Here's the thing about Foxbrush . . . I don't think he is anywhere near as obnoxious as Lionheart thinks he is.
I'm not saying that he isn't obnoxious, at least to a certain extent. He's an egghead, not to mention a snob, and he wears oil in his hair.
But let me, here in this article, make a defense of young Master Foxbrush of Hill House.
He is, if you remember, Prince Lionheart's cousin, son of Dame Willowfair. It is to Willowfair's home, Hill House, up in the mountains, that Lionheart is sent to spend the summer of his eleventh year, thus necessitating a great deal of time spent with Foxbrush.
Foxbrush and Lionheart have almost nothing in common.
They are about the same age and, we learn later on, look remarkably alike. But that, we swiftly learn, is where their similarities end. When we meet Lionheart, he has just stuffed a bunch of chess pieces into a satchel, intending to use them as battling soldiers in a garden war. When we meet Foxbrush, he is reading a book called Economic Concerns of the Trade Merchant's Status. And they're both eleven.
See a difference there?
Foxbrush is also far more concerned with his own dignity and appearance than Lionheart. While Lionheart is perfectly willing to attempt fire eating in the stables or upside-down lute-playing, Foxbrush prefers to keep his clothes straight and his cuffs clean. While Lionheart does everything in his power to avoid any summer classes (to the extent of ambushing the postmaster's boy to intercept a letter from his mother), Foxbrush does long algebraic equations for the fun of it. While Lionheart likes to push the limits of authority, Foxbrush prefers to be every adult's favorite child.
Where Lionheart is willing to give the ostracized Rose Red a chance, Foxbrush thinks it far better advised to stick the general opinion surrounding the girl, to label her a monster, and to run.
And aside from all that, Foxbrush is such a perfect know-it-all!
Foxbrush's face emerged from behind the book, this time wearing his patient expression, the one that made Leo want to poke him in the eye (p. 15).
Yes, from Lionheart's (and indeed, from Rose Red's) perspective, Foxbrush may appear nothing less than loathsome.
But then again, isn't that just the point? We only see Foxbrush from Lionheart's, Rose Red's, and occasionally Daylily's perspectives. What might we see, however, were we to take some time looking at the world from Foxbrush's point of view?
A very different story, in fact.
Foxbrush is, in fact, quite a good boy. He follows the rules down to the letter, and is very hardworking, especially when it comes to his studies. Yes, he is remarkably concerned with his dignity, but is that really so dreadful a trait? And he's a bookworm.
Now, I certainly never would have the guts to tackle Economic Concerns of the Trade Merchant's Status as my summer read. But I can appreciate that young Foxbrush is doing what he can to better his mind. And while I couldn't do long algebraic equations to save my life anymore, there was a time (back in college algebra class) where I found them rather intriguing and even enjoyed myself while studying for that class. So Foxbrush and I do share a bit of sympathy.
Confession time: I'm also a know-it-all.
Maybe it comes from being a Big Sister. Or possibly just a former homeschooler. Might be genetics, I couldn't say for sure. But know-it-all-ness definitely runs through my veins, and I have a "patient expression" of my own that I'm sure drives more than a few of my acquaintances nuts.
But from my perspective, that expression is, in fact, quite patient. If somebody is doing or saying something I consider particularly idiotic, is it not better to resort to patience rather to angrily explode? So might Foxbrush argue when faced with the frustration that is Lionheart, his cousin, and his polar-opposite.
And seriously, readers, didn't you feel at least the tiniest bit sad for poor lovelorn Foxbrush when he watched Lionheart pursuing Daylily? Daylily who looks on him with about as much disdain (possibly more) as Lionheart does? Can he really help it if he's naturally such a bookworm and . . well, let's be honest . . . a nerd?
This, then, is my defense of Foxbrush. Hardly what you'd call a romantic hero, no. But not necessarily such a bad guy. It's hard to remember that when we see his harshness toward Rose Red, especially when, coming out of a dragon-poisoned slumber, Foxbrush catches up a poker and attacks the poor girl.
Despite this violence, however, I stand by what I say: I don't think Foxbrush is really such a bad guy. He's simply slumped into himself and his books and never had the opportunity (or taken the opportunity) to discover the man he might be.