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Unit 05: U Methrah Rooli Roo ao Pfeffil

Those who tell the stories rule society.

Well, look at that - our first unit with a Lapine title! You should be able to work out most of it by now, but two things will need explaining: firstly, that "and the", which by rights should be a u is usually condensed to ao for easier pronunciation; and secondly, the word methrah. This one we'll leave until a little later on in the unit, though you might well be able to guess its meaning already.

It's very nearly time, then, to reveal the surprise I promised at the end of Unit 04, but first... yes, folks, you've guessed it, it's off to vocab corner once more! Pay close attention to this list, as it contains several extremely common and useful words:

vahl - yes
nahl - no
an - but
aisi - or
asith - with
na - (in order) to
il - to(wards)
hlienes - home

a) Remember my comments earlier on about how Lapine contained quite a few elements reminiscent of Welsh grammar? Well, one infuriating thing about Welsh is its lack of simple, universal words for "yes" and "no". Lapine, thank goodness, has more sense.
b) The word asith derives from a sithile, "and second".
c) It is very important to distinguish between na and il - although they can both be rendered as "to" in English, they convey very different ideas. Note also that you must use il if moving towards a destination is implied - so that "I'm going home" is a lay zayn il hlienes.
d) Yes, aisi and asith are rather similar, aren't they? Be careful!

All right - the wait is over. Time to reveal the secret. And it is... our very first Lapine story! Not a very exciting one at all - in fact, it's the sort of thing infant kittens tell each other - but it's a start. I said in Unit 04 that the use of rah was restricted to those situations in which a respectful tone was necessary. And we'll meet one such special circumstance now. We've already met meth as a verb, "to say, talk, speak", but in fact it can also be used as a noun to mean, if you like, "a piece of language" - a similar idea to our own noun "a saying". It is a measure of the high regard in which stories are held by rabbits that the Lapine for "story" is methrah, literally "a great saying". Time for the story itself, then - see if you can work out most of the Lapine (which is simply naylte, "rabbit" in Lapine, by the way) without looking at the following English translation. Settle down, and lie your ears flat. Here we go!

U methrah Rooli Roo ao pfeffil (NAYLTE)

Hyao, ver sie methai, Rooli Roo laynt hay si pfeffil - pfeffa nos a pfeffa roo.
"Es lay elil?" e laynt meth.
"Nahl, nahl," laynt meth u pfeffa nos. "I lay zayn flay asith mon, aisi nahl?"
"Vahl," laynt meth u rooli, ar ai laynt zayn silf na flay.
An fu neorsé, u pfeffa roo laynt meth. "A lay zayn flay mi, naylte roo," e laynt meth... an u rooli laynt hray il hlienes!

The story of Rooli Roo and the cats (ENGLISH)

Once, so they say, the little kitten saw two cats - a big cat and a small cat.
"Are you elil?" he said.
"No, no," said the big cat. "Are you going to feed with us, or not?"
"Yes," said the kitten, and they went outside to feed.
But after a little while, the small cat spoke. "I'm going to eat you, little rabbit," he said... but the kitten ran home!

a) A ("and") before a vowel often expands to ar for easier pronunciation (as with ao, mentioned above). This also happens in a few other circumstances for the same reason - for example, "you (sg.) and me is usually ir a ma rather than the strictly correct i a ma.
b) Aisi nahl means "or not" - literally "or no", which is occasionally used in English, and in fact appears in Watership Down itself, when Richard Adams speaks of Fiver being "...more than ever governed, whether he would or no, by the pulse of that mysterious world...".

Well done! As I said before, this might not be a very interesting story, but that's not really very important. In the warren, a kitten's first story is a rite of passage to compare with a human baby's first tooth, so you've achieved something really quite significant in this unit. I think you can now justify making up a huge banner screaming to all the world that "a lay meth Naylte!" ("I speak Lapine!").