Interviews with Jewelly Festival attendees cosplaying Fox: September 2005
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Angela. Of course, I’m Fox today, but, you know.”
“Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?”
“Um, I’m a sophomore in college, majoring in biology.”
“Biology, huh? That doesn’t seem like the usual Library fan.”
“So what does the “usual” Library fan do? Just because I study science doesn’t mean I can’t also like The Library. Have you even seen the episode where the Norns set up shop in the abandoned laboratory?”
“I apologize, of course biology students can be fans of The Library. Why did you choose to dress up as Fox today?”
“Please. Who wouldn’t dress up as Fox?”
“What’s your name?”
“You know who I am.”
“Okay. Can you tell us what you’re doing here today?”
“I’m here to stop the Forbidden Books, of course.” [Gesturing to another group of cosplayers]
“Can you tell us more about that?”
“Sorry, kid, can’t talk now. Maybe later.”
[One attendee had a T-shirt reading “Misuse of “Literally” Makes Me Figuratively Insane.” This author attempted to ask her why she was wearing a shirt with a slogan, since Fox’s shirts never have writing on them. She declined to answer any questions.]
In one episode of The Library, Prince Wing accused Fox of plotting to murder Faithful Margaret, then cut off her ears and tail and stabbed her with a poisoned knife stolen from a Forbidden Book. The librarians did the best they could, but they couldn’t save Fox. Not without stationery magic, but no one had seen the Letter Openers since the episode when The Accidental Sword set fire to the enchanted-and-quite-flammable bridal suite on the fortieth floor.
The librarians couldn’t save Fox, but the statue of George Washington carried Fox through the library, as intimately as the Letter Openers could have done, and it carried her past the circulation desk and away from The Library. Outside, everything was dusty and red like Mars.
Perhaps the most defining moment of Fox as a character is the episode in which she gives birth to a litter of snakes. Fox is the consummate 'tough girl,' and although no one in The Library dislikes her - even Two Devils has admitted he admires her panache - she doesn’t allow anyone to see her vulnerable side, not even Faithful Margaret. Fox is powerful and magical and dangerous and whimsical. Fox’s eyes glint when she sees a target, a mis-shelved book, or a subtle joke. While Fox is universally liked, it is not a stretch to say that her snake-children have been her only canonical experience with love. (Some Fox/Faithful Margaret shippers might disagree, but it is the opinion of this author that while Fox cares very much for Faithful Margaret, she cannot take her seriously as a romantic interest, not least because Fox has a possessive streak.)
This episode of The Library, the one you haven’t seen yet, starts with Prince Wing rummaging inside the secret drawer in the circulation desk. No one knows what he’s looking for. No one cares, not if Fox is dead.
Outside, the smell of hot baked earth and the warmth of the red sun hits her, and she starts awake. She blinks, taking in the sunlight, the throbbing pain where the poisoned knife entered just below her ribs, the searing burn where her ears and tail should be. She feels violated. She feels betrayed. But she can’t waste time on that now. There’s something important she has to do. There’s someone she has to call.
“You’re awake,” someone says, a sonorous voice that echoes in her head even though she knows her ears are gone. Someone could have used finger magic, she knows. Maybe she did it herself.
“I thought you were dead,” she answers slowly. She looks up to see the statue of George Washington, standing next to the familiar oversize trench coat and sheepish smile of Ptolemy Krill.
“I had to leave,” he replies.
It’s on the tip of her tongue to ask him why, but she frowns, as she realizes she used to know. “You had to leave because...” she falters. She never falters.
“Because even if one day I managed to write the most magnificent poem ever written, no one would dare to read it,” he answers her.
She knew that.
“The world doesn’t need Ptolemy Krill,” he tells her, “but the world still needs Fox.”
One reason for Fox’s emotional distance from other characters in The Free People’s World-Tree Library may be that she has no peers. The other librarians and magicians are limited by their own conceptions of The Library, the constraints of gravity, elevators, and Quiet Floors. In the episode of The Library when Prince Wing is cornered by a six-foot blood-sucking armadillo, Fox is the only character able to turn back the Great Clock and set a sand trap an hour earlier to save him. For Fox to arrive at an understanding with another character, a true meeting of the minds, she must be challenged and intrigued.
The statue of George Washington has not said a word, but now it reaches into its pockets and hands something to Ptolemy Krill. With a sickening jolt, she recognizes her own ears and tail.
“What are you doing?” she starts to ask, but the statue shakes its head at her, putting one clawed finger to its bloodstained lips.
Ptolemy Krill is turning around then, removing his trench coat and hideous snakeskin trousers. He had killed the snake as it was about to attack - who? She can’t remember. (Of course we remember, how the anaconda emerged silently from the jungle swamp and was poised to attack Boggart the Poxy as he plucked a single kumquat from the Tree of Delights.)
He removes the poisoned needle from the left-hand pocket of his trench coat as he folds it neatly on the dusty ground (Ptolemy Krill is notoriously tidy when he thinks someone is watching) and begins to sew her left ear over his own. For a moment she expects he will go gray and fall over, but he doesn’t. The stitches are sloppy and visible, and anyone could see that shape of his own conch ears under her delicate orange fur, but she can’t say anything.
Her right ear follows, and as Ptolemy Krill picks up her tail and situates it without a hint of immodesty, the transformation begins.
Of course, the one character who could possibly be Fox’s equal is the pirate-magician Two Devils. With his forked tongue and devious plots, as well as his cunning manipulation of Lorna King and countless Forbidden Books, Two Devils keeps the entire Library on its toes. In many ways he and Fox can be seen as two sides of the same coin, parallels of power working on opposing sides. Some interpretations hold that they are secretly the same person, a theory lent credence by the fact that they have never been positively confirmed to have been in the same room at the same time, and the way Fox was apparently tempted by the offer made to her by Prince Wing’s mother. Most fans, however, will adamantly defend Fox against such theories, calling them slanderous at best and out of character at worst. They will also point to the invisible duel between the two characters and the conversation Fox overheard from behind the curtain in the courtyard on the nineteenth floor as evidence to the contrary, although such arguments are obviously problematic.
She feels Fox seeping from her body and watches as Ptolemy Krill becomes Fox in a way she had never known she would miss, or recognize instantly. Ptolemy-Fox, she knows, is more beautiful than she had ever been. The most beautiful Fox that could ever be. Slowly she strips off her tight green T-shirt and flowing russet skirt, handing them over to this latest incarnation.
"Wait," she tells Ptolemy-Fox. "Before you go back inside. There's something you should know, something you need to do."
“What?” asks Ptolemy-Fox, in the musical, whining voice she has known so well. She doesn't know how long she was Fox, or who she was before this, but she knows now that she will never be Fox again.
"The Forbidden Books," she says. "There are three of them, hidden far away, in a place called...”
“Iowa,” says the statue of George Washington, speaking for the first time in a voice like rusty nails scraped across an old tin can.
Interview with Jewelly Festival organizer Candace Knox: September 2005
“So what is it about Fox that makes her more popular than, say, Prince Wing and Faithful Margaret?”
“Can I be honest with you? Really honest?”
“Well, the fans are going to murder me for this. I’m sorry! Really, I am. I think part of the reason is that compared to Fox, Prince Wing and Faithful Margaret are just so boring.”
“I mean, think about it. Who are they, really? Prince Wing is a kind of shallow librarian with mommy issues and a swordplay allergy. Faithful Margaret’s not much better - it’s true, she has her hair magic and all, but without that, she’s kind of like that one girl in high school who peaked at age seventeen and doesn’t know it yet. They’re not bad people - at least, the jury’s out right now on Prince Wing, I guess - but where’s the complexity? Where’s the drama? And in the end you know they’re going to end up together. What’s the fun in that?”
“So fans like Fox because she’s unpredictable?”
“She’s unpredictable, yeah, but more than that, she’s not like anybody you’d ever meet in real life. You take away the magic from Prince Wing and Faithful Margaret, and they’re just like anybody else. Fox isn’t like anybody I’ve ever met, and nothing is going to change that.”
“Iowa,” Fox repeats, tinging the word with the exoticism it deserves.
She can’t even dignify that with a response, or details about what needs to be done. "I can never go back to the Library," she says instead, and her voice is low and hoarse with tears. Fox would never cry like that.
"But of course you can," says Fox. "Or rather, I can, but it's the same thing, now, isn't it?"
"You have to stop the Forbidden Books," she says (and it would be helpful if she had a name now, wouldn't it?) "but you won't recognize them. They look like any other books, like anything innocuous upon any library shelf."
"I can give her the numbers," the statue of George Washington says, its words as unexpected as before. "The jewelly festival numbers, and the numbers to call for the boy."
She feels a great stab of relief, because of course she had not realized until that moment that she had forgotten every single one of the numbers. "Thank you," she says, and she watches as the statue of George Washington digs through the pockets of Ptolemy Krill's discarded trench coat, discovering a quill and a piece of paper, which he can look at because of course he is a statue and nothing can harm him except for maybe Two Devils, once the pirate learns of his betrayal.
Once upon a time, this author attempted to dress as Fox for a Halloween party. She knit her own ears and tail out of orange Fancy Fur yarn, wore a long-sleeved forest green T-shirt (it should have been short-sleeved, but it was thirty degrees out) and tried to walk around with a mysterious smile. No one knew who she was, even though everyone guessed her boyfriend’s stupid giant spider costume. (He forgot that spiders have eight legs, and only made six. She dumped him a week later.)
No one knew who she was, she realized later, because she wasn’t confident enough, because she couldn’t imitate Fox’s voice, and also because she was always hanging around a giant spider. There have never been giant spiders in a single episode of The Library. Mostly, though, it was her voice. Fox’s face is never the same. You know her by her voice, especially in episodes where she is invisible or trapped in a Euphoria bottle or shouting instructions through a tin can to the assembled librarians on the floor below. Without the voice and without the confidence, this author was just a girl in a peasant skirt and homemade ears.
"Do you want it?" Fox asks, pointing to the trench coat, and she realizes with a jolt that she is naked.
"No," she says, at first tentative, but then resolute. Fox would be brave, she knows, and even if she is no longer Fox, she can try to do the same thing. "No. I could never be Ptolemy Krill. Ptolemy Krill is dead."
"I could say the same thing about you," Fox says, amusement coloring her voice.
"I'm alive," she says, and she knows it's true. She looks to the statue of George Washington for confirmation. "I'm alive, in the place called Iowa."
"Well, not quite," the statue says. "Technically, you're alive in the place called Vermont."
"Plantagenet, Vermont," she says, and it's like a bell ringing far away. It means something important, she knows, but she couldn't say what.
"That's right," the statue tells her. "But Fox needs to figure this out on her own now."
She wants to protest, to say that Fox knows everything, and she knows nothing, but the words don't come out of her mouth. Instead, when she starts to speak, she asks,
"Do you remember my name?"
Fox smiles broadly at her, lips parted in understanding and sympathy, and leans forward to whisper in her ear.
"Write this number down," she whispers. "You have a long journey ahead of you." And then Fox tells her everything, everything she could ever have wanted to know, about how the Forbidden Books can be defeated, about how Two Devils has planned it all, thinking that with Fox gone and with her out of the Library forever, the Reign of the Forbidden Books would be unstoppable. About how Prince Wing has been forced to drink a magical potion that distorts reality, ingested in the tea that was boiled into him when he was a teapot. Fox tells her that they can stop it, but only if she waits for the next episode of The Library. Fox tells her her name, and she feels a surge of relief, and surprise that she could ever have forgotten.
"Wake up, Elizabeth!" the computer screams. "The television is on fire!"