May 31, 2007

Summa est in silvis fames dum lupus lupum vorat

In English: In the woods it is the height of famine when wolf devours wolf.

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,
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.
Meanwhile, back to today's proverb - here it is read out loud:

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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1 comment:

ЯιсκαяdΘ™ said...

Hi. How are you?. My name is Ricardo, I'm mexican, and I can't express me very well in english yet, sorry for that.
I was lucky finding your post, it's very interesting and I never found a site like yours before, till now =)
And ... well, I was Investigating about the suffix "ula" in the rumanian or/and latin.
I read in your text that the word "Ula" is used like a diminutive, and it's very intersting for me (And a little confused also) because once I wanted to bring together the words "Son of the Wolf" or "Wolf's Son" and I found that the suffix "ula" is used to express "Son of..." like in "Dracula" the word: "ula" express: "Son of the Dragon/Draco" or "Son of the Devil/Draco" And I concluded that for this reason the expression "Son of the Wolf" in Latin and/or Rumanian is: Lup (Wolf) + Ula (Son of..) =LUPULA. Is this correct? I hope that you could help me or correct me. In advance, thank you. =)