Following up on the proverbs about wolves in the past few days, I thought this would be a good item to include! As we've learned, wolves would definitely prefer to be eating sheep, but if there is nothing else to eat, then the wolves will even turn upon each other, making it a "wolf eat wolf" world. Or, as an English saying has it, "It's a hard winter, when one wolf eats another."
There are some nice variants on this saying as well. For example, here's one about bears rather than about wolves: In nemore alta fames, ursus si devorat ursum, "it's high famine in the grove if bear devours bear."
My favorite variant, though, is this one about the she-wolf, lupula, which goes like this: quando lupum lupula vorat esurit undique silva, "when the she-wolf devours the wolf, the woods are hungry everywhere."
Curious about the word lupula? It is a diminutive of the word lupa, meaning she-wolf. This is a process of Latin word formation that you can see for other feminine nouns, such as ancilla-ancillula, "maid-servant," villa-villula, "country house," etc.
Probably the most famous example of this kind of diminutive is the word animula in the little poem supposedly composed by the emperor Hadrian as he was dying:
animula vagula blandula,Meanwhile, back to today's proverb - here it is read out loud:
hospes comesque corporis,
quae nunc abibis in loca
pallidula rigida nudula
nec, ut soles, dabis iocos!
Sweet little wandering soul, guest and companion of the body, you who will now depart into those places, gloomy, unbending, bare, you who will no longer joke around, as you normally do.
1193. Summa est in silvis fames dum lupus lupum vorat.
The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.
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