In a frozen land where everything the eye could see was ice and snow there lived a family of Arctic foxes. The father fox was named Niall which means champion in the frozen land of the Norse people. Niall had lived in the frozen tundra of Iceland for years and so had many of his ancestors.
The island on which they lived was almost always covered in snow and ice. The island came to be because of a giant volcano that erupted many years ago and left what is now called Iceland. It is an island upon two giant plates underneath the earth. As the plates move shifting in position the island becomes one of fire and ice.
Niall had a mate named Tofa which means thunder and they had a son named Falkor. They had given him this name because it meant “Guardian of the People”. This was a family of foxes sometimes called the polar fox because they were always found in the cold Arctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America.
Niall had small rounded ears, a more rounded head, a shorter and wider muzzle than the red fox which is more common to people. The foxes are members of the dog family and to many people resemble the Eskimo Spitz because of their white color. They are also related to the wolf and they have the warmest coat of all the mammals including the giant polar bear. They are very fast on their feet and can run up to thirty miles per hour. They weigh about ten pounds or less and are absolutely beautiful when seen in their frozen land.
When Falkor was born he looked like his father. He had very thick fur on the pads on his feet to keep his feet from freezing when walking or running on the frozen ice. Even though they look like a white Eskimo Spitz to some degree they are the only foxes that can survive the exceedingly cold temperatures. Arctic foxes live in burrows, and in a blizzard they may tunnel into the snow to create shelter. It would be somewhat like you would do when it snows if you wanted to make yourself a tunnel. You would have to dig through the heavy frozen snow and make yourself a safe place underneath making sure it didn’t cave in on you.
Niall and Tofa began teaching Falkor how to live when he was only a small pup. In winter, prey can be scarce on the ground. During these months the foxes often follow the polar bear and eat scraps left behind. They will eat vegetables when they can find them or other small animals like rabbits. On many occasions Niall would show Falkor how to use his sharp hearing to discover animals underneath the ice. Once they were located, Niall would quickly dig down in the snow and catch the food for the day.
Falkor had to grow up quickly because Tofa had just given birth to ten baby pups.
“Falkor we must get busy now. We will have to make our tunnel even bigger so the new pups will have room to move about. They will get very bored for the first few months and will be wandering everywhere. We must be sure they are kept safe and have plenty to eat. Tofa will be busy most of the time taking care of them so you and I will have to enlarge the burrow. Stocking up on food will be very important as well. When we catch it, we can bring it back and bury it inside the burrow until we need it. These blizzards here can be terrible and last for days you know?” Niall instructed. He wanted to be sure all of his pups were healthy and well fed.
“I know dad. I didn’t tell you but a few weeks ago I almost got lost in one of those blizzards. It nearly scared me stiff. I just can’t imagine a young baby out in one of those horrible storms. I’ll dig in the burrow making it extra big, and then you can be free to find food. You are much better at that than I am, for now!” Falkor smiled a big smile hoping what he had told his father would not trouble him too much. He knew being lost in a blizzard could mean certain death.
So Falkor began to increase the size of the burrow so the pups could have room to play about. It was cold and tiring work but he wanted his father to be proud of him. As Niall brought food to the burrow, Falkor would divide it among them and save what was left for a later time.
Tofa thought Falkor was a gift from God because he was the only child she had ever seen with deep blue eyes. Most of her pups had brown eyes like both she and Niall.
“You are a chosen male dear Falkor. God has blessed you with those beautiful blue eyes. You will be strong and great in the Arctic Fox families. I hope you will one day find a mate and have pups with blue eyes as well. No one around here has ever seen such and they are always telling me how beautiful you are.” Tofa gave Falkor a gentle caress with her nose displaying her affection for her son.
“I’ll be cautious from now on and watch out for the Polar bears, the wolves and the owls. These baby blue eyes will be sharp as a tack. You’ll see!” He replied.
So it came to be that the blizzards came and the snow piled very deep. Food became scarce and Falkor had to go with his father to find more food for the pups. As they were searching for food Falkor suddenly stood still and lifted his head to look above. Before he could react at all he heard a rushing sound pass by him. It was the great golden eagle. As fast as lighting can flash the golden eagle reached down and grabbed Niall with his huge talons and quickly flew away into the heavens.
“Falkor take care of the family!” Niall barked as he dangled from the claws of his enemy.
Falkor was frightened so much he could not reply. It was the most horrible event he had ever witnessed and now he would have to tell his mother that Niall was gone forever. He felt sick to his stomach and tears ponded in his eyes. His legs trembled beneath him as he made his way back to the burrow. How could he find the words to tell his mother what had just happened? Would she blame him for not helping his father?
Falkor had heard of the white tailed eagle but the golden eagle was quite rare in his area. Yet he had never seen any eagle up close and personal. Stories were told of men who kept the golden eagle and at certain times they would send them out to get food and bring it back. In his heart he hoped that his father death was a quick one and that he had not suffered very long.
When Tofa saw Falkor’s face she knew something dreadful had happened. Her heart skipped a beat and her nose became numb. How could she live without Niall? What would happen to her and her pups?
“It is not your fault Falkor! Please don’t ever think you could have done anything. Your father knew about the eagles and how they swoop down quickly. He was a wonderful person and I will keep his memories alive.” She whimpered sadly.
“Someday I’ll get even with that eagle. I will find his nest and steal all of his babies. I’ll let him feel the pain of losing someone he loves. Just you wait and see!” He barked.
Seasons past and the pups grew. Tofa was a good mother and she took very good care of all of them. Day after day Falkor searched the hills for the eagles nest.
“Guess what Mom! I have found the nest of the eagle and it has two babies in it. I’m going tomorrow and get the chicks. We will have them for dinner in memory of good ole dad.” Falkor smiled showing his long white teeth.
As all things in nature must survive from others, so did Falkor and his family from the eagle. The strong survive and the weak become victims. It is called the cycle of life. All things live for a season then die.
Question: The fox is a member of the ……….family?
Written by Sybil Shearin
All Rights Reserved
Copyrighted August 2011