Ferdinandus Taurus – Munro Leaf

“Olim in Hispania erat taurulus nomine Ferdinandus.”

Well, right away I must confess that my Latin is not nearly good enough to read this book unaided.  I can read short paragraphs about Caesar fighting barbarians and Roman generals, but that’s about it.  However, the dictionary at the back of this book came to my aid as did other resources.  Honestly, I confess though, it took me ages to read this.

Almost everyone, I think, knows the Story of Ferdinand, the young bull who lives in Spain and would like nothing better than to sit in his meadow and to smell the flowers.  Yet when a bumblebee inopportunely stings him, just as some matadors are checking out bulls to take to Madrid to the fights, things go terribly wrong.  Ferdinand is mistaken for a magnificent fighter and is dragged off to the bullfights.  But our intrepid hero will not give in, no matter how many banderillos or picadores or matadores taunt him to fight. No, Ferdinand stays true to his placid nature and simply sits and smells the flowers. Finally he is sent back to his meadow and he is free.

And since this book is set in Spain, what better tribute than to read it in Spanish?  So that’s what I did after my foray into it in Latin.  “Había una vez en España un torito que se llamaba Ferdinando.”

This book was published in 1936, nine months before the civil war broke out in Spain, and was seen as a promotion of pacifism.  Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator condemned it as propaganda, as did Hitler, who banned the book in Nazi Germany.  In contrast, the book was lauded by the political left; Gandhi claimed it was his favourite book, and it was the only non-communist book allowed in Poland by Joseph Stalin.

I did a comprehensive analysis of The Story of Ferdinand in English on my children’s book blog.  The depth of this book is astounding.  You can find my review here.

Okay, I squeaked in one more book (well, actually two if you count both the languages) for my Language Freak Summer Challenge.  Yippee!

La Parure (The Necklace) par Guy de Maupassant

“C’etait une de ces jolies et charmantes filles, nées, comme par une erreur du destin, dans une famille d’employés.”

Yes, she certainly was a pretty and charming girl who was born by a mistake of destiny into a family of office workers.  Mathilde would dream of riches and fame and jewels, covering her life of drudgery in a tapestry of fantasies and longings.  Finally, one day, her husband arrives with an invitation to a party.  Mathilde manipulates this honest, hard-working man into purchasing a new elegant dress for her, but when she complains of a lack of jewels, he has the answer: borrow some from her wealthy friend Madame Forestier!  A lovely diamond necklace of Madame’s catches Mathilde’s eye and she must have it.  Her friend, generous to the end, gladly loans it and the evening of her dreams begins.  She is admired, she is catered to, she is wrapped in a heavenly realm of blissful wealth and prestige.  Late do she and her husband return home, reluctant to leave the party until the end but, oh no!  The necklace has disappeared and she is sure that she left it in the taxi.  Days of searching yield nothing and finally there is only one thing to do.  Withdrawing their life savings and taking out a loan, they replace the necklace, hoping that Madame will not notice.  But this painful action causes them ten years of needless toil and suffering.  Why is it needless?  Well, you will have to read the tale to find out!

This short story was really a gem and, in spite of having an inkling of the final twist, it still held my attention to end.  In fact, I had expected to get fatigued by reading such a long (for me) story in French and I had planned to take a break, but instead, I was held rapt until the end.

I did wonder at the title of this story.  In the tale, the necklace is mostly referred to as “la rivière“, yet the title is “la parure“.  When I looked up “la rivière” in my French dictionary it says “river“, and “la parure“means “finery” or “jewelry“.  So then I looked up necklace and it had “le collier“.  What?  Do any of you Francophiles understand the distinction between these terms? Help!

In any case, this story has definitely been a huge incentive to read more of Maupassant.  His short stories are very readable and a good way to keep improving my French.  I certainly struggled here and there in parts of it and learned a number of new words, yet I was also pleased with my progress.

This will probably be the last book for my Summer Freak Language Challenge, unless I can squeak in a short children’s book before the end. Thanks Ekaterina, for holding this wonderful challenge.  It’s given me a chance to practice languages that I wouldn’t normally read in.  I’m already looking forward to next year’s challenge!

Délicieusement Cru par Judita Wignall

No, not a classic, but a book that can be added to my Summer Freak Language Challenge.  About four years ago, I went on a raw diet for about three weeks and felt the best that I’ve felt in a long time. So this summer I’ve been poking around raw cookbooks again, and this one just happened to be in French.

Délicieusement Cru, or Deliciously Raw in English, is a raw cookbook that takes raw food to a new level.  Using similar ingredients to other raw cookbooks, it adds new creative zest and additional ingredients and techniques which transform your common raw food recipes into something gourmet.

Stand-out recipes include:

  • Smoothie au piña colada
  • Crêpes aux petits fruits et à la crème
  • Salade vitaminée
  • Soupe verte énergétique
  • Hoummos de courgettes
  • Fromage de noix de cajou et de graines de chanvre
  • Sandwiches roulés aux légumes et au pesto
  • Pizza végétarienne
  • Mousse à l’orange et au chocolat
  • Tarte aux fruits d’été
  • Crème glacée à la vanille
  • Gâteau au fromage aux cerises et au chocolat blanc

An especially clever addition by the author, is a list of the soaking times, drying times and preparation times at top of the recipes.  Making raw food usually takes much less prep time than cooked food, but much more co-ordination.  By having the times listed, it makes this task less complicated.

As for the French used in this book, I was rather shocked to find out that I needed very little help with translation; I knew the majority of the words and those I didn’t know, I could accurately guess.  The one word that had me completely stumped was le chanvre, which my dictionary soon disclosed as “hemp”.   It was rather unsettling to discover that my French food vocabulary is rather large, but at least I’ve determined that if I want to increase my vocabulary, I need to stay away from French cookbooks. 🙂

Has anyone else tried raw foods or ever followed a raw food diet?  Please let me know!  I’d love to hear your experience!


 by Max Ehrmann

Allez tranquillement parmi le vacarme et la hâte
Go placidly amid the noise and haste

Et souvenez-vous de la paix qui peut exister dans le silence
Remember what peace there may be in silence

Swiss Landscape with Flowering Apple Tree (1876)
Gustave Courbet
source Wikiart

Sans aliénation, vivre autant que possible en bons termes avec toutes personnes

As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons

Dîtes doucement et clairement votre vérité; et écoutez les autres, même le simple d’esprit et l’ignorant, ils ont eux aussi leur histoire.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Évitez les individus bruyants et agressifs, ils sont une vexation pour l’esprit.
Avoid loud and agressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

Ne vous comparez avec personne : vous risqueriez de devenir vain ou vaniteux.

If you compare yourselves with others, you may become vain and bitter.

Il y a toujours plus grand et plus petit que vous.
For there with always be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Jouissez de vos projets aussi bien que de vos accomplissements.
Enjoy your acheivements as well as your plans.
Soyez toujours intéressé à votre carrière, si modeste soit-elle
Keep interested in your own career, however humble

C’est un véritable atout dans les prospérités changeantes du temps
It is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Flower Seller at la Madeleine
Edouard Cortes
source Wikiart

Soyez prudent dans vos affaires car le monde est plein de ruses

Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery

Mais ne soyez pas aveugle en ce qui concerne la vertu qui existe ;
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

Plusieurs individus recherchent les grands idéaux ;
Many persons strive for by high ideals;

Et partout la vie est remplie d’héroïsme.
And everywhere life is full of heroism

Soyez vous-même. Surtout n’affectez pas l’amitié.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection.

Non plus ne soyez cynique en amour
Neither be cynical about love

Car il est en face de toute stérilité et de tout désenchantement aussi éternel que l’herbe
For in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass
Portrait of an Old Man (1860)
Konstantin Makovsky
source Wikiart

Prenez avec bonté le conseil des années,

Take kindly to the counsel of the years

En renonçant avec grâce à votre jeunesse.
Gracefully surrendering the things of youth

Fortifiez une puissance d’esprit pour vous protéger en cas de malheur
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune

Mais ne vous chagrinez pas avec vos chimères.
But do not distress yourself with imaginings

De nombreuses peurs naissent de la fatigue et de la solitude.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness

Au delà d’une discipline saine, soyez doux avec vous-même
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself
Vous êtes un enfant de l’univers, pas moins que les arbres et les étoiles;
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;

Vous avez le droit d’etre ici.
You have a right to be here.

Et qu’il vous soit clair ou non, l’univers se déroule sans doute comme il le devrait
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Soyez en paix avec Dieu, quelle que soit votre conception de lui
Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be

Quels que soient vos travaux et vos rêves,

Whatever your labors and aspirations

Gardez, dans le désarroi bruyant de la vie, la paix de votre âme.
In the noisy confusion of life, keep at peace with your soul

Avec toutes ses perfidies, ses besognes fastidieuses et ses rêves brisés,
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams

Le monde est pourtant beau ;
It is still a beautiful world;

Prenez attention.
Be cheerful.

Tâchez d’être heureux.
Strive to be happy.

“Desiderata” in Latin means “desired things”  It is a poem that was written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann, a poet, writer and attorney, yet it’s popularity only spiralled after his death.  In 1956, a rector of St. Paul’s Church in Baltimore, Reverend Frederick Kates, included the poem in some devotional material that he planned to give to his congregation, starting the poem on a path of common recognition.  When U.S. presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson was found dead in his home in 1965, a copy of this poem was found by his bed which furthered its rising popularity.  Since then, numerous politicians, actors and musicians have either used the poem for their art or spoken of the effect that it has had on them in their lives.

A bronze statue of Ehrmann can be found in his hometown of Terre Haute, Indianna.

Max Ehrmann (1949)
source Wikipedia

Nuits de Juin by Victor Hugo

Photo courtesy of Mark J P
source Flickr
Creative Commons License
Nuits de Juin

L’été, lorsque le jour a fui, de fleurs couverte
La plaine verse au loin un parfum enivrant;
Les yeux fermés, l’oreille aux rumeurs entrouverte,
On ne dort qu’à demi d’un sommeil transparent.
Les astres sont plus purs, l’ombre paraît meilleure:
Un vague demi-jour teint le dôme éternel;
Et l’aube douce et pâle, en attendant son heure,
Semble toute la nuit errer au bas du ciel.

Well-known for his epic novel, Les Miserables, Victor Hugo was also a poet.  He produced volumes of poetry including, Les Orientales, Les Feuilles d’Automne, Les Chants du Créspecule, Les Voix Intérieures, and Les Rayons et Les Ombres.  Of course, this poem of Hugo’s that I’ve chosen is very month appropriate.  I’m getting good at this!


June Nights

In summer, when day has fled, the plain covered with flowers
Pours out an intoxicating perfume far off;
With closed eyes, with ears partially open to sounds,
One only half-sleeps with a transparent slumber.
The stars are purer, the darkness more inviting;
A vague half-light tints the eternal dome;
And the sweet and pale dawn, awaiting its time,
Seems to be wandering low in the sky all night.

Photo courtesy of Louis Argerich
source Flickr
Creative Commons License

Rotkäppchen (Little Red Riding Hood) by The Brothers Grimm

Little Red Riding Hood
George Frederic Watts
source Wikipedia

“Es war einmal eine kleine süße Dirne, die hatte jedermann lieb, der sie nur ansah, am allerliebsten aber ihre Großmutter ……….”

German is not the best of my multiple basic languages, but for this month, I decided to tackle Little Red Riding Hood.  I was hoping that my familiarity with the story would help my stumbling reading and I was right! The story begins with: There once was a sweet little girl who was loved by everyone who saw her, but was most of all loved by her grandmother, … … ”  

Even though this story is a version by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the tale of Little Red Riding Hood has existed possibly since before the 10th century, and no one knows definitively where it originated.  There is evidence of it appearing in France in the 10th century, and Italy in the 14th century.  Not only do numerous versions exist but they occur in widely different areas:  La finta nonna (The False Grandmother) in Italy, The Story of Grandmother and even in Oriental tales like Grandaunt Tiger.  Although the first written version appeared in the 17th century (by Charles Perrault), scholars surmise that the tale did indeed originate in the 10th or 11th century in Europe and somehow spread to Asia.

Little Red Riding Hood (1881)
Carl Larsson
source Wikipedia

This German version, was somewhat different from the anglicized versions that I’d read as a child.  In this version, the wolf eats both the grandmother and Little Red Riding Hood, whereupon a huntsman arrives, cuts open the wolf’s stomach to free them and puts stones inside him before he sews him up.  The wolf awakes and dies from the weight of the stones.  This was similar to the versions that I read as a child, yet this present version ended with a slight twist:  Little Red Riding Hood meets another Wolf one day, who tries to lure her off the path but, with the wisdom of her first experience, she refuses and arrives at Grandmother’s house in one piece.  The wolf follows, climbs on the roof of the cottage, and plans to eat Little Red Riding Hood when she emerges to make her journey home.  Slyly the Grandmother instructs Little Red Riding Hood to put the water she had used to boil sausages in the trough outside.  The wolf, attracted by the wonderful smell, slides off the roof and drowns in the trough.

Little Red Riding Hood (1883)
Gustave Doré
source Wikipedia

Other tidier versions I’ve read as an adult, have Grandmother merely hiding in the closet to escape the wolf, or the huntsman rescuing Little Red Riding Hood before she is eaten.  Call me bloodthirsty, but I don’t care much for these sanitized versions.   These stories were meant to inculcate caution in children and the thought of being eaten would be much more effective than the possibility of having a little scare before you are rescued.  I imagine, during these times, a properly instilled caution could be the difference between life and death.

What fun to read Little Red Riding Hood in German!  Now I won’t be so intimidated to tackle another German tale!

Further reading:

Im Wunderschönen Monat Mai by Heinrich Heine

Rolf Armstrong
source Wikiart

Im Wunderschönen Monat Mai
Im wunderschönen Monat Mai
Als alle Knospen sprangen
Da ist in meinem Herzen
Die Liebe aufgegangen
Im wunderschönen Monat Mai
Als alle Vögel sangen,
Da hab’ ich ihr gestanden
Mein Sehnen und Verlangen.


In The Wondrously Beautiful Month of May
In the wondrously beautiful month of May
When all the buds sprang open
Then in my heart
Love sprouted.
In the wondrously beautiful month of May
When all the birds were singing
Then I confessed to her
My longing and desire.

This poem has long been one of my favourites.  And what a better time to share it than the month of May and for my Language Freak Summer Challenge.  After reading the English translation, I was left somewhat disconsolate ……… works in translation really do not do justice to the original.

Heinrich Heine was a German poet, journalist, essayist and literary critic, born in Düsseldorf in 1797 and died in Paris in 1856.  His lyric poetry was set to music by composing greats such as Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert.  The government did not take kindly to his radical political views; many of his works were banned in Germany and he spent the last 25 years of his life in exile.  

Corre, Perro, Corre – P.D. Eastman

Hay perros grandes, perros pequeños, perros amarillos, perros verdes, perros azules, perros rojos y una fiesta al fin del libro. Este libro es divertirse por los niños.

Phew!  That’s about all for my rusty Spanish as I have about 10 reviews that I’m trying to work on.  I remember this book from my childhood.  It reads pretty simply now, even in Spanish, but I can see the value of repetition when children are learning to read or learning another language.  Prepositions and opposites are sprinkled throughout the story, adding another aspect of learning.  And after all, what child could resist rainbow-coloured dogs, dogs driving cars, a party and the repeated silly question, “¿Te gusta mi sombrero? (Do you like my hat?)” 

If anyone knows of some easy Spanish books, I’d really appreciate any recommendations.  For some reason I’m struggling with coming up with any.  It’s very sad when you can think of more Latin books to read than Spanish ……