On Kindness in The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse
Updated: Sep 11
These days, kindness seems like a very abstract, almost foreign concept to speak of when it comes to the world at large. Maybe not on Mars, but on Earth, definitely foreign. As I understand it, aliens are simply being kind to us by not blowing up whatever is left of humanity. It’s a difficult time to believe in anything, let alone the mythical kind bone in our species.
However, like dear Blanche DuBois from “A Streetcar Named Desire” remarks forlorn, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”. I find myself currently relying on the kindness of a certain author-illustrator Charlie Mackesy to provide me with some respite when this world seems to be literally, figuratively, metaphorically, allofit- burning.
I purchased “The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse” as a gift for someone I love very dearly, but I have selfishly decided to keep it as I find myself turning to these pages on days when I am feeling especially blue. The best part about this picture book is that somehow, any page the reader turns to would leave them with a set of words to pause and consider, to mull over- to dream. Perhaps that’s why the pages aren’t numbered. One will be able to open this book in times of strife, to any page at all, and not have to worry about puny things like starting from the beginning, because I believe that very often, the greatest stories start from the middle, or whatever page we’re thrown onto, and the onus is on our personhood to adapt and evolve.
Mackesy leaves a tender, thoughtful note for the reader, a prologue if you will, which sums up the picture book and its characters in gist.
You started at the beginning, which is impressive. I usually start in the middle, and never read introductions. It’s surprising that I’ve made a book because I’m not good at reading them. The truth is I need pictures. They are like islands, places to get to in a sea of words.
This book is for everyone, whether you are eighty or eight- I feel like I’m both sometimes. I’d like it to be one you can dip into anywhere, anytime. Start in the middle, if you like. Scribble on it, crease the corners and leave it well thumbed. The drawings are mainly of a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse. I’ll tell you a little bit about them- although I’m sure you’ll see things here that I don’t, so I’ll be quick.
The boy is lonely when the mole first surfaces. They spend time together gazing into the wild. I think the wild is a bit like life- frightening sometimes but beautiful.
In their wanderings they meet the fox. It’s never going to be easy meeting a fox if you’re a mole. The boy is full of questions, the mole is greedy for cake. The fox is mainly silent and wary because he’s been hurt by life. The horse is the biggest thing they have ever encountered, and also the gentlest.
They are all different, like us, and each has their own weaknesses. I can see myself in all four of them, perhaps you can too. Their adventures happen in Springtime where one moment snow is falling and the sun shines the next, which is also a little bit like life- it can turn on a sixpence.
I hope this book encourages you, perhaps, to live courageously with more kindness for yourself and for others. And to ask for help when you need it- which is always a brave thing to do.
When I was making this book I often wondered, who on earth am I to be doing this? But as the horse says:
The truth is we are all winging it.”
So I say spread your wings and follow your dreams- this book is one of mine. I hope you enjoy it and much love to you.
Thankyou. Charlie X"
I would say the reader’s ability to appreciate what Mackesy is trying to put forth is directly proportional to how accepting their state of mind is while reading this book. I have asked people to read it in one go and many of them found it to be a bit preachy, and not saying anything of substance. I can see where that thought comes from. At the same time, I can appreciate this book as a work of art in itself courtesy the handwritten script and resplendent illustrations. I would go as far as to say that the illustrations are the real hero in here.
The book isn’t aimed to provide the reader with any moral or message- I would say certain pages in here are more of a meditation. There is no structure or plot so to speak, but you can appreciate the author’s earnest attempt at deciphering the universal language of love, friendship and kindness. I think I’ll gift this book to the intended addressee after all.