The fox family was happy when Baby landed up at their doorstep. Mama Fox said, “A baby is a baby”and they took him in. But they didn't take into account Baby's insatiable appetite.
Mama and Papa Fox were playing with their three kits one day, when they heard a THUMP – THUMP outside their den. It sounded like something had bounced down the hill. Mama Fox peeped out and saw what looked like a big rock lying near the entrance to the den. She went to get a closer look – and it suddenly moved on its own.
“Grrrrmmmm...” she heard and she jumped. Then it sat up – it put out its paws – it seemed to be saying, ‘Help me!’
What kind of rock was this? Mama went closer and saw that this round grey thing was not a rock, but a baby!
“Another baby!” she cried.
Papa Fox came out. “It doesn’t look like our babies,” he grunted.
Mama sighed. “A baby is a baby. He needs to be looked after.” She gave Baby some grubs and a field mouse. Baby ate hungrily, then got up and toddled into the tiny den.
The fox kits were curious. Who was this? He looked different. His snout was not as thin and long as theirs. His tail could barely be seen. He smelled different. Then he looked at them and said “Grrrrmmmmph...” and suddenly the differences didn’t matter.
Kits One, Two and Three made place for Baby near their mother and he cuddled up to her. Father went in search of more food.
Soon, days and weeks passed. Everyone noticed that Baby was growing fast.
“He’s always hungry,” remarked Papa. “I spend all my time searching for food nowadays.”
“I’ll come with you from tomorrow,” said Mama. “The kits can look after themselves – and Baby.”
Both Papa and Mama were out daily in search of food and the kits watched Baby, who still seemed very babyish despite his size. The months passed. The kits were almost fully grown. “Let’s go hunting,” they suggested.
“No,” said Baby. “You bring me something.” And when it came, he ate...and ate.
“You’re getting fat, Baby!” Kit One said.
“And we’re getting tired of having less food because you eat so much....!” cried Kit Two.
“And less space because you’re getting bigger...” added Kit Three.
Baby gulped. He looked around. It was true. There seemed to be no place in the den.
“Don’t worry. We’ll find a larger den,” said Mama.
The new den was not as safe as the old one, but they moved in. “There’s a hole behind those rocks at the back,” said Mama. “We can hide there if necessary.”
One morning when their parents were out hunting and the kits and Baby were playing outside, they heard a roar from close by.
The kits raced straight for their secret place. Baby trundled along behind them. He looked back to see what had roared...and BUMP – he went into the side of the hill at the entrance to the den. He sat down dazed. How had the entrance suddenly become so small? There was a deep growl behind him and he turned. Something brown with spots crouched in front of him, ready to spring.
Baby was terrified. He grunted and squealed and jumped up and waved his front paws.
The leopard, for that’s what it was, hesitated, then turned and ran into the forest.
The three kits heard Baby’s cries and rushed out, thinking that they could chase away anything if they attacked together.
But when they reached outside, only Baby was there. Standing tall — when had he become so big? — and squealing. “He ran away! I scared him off!”
“No wonder!” said Kit One, really seeing Baby for the first time.
Suddenly it was so obvious. The kits had been out in the world and had seen others like Baby. Great brown bears that frightened man and beast away.
Kit Two said, “You’re not.....”
“....like us,” finished Kit Three. “You’re a burr-burr...”
“Baby!” shouted all of them together.And they jumped on Baby and rolled with him in the grass, tickling him...
It was good to have someone big on their side!