The Birds and the Foxes

by James Thurber

Once upon a time there was a bird sanctuary in which hundreds of Baltimore orioles lived together happily. The refuge consisted of a forest entirely surrounded by a high wire fence. When it was put up, a pack of foxes who lived nearby protested that it was an arbitrary and unnatural boundary. However, they did nothing about it at the time because they were interested in civilizing the geese and ducks on the neighboring farms. When all the geese and ducks had been civilized, and there was nothing left to eat, the foxes once more turned their attention to the bird sanctuary. Their leader announced that there had once been foxes in the sanctuary but that they had been driven out. He proclaimed that Baltimore orioles belonged in Baltimore. He said, furthermore, that the orioles in the sanctuary were a continuous menace to the peace in the world. The other animals cautioned the foxes not to disturb the birds in their sanctuary.
So the foxes attacked the sanctuary one night and tore down the fence that surrounded it. The orioles rushed out and were instantly killed and eaten by the foxes.
The next day the leader of the foxes, a fox from whom God was receiving daily guidance, got upon the rostrum and addressed the other foxes. His message was simple and sublime. "You see before you," he said, "another Lincoln. We have liberated all those birds!"

Moral: Government of the orioles, by the foxes, and for the foxes, must perish from the earth.

(Source: Thurber, James. Fables for Our Time. New York, 1940.)


bird sanctuary:area of land in which the killing of birds is forbidden
Baltimore oriole:(amerikanischer) Pirol
rostrum:platform for public speaking
Lincoln:Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), U.S. President from 1861 to 1865, proclaimed freedom of slaves in the American South
Government of the orioles...:based on the last sentence of Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address (1863), "government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth"


  1. Characterize the orioles as they appear in the text.
  2. What characteristics does the author give the foxes in the story?
  3. What psychological or strategic measures do the foxes take to justify their actions against the ducks, geese and orioles?
  4. How do the other animals react to the foxes' attack on the birds?