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Telling Tales in Latin: A New Latin Course and Storybook for Children

Telling Tales in Latin: A New Latin Course and Storybook for Children

by Lorna Robinson

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Telling Tales in Latin teaches Latin through the magic of storytelling. Narrated by the chatty and imaginative Roman poet Ovid (who lived in the Rome of the first century B.C), this new course takes young learners on a journey through some of the tales from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Along the way, they pick up Latin words and grammar, explore the connections between Latin


Telling Tales in Latin teaches Latin through the magic of storytelling. Narrated by the chatty and imaginative Roman poet Ovid (who lived in the Rome of the first century B.C), this new course takes young learners on a journey through some of the tales from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Along the way, they pick up Latin words and grammar, explore the connections between Latin and English and discover how Ovid's stories still speak to us today. Each chapter introduces one of Ovid's much-loved stories, encouraging children to begin reading Latin immediately while exploring the literary and mythic context of the stories. At the end of each chapter there are suggested activities to help learners to think about what they have just read, and to understand how the stories connect to ideas and issues that are still relevant today, from relationships with others and philosophy, to science and caring for the planet. Soham De's illustrations bring Ovid's stories alive for a wide range of learners and make learning Latin a colourful journey of discovery. Telling Tales in Latin outlines how Latin is the basis for English grammar, unlocking the complexities of learning English (and other languages) along the way. It also contains the vocabulary and grammar needed for the OCR Entry Level Latin qualification, making this book the ideal first introduction to Latin.

Product Details

Souvenir Press
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
9 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Telling Tales in Latin

A New Latin Course and Storybook for Children

By Lorna Robinson, Soham De

Souvenir Press

Copyright © 2013 Lorna Robinson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-285-64180-8


in initio

So I am to tell these tales to you, which makes me the narrator of this little book. You might know the word narrator, but did you know that it comes from the Latin word "narro" which means "I tell a story"?? The word for book is "liber", which gives us another common English word. Maybe you can guess what it might be.

I begin my tale with the very beginning of the world, when there was everything and nothing. By the way, it's all in Latin. You can't read Latin, you say? I think you'll find that by the end of this chapter you can. Go on, give it a go ...

in initio est chaos. non est terra, non est aqua, non est caelum. Non est luna, non est sol. aer, terra et oceanus sunt in una mole

calor miscet cum frigido. Lux miscet cum umbra.

tandem Natura separat undam, caelum et terram, et ponit lunam et solem in caelo.


So now you've met a little Latin. How many of these new words look like words you already know? Perhaps you could make a list of all the English words you know which look a bit ilke the Latin words in the passage. Can you work out the story?

Now you've had a go, here is what they mean:

aer = air lux = light
aqua = water miscet = mixes
caelo/caelum = sky natura = nature

calor = heat non = not
cum = with oceanus = ocean
frigido = the cold ponit = places

est = there is separat = separates
et = and sol = sun
in = in sunt = are

in initio = in the beggining tandem = at last
in una mole = in one mass terra = land
luna = moon umbra = shadow

Did you get any right? There, I knew you would!

Word types

Just as Nature is separating things into different groups, let's split up the word types in the story into groups.

You may know that words for things are called "nouns", words for doing/being are "verbs", and words describing things are "adjectives". There is also a group of words called "prepositions", which tell you about where something is. These come before a noun and are words like "with", "in" and "on".

Can you write the Latin words and their English translations under the correct group headings?

Sentence practice

Here are some Latin sentences which describe how things might have been at the start of the world — I warn you now though, they're quite sureal! What's happening in them?

arbor est in caelo. luna est in oceano. aqua miscet cum igne.

arbor = tree

igne = fire

Can you think of any English words connected to these two new words? Write them down.


Well, there you go! Here we are at the end of the first chapter, and you've read Some Latin, met some new words and learned what some Romans thought happened at the very beginning of the words. Not bad, eh?

What are the examples of metamorphosis which take place in this chapter?

My story might remind you of stories you've heard before. There are lots of different stories which explain the beginning of the world. Now scientists have made discoveries that give us a clearer idea of what happened at the start of the universe. In ancient times, though, people used their imaginations to make up stories instead.

Can you write your own version of what might have happened at the beginning of the world? You could make it an explosion of vivid colour and full of action, using lots of different adjectives and verbs! Or perhaps you have a completely different idea ...


primi humani

We Romans (or "Romani" in Latin!) borrowed lots of stories from our imaginative lots of stories from our imaginative neighbours, the Greeks. One of the most famous stories we borrowed was about the ages of mankind. It told how, over time, we all became more and more careless of land and people, and how we polluted the seas too.

Have you ever heard someone tell you about "the good old days" and how things used to be much better years ago? Well, the story I'm about to tell is a a little like that. Do you think things were much better in the past? Here's the story so see what you think.

prima aetas est aurea. terra est communis. agri dant cibum sponte sua. ver est aeternum.

secunda aetas est argentea. Iuppiter creat hiemem, aestatem, et autumnum. iam feminae et viri habitant in villis.

tertia aetas est aenea. viri faciunt gladios et pugnant. iam sunt domini, dominae, servi et ancillae.

quarta aetas est ferrea. viri faciunt naves et visitant alteras terras. mercatores congerunt pecuniam.


There are lots of new words in this story that you might be able to recognise. Perhaps you can have a look and take a guess at their meanings.

Right, here are the Latin translations of words to help you translate my little story! Words sometimes change their endings in Latin, so don't worry if the words look slightly different.

Aenea = bronze gladios = words
aetas = age habitant = live
aestatem = summer hiemen = winter
aeternum = eternal iam = now
agri = fields in villis = in houses
alteras = others
Iuppiter = Jupiter
ancillae = slave-girls mercatores = merchants
naves = ships argentea = silver aurea = gold pecuniam = money
autumnum = autumn prima = first
cibum = food pugnant = fight
communis = communal secunda = second
congerunt = pile up servi = slaves
creat = creates sponte sua = on their own
sunt = are
dant = give dominae = mistresses tertia = third
domini = masters quarta = fourth
faciunt = make ver = spring
feminae = women viri = men
ferrae = iron visitant = visit


Verbs, as I mentioned in the last chapter, are "doing" words. There are lots of verbs in this story, as people are very busy doing all sorts of things. Can you find the verbs in the passage and write down the Latin and English? Once you've done this, write down in the brackets next to the Latin verb how Many people are doing the action. What do you notice?

Yes, that's right! Verbs in Latin involving one person doing something end in "t", whereas verbs involving more than one person doing the action end in "nt". Here are two examples:

pugnat – he/she fights pugnant – they fight

est – he/she/it is sunt – they are

Verbs involving one person are called singular verbs and those involving more than one person are called plural verbs.

Using what you have just learnt, can you turn the following plural Latin verbs into singular verb?

1. visitant

2. oceant

3. habitant

And can you turn these ones into plural verbs?

1. ridet (laughs)

2. laudat (praises)

3. portat (carries)

Have a go at these Latin sentences, which are examples of some of the things people got up to in the first four ages of mankind from the story. Can you guess which age each Sentences is describing?

1. feminae visitant alteras terras

2. viri sunt laeti.

3. feminae et viri habitant in agris

4. viri sunt irati.

laeti = happy Irati = angry


Here are a few little activities for you to explore before we leave this story behind And go on the next tale ...

As you can see, a series of pictures is a vivid way to illustrate the four ages of mankind described in the story. Many people in the past have drawn their own versions and added their own details. You might have your own ideas about what sort of images would best tell the tale! You could write it with captions to make a comic strip if you like.

Another way of telling the story might be a short play about one of the ages of mankind. You'd need a narrator (like me!), and a couple of characters. Which age would you choose? And what props might you need?

You could even have a go at inventing a whole new age of mankind and write an account of what it might be like – this always tempted me! Would people be happy or sad? What would they be doing, and what would the world look like? One of things I love about inventing stories is that you can be as detailed and imaginative as you want – it's your world and you can fill it with all kinds of things! What will you call your new age?

See you in the next story.



Do you remember what the iron age people were like in our last story? Well, it got to the point where Jupiter, the powerful king of the gods, decided that humans had become too wicked. What do you think he did?

He decided to ask his brother Neptune, who was in charge of the oceans, to help him flood the entire world! Here is how it happened, so they say ...

Iuppiter est iratissimus. Notum mittit. Notus liquidis alis volat. liquidam barbam habet. aqua de capillis fluit. imber in agros fundit. rivi arbores et villas et greges carpunt.

Before you have a go at translating the Latin, as always, see if you can guess some of the new words here from English words you know.

Had a go? Here are some Latin words to help you too!

barba = beard in agros = onto fields
carpunt = sieze iratissimus = very angry
de capillis = down liquidis alis = with
from his hair watery wings

fluit = flows mittit = sends
fundit = pours
Notus = South wind
grex = flock rivus = river
habet = has volat = flies

Remember that words often change their endings in Latin, so you need to look for a Latin word that is similar sometimes in the list rather than exactly the same. You'll notice something different about this chapter and all chapters frow now on. This is that the verbs usually go at the end of the sentence. Isn't that strange! So you might wonder how you know who is doing what in a sentence ... The Latin word "in" can mean "in" or "on", but if it is followed by a noun with an object ending, it means "into" or "onto". What's an object, you say? Well, find out below!


We saw last time how verbs change to show how many people are doing action. Can you remember what the singular and plural endings are? For practice, you could find all the verbs in the passage above and write them down, saying whether they are singular or plural.

In this chapter, we are looking at noun endings. Have a look at these:

1 (f) 2 (m) 2 (n) 3(m)

Notus templum (temple) clamor (south)
Notum templum clamorem

Noti templa clamores
Notos templa clamores

There are four different endings for each group! Can you guess what each ending tells you?

Nouns in Latin are put into groups according to their endings. Nouns that end in a are usually in group 1 and are usually feminine. This is shown by the (f) - yes, even objects are said to have a gender in Latin! Nouns ending in -us or -um are usually group 2 and are usually either masculine (m) or neuter (n), and group 3 nouns are quite different! The only real way of knowing what group a noun is in is by learning it, so from now on, I'll put the group number in brackets in the vocabulary lists.

Now for the meaning of those endings. Have a look at these tow sentences from The passage

1. Notus liquidis alis volat.

2. Notum mittit.

"Notus" and "Notum" both appear, but in the first sentence he is the subject, and in the second, he is the object. When nouns are the object in a sentence, they often end in -m (apart from neuter nouns which don't change at all!). When there is more than one of the noun, then the endings change again - so Notus (south wind) would become Noti, (south winds), and Notum, the south wind as object, would become Notos (south winds). 'barba' would behave differently, as you can see from the chart above!

Have a go at turning these nouns, which are singular subjects, into plural subjects:


And can you turn these plural objects into singular objects?


amicus (2) = friend
taberna (1) = shop

Let's carry on with our story. Remember to look out for all the things we have just learned about!

iam non est terra, modo oceanus. puella in colle sedet. puer in arbore sedet et pisces captat! sub aqua, Nereides urbes vident. pisces per fenestras et ianuas natant.

captat = catches natant = swim puella (1) = girl
ianua (1) = door
Nereis (3) = sea puer (2) = boy
in arbore = in a nymph sedet = sits
tree per fenestras = sub = under
in colle = on a hill through windows urbs (3) = city
modo = only piscis (3) = fish vident = see


In my poem I enjoyed writing speeches by the gods, and I included lots of them! I wonder what Jupiter would say if he were telling the sky and the sea to flood the world! I suppose he would need to use lots of persuasive words. Why should they flood the world? What sort of arguments might work to persuade them? How do you think Jupiter might speak? You can make your writing sound like his voice. Would it be calm and serious? Would it be angry and frightening?

Perhaps you can write your own speech and give it to your friends, family and classmates. Maybe some other people could write speeches persuading the sea and sky not to flood the world. Is it fair to flood the world? Read the speeches, for and against, then people can ask questions. I love a bit of debating!

My favourite bit of the tale is the weird underwater world that was created by the flood. I could have written a whole poem about the world under the sea, which the Nereids could see! Imagine all the wonderful things they might find as they swim around. Could you write from the perspective of a sea nymph who has never seen cities and houses before? They might have different words to describe things they see. You'd need to put yourself in their minds, and make the poem descriptive and detailed. Perhaps you can even illustrate your poem.

Why do you think there are so many stories about floods in societies all Over the world?


Deucalion et Pyrrha

So now to the next part of my story, where we meet a rather sorry little bird Trying to find a place to land in a world without land.

avis fessa, diu terram quaerens, tandem in oceano cadit. post multos dies, aqua paulatim subsidit. ecce! iam terra apparet. modo unus vir et una femina supersunt in rate. vir, nomine Deucalion, est bonus. femina, nomine Pyrrha, est bona. Deucalion et Pyrrha sunt soli, et igitur orant.

Can you pick out all the nouns in the passage, and split them into two groups – ones that are subjects and ones that are objects. Remember that in Latin you can do this even without translating the sentences, because the endings show us the answers. Clever, isn't it?!


Excerpted from Telling Tales in Latin by Lorna Robinson, Soham De. Copyright © 2013 Lorna Robinson. Excerpted by permission of Souvenir Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Lorna Robinson has a PhD in classics from University College London and is the director of the Iris Project, which promotes the study of classics in state schools. She was awarded the prestigious EU Language Label Award for 2013 for her innovative approach to teaching Latin. Soham De is a graphic artist who works for an architectural firm.

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