In partnership with Oxford’s Story Museum, ‘Fabulous Mr Fox’ explores the polysemic legacy of Berechiah ha-Nakdan, a 13th century Jewish polymath – he was a grammarian, translator, punctuator, stone connoisseur, and most important for our purposes, a fabulist. He adapted Aesop’s fables for a Hebrew-reading audience. His mishle shu’alim (fox fables) is still widely read and is an important part of world folklore. Berechiah has a connection with Oxford. His uncle used to live here and it is almost certain that he came through Oxford during his visits to England.
The Story Museum sits on the site of Oxford’s Medieval Jewish Quarter and it is very likely that Berechiah would have walked the nearby streets. Rochester House, the current name of the Story Museum’s building, is a storied site in and of itself, having been a family home, a student residence, a telephone exchange, and a post office. The museum is interested in exploring its own architectural and cultural heritage as well as engaging with a variety of community and university groups.
What do these fables mean for us? How do we read this space? Our project explored and creates the contemporary cultural resonance of Berechiah, the fables, and Rochester House, the site of the Story Museum.
Funded by a Higher Education Funding Council for England Knowledge Exchange Seed Fund grant by and supported by TORCH, the ultimate aim of the project is to produce material for the Story Museum’s exhibit ‘Animal – a safari through stories‘ exhibition (2016).
As part of the project, I commissioned a short film by Lucie Sheppard that documents the June 2015 dance workshop: Story Making and the Embodied Space, facilitated by Jennifer Christine Stokes, and attended by local professional dancers. The workshop uses moving bodies to both investigate the various layers of the space and add new footprints to the already rich palimpsest.