October 31, 2009

Lupus pilum mutat, non mentem

In English: A wolf can change his coat but not his character.

In that last post, the wolf was the hero of the story, but that is not always the case, as you can see in today's saying, which warns us instead to beware of the wolf! It may not always look like a wolf, but it will certainly act like a wolf, which could put us in serious danger.

In a literal sense, the wolf might try to change his coat by replacing it with that of a sheep, as in the proverbial "wolf in sheep's clothing," as we saw earlier with the saying that warned us: Pelle sub agnina latitat mens saepe lupina, "Beneath the lamb's skin often lurks a wolf's mind."

The wolf is also famous for trying to change in other ways, such as deciding to become a monk, or deciding to become a vegetarian, or offering to be a midwife to the sow, or making an alliance with the sheep, or even pretending to be a shepherd himself. In all of these situations, the wolf may not look like the typical wolf, but we should always watch out, as these outward changes do not mean that there is any change in the inward wolf, as you can see in Odo of Cheriton's story about the wolf here called Isengrimus here, his name in the medieval beast epic tradition:
Contigit quod quidam Paterfamilias habuit XII Oues. Voluit peregrinari et commendavit Oves suas Ysemgrino, id est Lupo, compatri suo. Et compater iuravit quod bene conservaret eas. Profectus est statim. Ysemgrinus interim cogitavit de Ovibus et uno die comedit de una, altera die de alia, ita quod vix tres invenit Paterfamilias, quando reversus est. Quaerebat a compatre quid factum fuerit de aliis Ovibus. Respondit Ysemgrimus quod mors ex temperalitate venit super eas. Et dixit Paterfamilias: Da mihi pelles; et inventa sunt vestigia dentium Lupi. Et ait Paterfamilias: Reus es mortis; et fecit Lupum suspendi.

It happened that a certain man had twelve sheep. He wanted to go on a journey, and he entrusted the sheep to Isengrimus, that is, to the wolf, his associate. And his associate swore that he would take good care of them. The man departed immediately. Isengrimus meanwhile got to thinking about the sheep and one day he ate one sheep, and the next day he ate another sheep, and so on until the man found scarcely three sheep when he returned home. He asked his associate what had happened to the other sheep. Isengrimus answered that death had come upon them unseasonably. And the man said: Give me their skins, and the traces of the Wolf's teeth could be seen there. And the man said: You are guilty of a capital crime, and he had the wolf hanged.
So, the wolf pays the price in the end for his misdeeds, but it is the man who is the biggest loser: he foolishly trusted his sheep to the care of the wolf and lost his flock as result, when he really should have known better. If only he had paid attention to today's saying!

So, hoping you have managed to avoid all wolves, real and metaphorical, in your vicinity, here is today's proverb read out loud:

Lupus pilum mutat, non mentem.


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9 comments:

CoolCat said...

Salve amica Latinae!
Duos interrogationes teneo:
1. Have you ever posted a proverb you completely disagreed with? If so, which one?
2. What is the declension of the word "Latin" in Latin? I have never seen it in any form except "Latina" nom., and "Latine" abl. of means, as in speaking "in Latin" or "by means of Latin".
Plurimas gratias tibi ago,
Aurelia

Laura Gibbs said...

Hi Aurelia, there was just a big discussion recently on a list that I read about how to say Latin in Latin - I go the route of "Latine" (adverb from the adjective, latinus) - although you can also say "latino sermone" (in Latin speech), which can be shorted to "latino." A great place to learn about that kind of Latin usage is by reading the Latin Wikipedia - for example, here is the article on Latin language there!
http://la.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lingua_Latina

As for proverbs, sure, yes, there are quite a few that I don't endorse personally, but I can see the logic of them. I'm a Democrat, and my husband is a Republican - so I can definitely appreciate the importance of sharing values and considering other people's points of view. Proverbs are a really cool way to do that, I think. At the same time, I do select proverbs that interest me for some reason: that could be because I agree with the idea, or because I think the poetry of the proverb is really striking (I love proverbs that rhyme... even if I don't always agree with the sentiment!).

There are a few proverbs that are kind of like personal mottoes for me - such as Spes ultima dea. I love all the proverbs about hope, actually. I guess if I had to pick one idea in the world of proverbs that motivates me most, it is hope. For this summer, I am going to write a kind of do-it-yourself Latin motto workbook, so that people can maybe figure out the main ideals and values that they can express in Latin, too! :-)

CoolCat said...

Thanks! Personally, I love "Caesar non super grammaticos." Being a bit of a "grammatica" myself, that proverb gives me such a feeling of power! ;-)
How about if I wanted to say, as I attempted in my first comment, "of Latin." I tried to say, "Hello, friend of Latin!" So I went with "Latinae," as being the most appropriate genitive form for "(lingua) Latina".
You are so helpful! I love your blog.
~Aurelia

Laura Gibbs said...

I love that story about the grammatici, too! Plus the error that the story is based on (mistaking a neuter noun ending in -ma for a feminine noun) is a mistake I have made myself, so of course I can relate, ha ha.
For Latinae in the feminine, it's easy to see that as short for "(linguae) latinae) - so no problems there! The great textbooks by Oerberg are called Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata, which definitely gives a nice sense of the feminine "latina"
Meanwhile, here's a fun fact about "grammatici" - do you know the etymology of the English word "glamour"...? It actually comes from grammar! So grammar is glamorous! :-)
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=grammar

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PhoenixUK said...

I only just found your website while googling for a latin motto. Will start reading the older entries now :)

Laura Gibbs said...

Mottos are one of my big interests; you can find more mottoes also at my Bestiaria Latina blog here:
Bestiaria Blog - there are so many to choose from, and you can also make your own. Have fun!

Chinese said...

paulus con mulus ambulat :)
i've been trying to learn latin and this blog is such a great source of inspiration, education, and fun. thanks for taking the time to post this good stuff.

Laura Gibbs said...

I'm glad it is helpful! I've been working on fables lately rather than proverbs - you can find the new materials at the Bestiaria Round-Up:
http://bestlatin.blogspot.com/
:-)