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A1 French Reading Challenge

Week Four: Fables

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Week One: Introduction


Week Two: The Nutcracker / EFR 1

Week Three: The Black Tulip / EFR 2

Week Four: Fables / EFR 3

Week Five: Beauty and the Beast / EFR 4

Week Six: Lancelot / EFR Revision


Week Seven: A1 DELF Exam papers (for weird fun)

(EFR= Easy French Reader)


Week Three

Welcome to the fourth week of our French reading challenge! This week’s selection is Fables by French literary giant, Jean de La Fontaine.


In this post, like all others in the A1 French Reading Challenge series, I’ll summarise each chapter and provide a short glossary of words that I felt necessary to look up*. If I make a mistake, please be kind! I’m setting this French challenge up as a personal challenge to improve my own level. I’m no expert! 

This book is actually the hardest of all of the selections in this challenge because of the abundant vocabulary (crickets, graze, sharpen, reeds, etc), as well as several literary devices that are employed. I spent more hours looking up new words in this book and am not entirely convinced that it could be an A1 read without the assistance provided in this post. Rest assured, the running vocabulary will save you hours and is something I wish I had access to while I was reading it! The fables are highly enjoyable and this is a perfect book for word hoarding (which is what we need- keep in mind that knowldge of 9000 word familes gives us access to about 98% of written language). 

Quick note: For those with children, siblings, or young family members, these fables are wonderful to share! My 6-year-old daughter absolutely loves them!

(To learn more about why I believe readers are the best way to learn a foreign language, click here. To learn about how to choose a suitable text, click here)


Summary (SPOILERS!) and Vocabulary


Fable #1: La cigale et la fourmi


Cricket idles away her summer of plenty while Ant laboriously prepares for the winter, and when it finally comes, Cricket finds herself at the mercy of the bitter cold.

  1. la cigale: cricket

  2. la fourmi: ant

  3. charmant: delightful

  4. mauvesie: bad

  5. pourtant: however

  6. d'un ton sec: in a dry tone

  7. prêter: lend

  8. tendre: soft

  9. je m'allonge: I lie down

  10. la chaleur: warmth

  11. douceur: softness

  12. étoilées: starred

Fable #2: Le Loup et l'agneau

A little lamb finds herself being bullied by a vicious wolf. It seems that no matter how hard she tries to reason with him, her protests are in vain. 


  1. Le loup: wolf

  2. l'agneau: lamb

  3. la brebis: ewe

  4. têtu: stubborn

  5. vous tous: all of you
  6. berger: shepherd
  7. atrappe: catch
  8. gorge: throat

Fable #3: Le chêne et le roseau

The obnoxious old oak tree finds there to be nothing more satisfying than taunting the small reed. After all, what is more powerful than the mighty oak?


  1. chêne: oak

  2. roseau: reed

  3. mince: thin

  4. puissant: powerful

  5. fin: thin

  6. libellule: dragonfly

  7. léger: light

  8. dessine: draws

  9. à peine: hardly

  10. traits: features

  11. plier: bend

  12. toit: roof

  13. l'orage éclate: thunderstorm breaks out

  14. bords: side

  15. je me plie: abide by

  16. rafales: gust

  17. épouvantables: horrendous

  18. bouger: move

  19. courber: bend

  20. ouragan: hurricane

  21. déracine: uproot

  22. s'abat: topple

Fable #4: Le laboureur et ses enfants

An old man passes and leaves his estate to his children, but before he does, he devises a cunning trick to help them see the value of hard work.


  1. témoin: witness

  2. l'endroit: location

  3. la moisson: harvest

  4. pelle: shovel

  5. pioche: pickaxe

  6. retournent: turn

  7. cependant: however

  8. récoltes: crops

  9. vente: sale

Fable #5: La laitière et le pot au lait

On her way home, a milkmaid is daydreaming about all of the riches she may one day possess. However, she is so caught up in her own fantasy world that she doesn't pay attention to what she has now.


  1. jupon: petticoat

  2. je nourris: I feed

  3. poulets: chickens

  4. m'élit: choose me

Fable #6: Les deux coqs

Troy comes to the chicken coop in this hilarious tale of vanity.


  1. répand: spread

  2. compagnie: company

  3. sombre: dark

  4. honte: shame

  5. il aiguise: sharpen

  6. ailes: wing

  7. flancs: side

  8. redoutable: formidable 

  9. cachette: hiding place

  10. la bonté: kindness

  11. fêtent: celebrate

  12. maître: master

  13. le hasard: chance

  14. vantent: boast

  15. s'attirer: attract

Fable #7: Les deux pigeons

Joni Mitchel sang, "Don't it always seem to go, but you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone". The moral is very similar to the lessons learned by one brave pigeon who decided to fly from his cozy nest in search of adventure.


  1. les épreuves: test, trial

  2. les soucis: worries

  3. doux: soft

  4. le corbeau: raven, crow

  5. pièges: traps

  6. oiseaux: birds

  7. autant: as much as

  8. distraire: amuse

  9. souvenirs: memories

  10. s'éloigne: move away

  11. sèche: dry

  12. blé: wheat

  13. un filet: net

  14. volatile: bird

  15. neuf: new

  16. à coups: blows

  17. de battes: claws

  18. serres: claw

  19. traîne: pull

  20. disputer: fight

  21. fronde: sling

  22. vise: aim at  

  23. pierre: stone

  24. à moitié: half

  25. les biens: assets

  26. je me souviens: I remember

  27. faisons: let's make

  28. retour en arrière: flashback

  29. bergère: shephard

Fable #8: L'homme et la couleuvre

Physical power often trumps reason; our protestations often fall on deaf ears when the powerful don't want to listen. 


  1. pervers: depraved

  2. se laisse: let itself

  3. les sots: fools

  4. à quoi sert: to what purpose

  5. ne sert que: that only serves

  6. selon: according to

  7. l'homme recule d'un pas: the man turns back a step

  8. l'avis: opinion

  9. soins: care

  10. m'empêches-tu: you prevent me

  11. brouter de l'herbe: graze in the grass

  12. à pas lents: slow pace

  13. je porte les charges: carry the load

  14. la charrue: plough

  15. fâché: annoyed

  16. faisons taire: let's be quiet

  17. l'arbitre: judge

  18. témoignage: evidence

  19. le poids: weight

  20. un paysan: a farmer

  21. je chauffe: I warm up

  22. la hache: axe

  23. la scie: saw

  24. reproche: blames

  25. forcément: inevitably

Geek Corner:

The book, excluding exercises, has roughly 448 lines of text. By reading it ten times, we have read 4480 lines of French. This, plus the previous lines in the challenge, gives us a total count of 7470 + 4480 = 11950! Congratulations! We have reached our first goal of 10,000 lines! Now, let's head towards our next goal of 100,000 lines, 1 book at a time!



Here are the books we are using for the challenge.

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Easy French Reader


Week One


Week Two


Week Four

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Week Five

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