām al-Reżā al-moštahar be-Feqh al-Reżā, ed. Moʾassassat Āl al-Bayt, Beirut, 1990.
Bundahišn, tr. M. Bahār as Farnbag-dādagī (Bondaheš), Tehran, 1369 Š./1990.
Abu’l-Moʾayyad Abū Moṭīʿ Balḵī (attrib.), ʿAjāʾeb al-donyā, ed. L. P. Smirnova, Moscow, 1993.
Kamāl-al-Dīn Moḥammad b. Mūsā Damīrī, Ḥayāt al-ḥayawān al-kobrā wa yalīhī ʿAjaʾeb al-maḵlūqāt wa ḡārāʾeb al-mawjūdāt le’l-ʿallāma Zakarīyā b. Moḥammad. Maḥmūd al-Qazvīnī, 2 vols., Qom, 1362 Š./1983.
Ebn Rabban Ṭabarī, Ferdaws al-ḥekma, ed. M. L. Siddiqi, Berlin, 1928.
Moḥammad b. Ayyūb Ḥāseb Ṭabarī, Toḥfat al-ḡarāʾeb, ed. J. Matīnī, Tehran, 1371 Š./1992.
ʿAmr b. Bahr Jāḥeẓ, Ketāb al-ḥayawān, ed. ʿA. M. Hārūn, 8 vols., 2nd edition, Cairo, 1387/1968.
Abū Bakr Moṭahhar Jamālī Yazdī, Farroḵ-nāma, ed. Ī. Afšār, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967.
Abū Jaʿfar Moḥammad b. Yaʿqūb Kolaynī, al-Kāfī, ed. ʿA.-A. Ḡaffārī, 8 vols., Tehran, 1377-79/1957-60.
U. Marzolph, Typologie des persischen Volksmärchens, Beiruter Texte und Studeien 31, Beirut, 1984.
Zakarīyāʾ b. Moḥammad b. Maḥmūd Qazvīnī, ʿAjāʾeb al-maḵlūqāt wa ḡārāʾeb al-mawjūdāt (printed on the margin of Damīrī, Ḥayāt al-ḥayawān).
Šahmardān b. Abi’l-Ḵayr, Nozhat-nāma-ye ʿalāʾī, ed. F. Jahānpūr, Tehran, 1362 Š./1983.
E. Šakūrzāda, ʿAqāʾed o rosūm-e mardom-e Ḵorāsān, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1362 Š./1983.
H. Schwarzbaum, The Mishle Shu’alim: Fox Fables of Rabbi Berechia Ha-Nakdan, Kiron, Israel, 1979 (contains a vast amount of data about the fox in folklore and literature).
Ḥobayš b. Ebrāhīm Teflīsī, Kāmel al-taʿbīr, ed. M.-H. Roknzāda Ādamīyat. Tehran, 1348 Š./1969.
S. Thompson, Motif-Index of Folk-Literature, rev. ed., 6 vols., Bloomington, Ind., 1955.
Abū Jaʿfar Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Ṭūsī, al-Mabsūṭ fi’l-feqh al-emāmīya, ed. M.-B. Behbūdī, 8 vols., Tehran 1346-51 Š./1967-72.
Moḥammad b. Maḥmūd Ṭūsī, ʿAjāʾeb al-maḵlūqāt, ed. M. Sotūda, Tehran, 1345 Š./1966.
(Mahmoud and Teresa Omidsalar)
Originally Published: December 15, 2000
Last Updated: January 31, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. X, Fasc. 2, p. 120