Reading books in French is a great way to learn the language, but it’s always better to choose books that appeal to you.
Can you imagine reading the dictionary every night?
I think you may find something more entertaining… but to each their own!
Today I am going to share with you 3 books that have helped me change my life and that I continue to reread from time to time.
Le Petit Chaperon rouge
LE PETIT CHAPERON ROUGE: THE TALE TO READ IN FRENCH
In France, Le Petit Chaperon rouge (Little Red Riding Hood) is probably one of the must-read books that mothers read to their children. The original version was written in 1697 by the famous French author Charles Perrault!
Don’t you know who it is?
Have you heard of Cendrillon (Cinderella), La Belle au bois dormant (Sleeping Beauty), le Chat botté (Puss in Boots), le Petit Poucet (Little Thumb), or even Peau d’âne (Donkey Skin)?
Oui ? So félicitations (congratulations), you know at least one of the tales written by Perrault.
Le Petit Chaperon rouge is the story of a pretty little girl who has to go and bring her sick grandmother “a cake and a little pot of butter“.
On the way, she meets a wolf who asks her where she is going. Little Red Riding Hood tells him where her grandmother lives (big mistake!), and the wolf decides to go too but by another path.
WHY READ LE PETIT CHAPERON ROUGE?
One of the best-known phrases from the tale is without a doubt this one:
« Tire la chevillette, la bobinette cherra. »
(“Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up.”)
Don’t you understand her? Don’t worry. These are words that are no longer used now, only to quote Le Petit Chaperon rouge!
The chevillette (peg) and bobinette (bobbin) are parts of an old system that allowed doors to be closed.
“Cherra” (will drop *formal*) comes from the verb “choir” (to drop *formal*) which is now replaced by the verb “tomber” (to fall).
This phrase only means pull a part of the door, and it will open, because it is not closed from the inside. (Which is not very careful!)
This tale probably tells you something.
Le Petit Chaperon rouge has been adapted in many countries into books or even into movies.
Without spoiling the end for those who don’t know it, Perrault’s book ends less well than the version written later by the Grimm brothers, the one in which a hunter appears!
The moral of this story is pretty obvious, and that’s what I learned at a young age: beware of strangers.
For those who are familiar with European fairy tales, you will often find the wolf as the villain in the story, which actually symbolizes men or dangers.
If the 1697 version seems too hard to read, don’t worry!
There are now many versions of this story in French, sometimes with slightly different endings, but easier to read!
Les Fables de La Fontaine
LES FABLES DE JEAN DE LA FONTAINE: LIKE POETRIES
After the tales, the fables!
Fables are like fairy tales, but they are meant to teach morals. These are often short scenes where the animals speak (as in fact in les Fables de La Fontaine (La Fontaine’s Fables)).
One thing you should know is that I love fairy tales and fables.
So don’t be surprised (and forgive me) if I talk about it often!
Maybe someday I’ll write some to help you practice your French…
(I’m serious, if you’re interested, tell me in the comments!)
There is always a moral at the end of fables, and young French people often have Fables de la Fontaine to learn in school.
You can ask French people you know if they can quote Le Corbeau et le Renard (The Fox and the Crow), La Cigale et la Fourmi (The Ant and the Grasshopper) or Le Lièvre et la Tortue (The Tortoise and the Hare) or other Fables by La Fontaine.
They will surely remember a sentence or two from each fable as I do!
MORALS IN LES FABLES DE LA FONTAINE
In Le Corbeau et le Renard, we learn to pay attention to compliments from others, as they can be used to get some things from us.
La Cigale et la Fourmi is one of the few Fables de La Fontaine that has no real moral, but it can be that you have to work to be able to live. Personally, my moral for this fable is that it’s better to always stock up, and that’s what I do with my life (without being as selfish as the ant, of course!).
As for the fable of Le Lièvre et la Tortue, you surely know the famous moral of the story (which is, by the way, the first sentence):
« Rien ne sert de courir ; il faut partir à point. »
(“To win a race, the swiftness of a dart Availeth not without a timely start.”)
This is a phrase that I use a lot in my projects because it often takes a lot of preparation to be successful and stop wanting to act too quickly, without thinking.
You will also find other French versions of La Fontaine’s Fables, more recent than the original versions of 1668!
But learn a few sentences from the original fables, just like you learn poems. This will make you something in common with all French people (who will probably be surprised and admiring your knowledge!).
Le Petit Prince
LE PETIT PRINCE : “THE” BOOK TO READ IN FRENCH
Finally, Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) is arguably one of the best-known French books in the world, and it’s not that old anyway!
This philosophical tale was written in 1943 by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in easy French for children (and for all those who learn French like you!).
Did you know that this is the book that has been translated into the most different languages after the Bible?
You have probably already seen a version of this book in the language of your country!
The success of this book is undoubtedly its simplicity and the philosophy of life it gives.
I had already learned a lot from my personal experiences, and when I saw that these were the same messages as those explained in the story, I immediately loved the book.
WHY READ LE PETIT PRINCE
Le Petit Prince delivers many universal messages and helps to better understand relationships with others and with oneself.
The book also helps explain today’s world to children, with its positive and negative sides.
You can find a lot of quotes from this tale, more or less philosophical, but one of the best-known phrases from the book is:
« S’il te plaît… dessine-moi un mouton ! »
(“If you please… draw me a sheep!”)
D’accord (Okay), as a French teacher, I should tell you that this is not correct: you have to choose between the tutoiement (familiar form) and the vouvoiement (formal form)!
But in real life, that’s how children will talk (but not you, be careful!).
The Little Prince wants the narrator to draw a sheep for him, but he cannot. When he finally draws a case saying that the sheep is in it, the Little Prince is happy.
It shows that everyone can interpret a drawing differently.
On top of that, don’t forget the drawings that are integrated in the story and are so popular!
The illustrations were made by Saint-Exupéry himself and are therefore part of the original work. They are simple, like the story of The Little Prince.
The characters in the tale are representations of different notions such as love (the rose), friendship (the fox), but also critics of society (such as the king or the businessman).
You now know the 3 books which changed my life and which are, in fact, tales or fables: Le Petit Chaperon rouge, les Fables de La Fontaine and Le Petit Prince!
It’s also the easiest type of book to read, which doesn’t take too much time, and which I think is more fun to learn things than reading philosophy books!
If you want to try reading a book in French and are also looking for popular books that you can discuss with your friends, then try these three, in the versions you prefer! (But still in French!)
Have you also read books that have changed your life?
What are these books?
Have you read any in French?
Tell me all about it in the comments; I’m actually looking for my next book to read!