‘The Fox (What Does the Fox Say)’ the funny, silly novelty song by the Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis racked up millions of YouTube views and has the power to make us laugh. In order to assess the lyrics of ‘The Fox’ and decipher what it means, you must approach the track with a sense of humor. If you don’t, you’re an idiot. It sounds like a freaking nursery rhyme!
Do you agree?
“Dog goes woof / Cat goes meow / Bird goes tweet and mouse goes squeek / Cow goes moo / Frog goes croak / And the elephant goes toot /Ducks say quack / And fish go blub / And the seal goes ow ow ow ow ow”
Those are not exactly grand observations on life or the animal kingdom, right? But then again, they are not supposed to be. The song sounds like a children’s book set to song and the lyrics are a statement of the obvious. If you want to teach kids the sounds animals make, then this song allows you to do that.
And actually it has turned into a book as well.
After all, the Fox video was YouTube’s top trending clip of 2013, with nearly 290 million hits. The amusingly frenetic video features an old man in a rocking chair, reading to a little boy, as brothers Bård and Vegard Ylvisåker sing and dance around in a forest dressed in bear and squirrel costumes, imagining what kind of sound a fox might make.
The book, called What Does the Fox Say?, is no last-minute marketing tie-in. In fact, when Ylvis (they go by a shortened form of their last name, Ylvisåker, pronounced “Ill-veh-soker”) made their nonsensical song and video last spring as a promo for their Norwegian talk show, I Kveld Med Ylvis (Tonight With Ylvis), it occurred to them that the inane concept might make a cute kids’ book.
“We thought it would be funny to have a really well-done book as merchandise for a tanked project,” explains Vegard (pronounced “Vay-gard”), 34, who never imagined the intentionally “bad” song and video would be a global phenom. “It’s just so stupid. But stupid dollars are the same as smart dollars.”
Bård (pronounced “Board”), 31, even had an artist in mind, pitching the idea to his favorite illustrator, Svein Nyhus, a famous children’s book author and illustrator in Norway. “He refused at first, mainly because the deadline was too early for him. But as the video started to accumulate hits on YouTube, he got back to me, and all of a sudden we were in business.”
There were no plans to publish the book in the USA until last November, when Ylvis inked a deal with publisher Simon & Schuster, which then set a land-speed record getting the book into print in time for a Dec. 10 release.
“We designed it in one day,” recalls Simon & Schuster art director Laurent Linn, as he watches Bård and Vegard signing copies of his work at Books of Wonder in Chelsea. “We have never designed a book in one day before.”
What Does the Fox Say? went to No. 1 on Barnes & Noble’s website and sold out on Amazon. It’s in its sixth printing.
Norwegian illustrator Svein Nyhus was handpicked by Ylvis to visualize utterances such as “ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!” and “Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow!”(Photo: Illustration by Svein Nyhus/Simon & Schuster)