Emily Articulated: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

By Emily Erickson
Reader Columnist

I’ve always loved children’s books. Their sweet simplicity can condense all the wonder of life into a few uncomplicated pages, weaving wisdom between rhythmic lines and whimsical illustrations. The messiness of the world gets right-sized into a spooky wood, an unwanted chores list or an unexpected storm cloud, surmountable with a positive outlook, a changed perspective and a trusted (often furry) companion. 

Although there seem to be a lot of terrible kids’ books, there are others that are timeless — both in the way that they still ring true decades after they were written (Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte’s Web and The Velveteen Rabbit), and in the way they remain significant across the stages of life (Have You Filled Your Bucket Today?; Oh, The Places You’ll Go!; and Elmer).

Emily Erickson.

I was recently gifted a book that came at the exact right time — a beam of pure moonlight in my personal stormy night sky. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, by Charlie Mackesy, follows the journey of a curious, lonely boy; a kind, cake-obsessed Mole; a quiet, world-weary fox; and a giant, gentle horse.

Every page is saturated with big feelings and important lessons, all captured in a few inky strokes and even fewer words. As the characters meet one another, learn about their environment and discover themselves, they remind readers that living in a community is both full of nuance and the most basic thing we’ll ever do.

The book begins with an introduction: “‘I’m so small,’ said the mole. ‘Yes,’ said the boy. ‘But you can make a huge difference.’”

That opening is hard to accept at face value. The world feels enormous, controlled by big forces with grand agendas. These forces are untouchable, at once so far away, yet pervasive to the point of suffocation. But when thinking about the effect the mole will have on the boy’s life, and our own ability to affect everyone with whom we come into contact, our power to make a difference — on both personal and collective levels — is reimagined as huge. 

The next introduction the book offers is the fox. The mole and the boy come across him caught in a snare. “‘I’m not afraid,’ said the mole. ‘If I wasn’t caught in this snare, I’d kill you,’ said the fox. ‘If you stay in that snare you will die,’ said the mole. So the mole chewed through the wire with his tiny teeth.”

This act of doing something loving for someone, despite them giving you reasons not to love them, is another lesson that’s hard to accept. Human nature is in perpetual conflict — one part demanding to survive and thrive while others suffer (even at their expense), while another part calls for empathy, acceptance, vulnerability and companionship.

We’re terrified of being duped or being exploited; we’re also hardwired to look out for one another — to both need, and need to offer, help. When we’re staring into the jaws of someone else’s suffering, regardless of the circumstances that brought them there or their behavior while in distress, our reaction can be as simple as choosing kindness.

The final introduction in the book is the horse, an instant connection to round out the group. A series of vignettes involving a lot of laughter and play gives way to a snapshot of the boy riding through deep water on the horse’s back.

“‘Everyone is a bit scared,’ said the horse. ‘But we are less scared, together.’”

So much of our lives are dictated by fear, both external and internal. We’re inundated with things to be afraid of, an endless cycle of bad news at our fingertips and a cacophony of divisive narratives “teaching” us about the people among whom we live. Our insecurities are marketed to and the measuring tape of success — of being enough — is designed to stretch just beyond our grasp. 

But, knowing that our fear is not unique to us, and that safety can be found in connection and community, means being “all in this together” is an OK place to be.

Emily Erickson is a writer and business owner with an affinity for black coffee and playing in the mountains. Connect with her online at www.bigbluehat.studio.

While we have you ...

... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.

You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.

Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal

You may also like...

Close [x]

Want to support independent local journalism?

The Sandpoint Reader is our town's local, independent weekly newspaper. "Independent" means that the Reader is locally owned, in a partnership between Publisher Ben Olson and Keokee Co. Publishing, the media company owned by Chris Bessler that also publishes Sandpoint Magazine and Sandpoint Online. Sandpoint Reader LLC is a completely independent business unit; no big newspaper group or corporate conglomerate or billionaire owner dictates our editorial policy. And we want the news, opinion and lifestyle stories we report to be freely available to all interested readers - so unlike many other newspapers and media websites, we have NO PAYWALL on our website. The Reader relies wholly on the support of our valued advertisers, as well as readers who voluntarily contribute. Want to ensure that local, independent journalism survives in our town? You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.