The Tale of the Wind and the Dry Bones

The crows had taken all the meat off a dead old fox that was lying up at the fairy mound near here, beside the standing stone. The birds call each other from miles around to eat fox meat if they can get it, to take revenge for their own kind. But now all the flesh was off the bones of the old fox, and the sinews and the muscles gone, and her red fur tugged off with beaks and carried away to make nests. So the only bits left were the little dry bones that went click, clack, in the breeze.

After all that was done, the other foxes came back to bury what was left, as foxes used to do in the old days. But the wind hadn’t finished with the dry bones yet, and on the night when the foxes arrived it was clicking and clacking at them, rolling them together on the ground behind the fairy mound, and tapping them against the stone to make bone music. And when it saw the foxes, it decided to have more fun with them still. So it swept the bones up into the shape of the old fox’s skeleton and danced it like a puppet around the stone, as if she was still alive without her flesh and fur. It took a bit of work to hold them all together.

When the other foxes saw this coming, most of them were frightened and ran away. But the big Daddy fox and one brave daughter stayed to see what would happen next. And the wind hadn’t expected that at all, so they all stood still for a few minutes, the fox skeleton hanging in the air with the leg bones all turning underneath it. And the big Daddy fox stood guard, and his daughter spoke to the bones.

“Grandmother,” she said, and the wind moaned out through the bare eye sockets and in between the ribs, and the small bones of the feet clinked together.

“Grandmother,” the daughter said again. “We have come to bury you.” But the wind had no words to answer, either for itself or for the dead.

And they stood and looked for a while longer, and none of them knew what to do, until the big Daddy fox stepped in front of his daughter. When the wind saw this, it was surprised and drew back, and it was as if the old fox skeleton reared up on its hind legs before them.

“There must be a burial,” said the Daddy fox to the bones. “We have come to bury you, old mother, and bury you we will.”

But the wind was tired now of the trick, and of holding the bones for so long in their shape. And with one last fling it swirled the bones away up into the air and screamed through the rib cage, lashed the dead tail and rained teeth down on the daughter and the big Daddy fox. And the two living foxes turned their tails to the mound and the standing stone, and they ran until their paws left a trail of blood behind them. The old dead fox was left scattered over the field where she should have been buried.

And from that time on, the foxes stopped burying their dead, and the wind can make bone music all through the night.