Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales | Annotated Tale

Note that only the "Fireside Nursery Stories" section of this book has been included in the database comprising 19 tales. COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in November 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Story of Mr Fox, The

ONCE upon a time there was a young lady called Lady Mary, who had two brothers. One summer they all three went to a country seat of theirs which they had not before visited. Among the other gentry in the neighbourhood who came to see them was a Mr. Fox, a bachelor, with whom they, particularly the young lady, were much pleased. He used often to dine with them, and frequently invited Lady Mary to come and see his house. One day, when her brothers were absent elsewhere, and she had nothing better to do, she determined to go thither, and accordingly set out unattended. When she arrived at the house and knocked at the door, no one answered. At length she opened it and went in, and over the portal of the door was written:

Be bold, be bold, but not too bold.

               She advanced, and found the same inscription over the staircase; again at the entrance of a gallery; and lastly, at the door of a chamber, with the addition of a line:

Be bold, be bold, but not too bold,       
Lest that your heart's blood should run cold!

               She opened it, and what was her terror and astonishment to find the floor covered with bones and blood. She retreated in haste, and coming down stairs, she saw from a window Mr. Fox advancing towards the house with a drawn sword in one hand, while with the other he dragged along a young lady by the hair of her head. Lady Mary had just time to slip down, and hide herself under the stairs, before Mr. Fox and his victim arrived at the foot of them. As he pulled the young lady upstairs, she caught hold of one of the bannisters with her hand, on which was a rich bracelet. Mr. Fox cut it off with his sword: the hand and bracelet fell into Lady Mary's lap, who then contrived to escape unobserved, and got safe home to her brothers' house.

               A few days afterwards, Mr. Fox came to dine with them as usual. After dinner, the guests began to amuse each other with extraordinary anecdotes, and Lady Mary said she would relate to them a remarkable dream she had lately had. I dreamt, said she, that as you, Mr. Fox, had often invited me to your house, I would go there one morning. When I came to the house, I knocked at the door, but no one answered. When I opened the door, over the hall I saw written, "Be bold, be bold, but not too bold." But, said she, turning to Mr. Fox, and smiling, "It is not so, nor it was not so." Then she pursued the rest of the story, concluding at every turn with, "It is not so, nor it was not so," till she came to the discovery of the room full of bones, when Mr. Fox took up the burden of the tale, and said:

It is not so, nor it was not so,       
And God forbid it should be so!

which he continued to repeat at every subsequent turn of the dreadful story, till she came to the circumstance of his cutting off the young lady's hand, when, upon his saying, as usual,

It is not so, nor it was not so,       
And God forbid it should be so!

               Lady Mary retorts by saying,

But it is so, and it was so,       
And here the hand I have to show!

               at the same moment producing the hand and bracelet from her lap. Whereupon the guests drew their swords, and instantly cut Mr. Fox into a thousand pieces.


A simple, but very curious tale, of considerable antiquity. It is alluded to by Shakespeare, and was contributed to the variorum edition by Blakeway. Part of this story will recall to the reader's memory the enchanted chamber of Britomart.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Story of Mr Fox, The
Tale Author/Editor: Halliwell, James Orchard
Book Title: Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales
Book Author/Editor: Halliwell, James Orchard
Publisher: John Russell Smith
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1849
Country of Origin: England
Classification: ATU 955: The Robber Bridegroom

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