Je vais enseigner la français

Ever have that moment when someone suddenly realizes something that they have known about you for a long time? I did a few months ago, and it marked the start of a crazy adventure.

In college, I took two years of French. I suppose I chose it partly because of my French heritage and partly because my mom had taken it when she was in school (which means I had grown up with random French phrases interwoven into daily conversation). However, as soon as I started studying it, I fell in love with the language. If I could have spared an extra year of college, I would have minored in it. And if I could have spared more time and money and had realized it earlier, I might have even double majored. I truly love it that much.

Needless to say, French is still interwoven into daily conversation, and my mom and I frequently converse in snatches of it wherever we are. Including at the school where we both teach. The upper school administrator has heard us from time to time over the past few years, but it wasn’t until earlier this school year that it dawned on her that I spoke French. And with a proposal, the adventure began.

Next school year, I’ll add high school French to my teaching schedule. I’m so excited.

In preparation, I’ve been bathing my brain in French again. I read the Bible in it. I do daily language exercises. I watch movies I know well in it. (Monster’s Inc., anyone?) And I have some favorite books in it as well.

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, of course!

Green Eggs and Ham  One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Green Eggs and Ham
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Needless to say, it’s going to be fun!

The Silmarillion Recap: Tuor Comes to Gondolin

First off, sorry for completely missing this post last week. Several big things were happening at once that required my full attention. The good news, though, is that I’m back! Here’s to getting ahead in posts again and returning to my regular schedule. :)

Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.

Last time, Tuor entered the story. After a brief imprisonment, he becomes a thorn in the Easterlings’ side. (Just like his father, Huor. And his uncle, Hurin. And his cousin, Turin. Don’t mess with them!) This week, though, he exchanges harrying the enemy for a much more important role.

Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 23 part 2

For four years, Tuor has lived alone. His main goal in life has been seeking revenge on the Easterlings who killed the Elves who had raised him. However, after four long years, something changes. A new idea comes to mind. It’s time to leave.

What Tuor doesn’t know is that it’s not completely his idea. Ulmo has put the thought in his heart. Unlike the rest of the Valar who stay across the Sea in Valinor (and unlike Morgoth who is bent on taking over Middle-earth), Ulmo stays off the coast of Middle-earth, watching what happens and helping when he can. And this is one of those moments in which he can help its inhabitants. Or at least try.

Tuor finds himself on roads he doesn’t know. No one else knows them either, especially Morgoth’s servants. And before long, Tuor finds himself at the Sea. Namely in an abandoned city called Nevrast. He absolutely loves it there and stays for about a year before he spots seven swans flying over head and decides that he’s been sitting around too long. There’s something he has to do, and he needs to do it now.

What Tuor doesn’t know about Nevrast is that it used to belong to the Elvenking Turgon. (Want to read the full story? Click here.) Before building Gondolin, Turgon and his people lived here, against the Sea. Years before, Ulmo had shown up and warned them to leave because Morgoth was far more dangerous than any of them yet realized. Before Turgon and his people evacuated to the secret kingdom of Gondolin, Ulmo left a last instruction. Leave behind armor, a shield, and a hauberk. It would make sense later.

And this is later. Tuor happens upon the abandoned palace, and inside he finds the armor, shield, and hauberk that Turgon had left years ago. Tuor puts them on before heading outside again.

S.B. Roberts 2015

S.B. Roberts 2015

There, though, he’s met with a storm over the water, and Ulmo is literally there. Ulmo tells Tuor that he needs to go to Gondolin and deliver a message. He also gives Tuor a special cloak that makes him like a shadow so that he will travel more safely. And once the storm clears and Ulmo vanishes, Tuor finds that Ulmo has left one last thing for him. A guide.

A while before, Turgon (again) had sent ships West. On one of these ships was an Elf named Voronwë. The key word here is was. During Ulmo’s storm, he took Voronwë from his ship, told him that he needed to take someone to Gondolin, and plopped him right in the middle of Nevrast, where Tuor was. So when Voronwë sees Tuor, he knows exactly what to do, and they head off together for Gondolin.

Fascinating fact: On the way, they see Glaurung’s destruction and pass by a Man wearing black with a black sword. None other than his cousin, Turin.

Finally, Tuor and Voronwë arrive in Gondolin. When they do, Tuor removes the cloak from Ulmo, revealing the armor that Turgon had left back in Nevrast so long ago. He’s immediately ushered into Turgon’s throne room where Turgon listens with interest to what Tuor has to say.

However, Tuor has come with a warning that Turgon has long dreaded. The Curse of Mandos (also known as the Doom of the Noldor) is about to be completely fulfilled. All of the work of the Noldor will be destroyed. Ulmo told Turgon this back when he originally told him to build Gondolin: “Love not too well the work of thy hands and the devices of thy heart; and remember that the true hope of the Noldor [the group of Elves to which Turgon belongs] lieth West, and cometh from the Sea” (288).

But Turgon doesn’t want to leave. The city of Gondolin is beautiful. It’s been safely hidden for countless years. And, on top of that, Turgon has become a bit proud. Maybe there’s another way.

When Turgon speaks with his council, his nephew Maeglin is quick to side against Tuor. (This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Maeglin’s father was a Dark Elf, and some of his malice lived on in Maeglin’s heart. On top of that, Maeglin never liked Tuor’s dad or uncle.) And Turgon unwisely decides to side with Maeglin instead of listening to Ulmo’s warning.

However, Turgon doesn’t ignore the warning completely. Afraid of what might come (including treason from within), he has all of the entrances to Gondolin completely blocked. No can come in or out. The only way that they receive news is from Thorondor, King of the Eagles, and most of that news is bad. First Nargothrond falls. Then King Thingol is killed. And then his grandson Dior is murdered.

Instead of doing anything about it, Turgon keeps Gondolin completely shut. They will never leave Gondolin again. Ever.

Next week, Tuor finds love and learns why Maeglin was his dad and uncle’s frienemy.

The Silmarillion Recap Postponement

Well, life hasn’t gone quite as planned over the last week. Some things at school (aka, the job that currently provides a paycheck) have been extra busy, so I haven’t had time to prepare today’s post. But, have no fear. The usual post is coming soon. Hopefully tomorrow. :)

The Silmarillion Recap: Huor and Tuor (or More Sons with Rhyming Names)

Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.

Last week, we reached the end of an era. Hurin, Thingol, Melian, Dior, Beren, and Luthien have all officially exited the story. But now it’s time for a step backwards, for in the meantime, there’s been another set of events transpiring.

Since it’s been a long time since Huor (Hurin’s brother) has been mentioned, today’s recap covers him and introduces his son, Tuor.

Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 23 part 1 

(Want to read the full story behind the first three paragraphs? Click here.)

When Hurin and Huor first enter the Quenta Silmarillion, they are just teenagers. Huor is only 13, and since times are tough, they fight with their people against Morogth’s marauding Orcs. One day, the two brothers are separated from the rest of their band, and Ulmo (one of the Valar) himself works with Thorondor (King of the Eagles) to save them and send them to Gondolin (the secret Elvish kingdom).

Turgon, King of Gondolin, welcomes the boys, and they become very close. Not everyone likes it (namely Maeglin, the king’s nephew, who will reenter the story next week), but Turgon doesn’t care.

Eventually, Hurin and Huor decide they want to return to their families to help fight, so Turgon sends them away with one rule: they aren’t allowed to tell anyone where they’ve been. It’s a promise that they gladly keep, even though their people are utterly confused about what happened to them.

It might not be Thorondor, but he is a king of the eagles, right? :)

It might not be Thorondor, but he is a king of the eagles, right? :)

(Want to read the full story behind the next 2 paragraphs? Click here.)

In the years that follow, Hurin and Huor only grow in fame. They fight many battles, though none are as notable as their last: the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. During the war, they join back up with Turgon, and when it’s obvious that Morgoth has won and the only course of action is retreat, the brothers hold a bridge and allow Turgon and his remaining army to escape.

As they protect the bridge, the men fighting alongside Hurin and Huor fall one by one. Even Huor is taken down with a venomed arrow to the eye. And, in the end, only Hurin is left standing, swinging his sword and shouting, “Day shall come again!” (233)

Now, in chapter 23, we return to a moment not long after the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Huor was married to Rian, and she was pregnant when the battle happened. In the winter, she had a son and named him Tuor.

These were very dangerous times considering that this major war had just been lost and the Orcs and Easterlings had a new grip on the area that they had never enjoyed before. So, Rian allowed one of the Grey-Elves named Annael to foster Tuor and take care of him.

Nothing too notable happens as they hide in the caves of Androth. That is, for sixteen years. Then the Elves decide that it’s time to move south to the Havens of Sirion. It sounds like a great idea, but unfortunately they are attacked by Orcs and Easterlings on the way. Most are either captured or killed.

Tuor is among the captured. He is taken as a slave by Lorgan, the leader of the Easterlings in Hithlum. After three years, though, Tuor manages to escape and returns to the now abandoned caves of Androth, where he unleashes frequent assaults on Easterlings and Orcs alike. It drives all of them, especially Lorgan, who wants Tuor dead or alive.

Next week, Tuor meets one of his father’s old friends… or frienemies.

Spending Time with My Writing Buddy (Who Purrs)

Even though the kitten has only lived with us since the end of October, it’s hard to remember life without him. He doesn’t purr constantly anymore, but he does when he snuggles us in the morning, when I pick him up, when he sits on the back of the couch behind me, and when he plays with his toys. He fits perfectly with us.

Whenever I leave the computer to do some writing by hand, he likes to “help.”

He loves to play with my favorite Sharpie pens while I write.

He loves to play with my favorite Sharpie pens while I write.

Other times, he just likes to listen to me read aloud.

Sometimes he helps me grade my students' papers. He loves literary analysis.

Sometimes he helps me grade my students’ papers. He loves literary analysis.

He often joins me in daydreaming.

He loves listening to the world outside (even if it's too cold to open the windows).

He loves listening to the world outside (even if it’s too cold to open the windows).

And that one time during Spirit Week at school, he even helped me with my costume.

If Jane Austen didn't actually have a cat, don't tell him that.

If Jane Austen didn’t actually have a cat, don’t tell him that.

But the best is when he sits on my lap while I write or grade papers. While it’s hard to capture a picture of that, believe me, it’s just as cute as it sounds.

Do you have a writing buddy?

The Silmarillion Recap: Revenge of Feanor’s Sons

Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.

Last week, Thingol and his realm were attacked by Dwarves bent on retaking the Nauglamir (a very old and precious necklace made by the Dwarves. This week, the repercussions of their decisions have a lasting affect, and Fëanor’s sons make another appearance.

Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 22 part 4

Thingol lays dead in his palace of Menegroth, and his beloved queen, Melian, mourns by his side. Since the beginning, the Silmarils have been little more than trouble. Now, for a third time, they have brought grief to Thingol’s family. The first time was when Thingol’s relatives across the sea were killed because they refused to help Fëanor, and the second when Beren and Luthien had to retrieve one to be together. Now, Thingol is dead thanks to the one he had.

Now, Melian knows that worse things are coming. After all, she is one of the Maiar, servants of the Valar, so she can both perceive things that others can’t and has more power than them. This means that she also is aware that her life in Middle-earth has essentially relied on Thingol, her husband. Now that he is gone, her power wanes and she knows that it’s time for her to leave Middle-earth and return to Valinor. Before she leaves, she leaves strict instructions for Mablug to take the Nauglamir with the Silmaril to Luthien and Beren, her daughter and son-in-law.

Before Mablung can do this, though, the Dwarves who have been plotting to retake the Nauglamir arrive. Without Melian’s protection over the realm, the Dwarves easily march straight to the palace and engage in a bloody battle inside the halls of Menegroth. The slaughter is so terrible that it’s called “a thing most grievous among the sorrowful deeds of the Elder Days” (281). When it’s all said and done, many Dwarves and Elves are killed. Among them is Mablung, who died seemingly protecting the Nauglamir. Then the victorious Dwarves plunder the place, take the Nauglamir, and leave.

Meanwhile, Luthien and Beren have been enjoying life together. They have a son, Dior, who’s married to Nimloth (a relative of Celeborn — the Celeborn that is married to the one and only Galadriel). They even have three grandchildren: Elured and Elurin (the grandsons) and Elwing (the granddaughter). Life is great.

However, they soon receive news of marauding Dwarves in the area as well as word of what has happened in Doriath. While Luthien mourns at home, Beren and their son Dior grab their weapons and aid in an ambush headed up by the Elves. Soon, the Dwarves are trapped and slain between the Elves and the “Shepherds of the Trees” (282). (Yes, it sounds like the Ents make an appearance!) Beren gives the last blow to the dwarves, killing their lord and retaking the Nauglamir. However, before the lord dies, he curses the Nauglamir.

Though all of the rest of the treasure from Doriath is at the bottom of a river now, Beren returns home with the Nauglamir with the Silmaril that he and Luthien fought so hard to win. Luthien is understandably heartbroken, but she does begin to wear the Nauglamir. During this time, their home of Tol Galen becomes the closest thing to Valinor on earth. It’s bright and beautiful and plentiful.

Soon, Dior and his wife Nimloth decide to go to Doriath to restore it to its former glory, so they leave Tol Galen for the ruined Menegroth. It’s some time after they leave that Dior receives an unexpected visitor with a coffer. When Dior opens it, he sees the Nauglamir with the Silmaril in it. Though there is no note, he knows what it means. His parents, Luthien and Beren, have finally died and this treasure is his to keep. And he does. He wears it like his mother did. Unlike his mother, though, he is special in that he is descended of Men (through his father), Elves (through his mother), and the Maiar (through his grandmother, Melian).

However, not everyone is glad that Dior has the Silmaril in his possession. Yet again, Fëanor’s sons decide that it’s time to take the Silmaril for themselves.

Interestingly, Fëanor’s sons didn’t ever threaten Luthien while she had the Silmaril. I suppose there’s something inherently daunting about a person who faced Morgoth and death and was returned to life again with the man she fought alongside and fought to save.

The seven sons of Fëanor send a message to Dior, but he doesn’t reply. Frustrated by Thingol’s family yet again, Celegorm brings up the idea of war, and his brothers jump on the bandwagon. Before long, they attack Doriath yet again. This is specifically noted as the second time that Elf slayed Elf. (The first, of course, being when Fëanor attacked the Teleri, also related to Thingol.)

In the aftermath, many are dead, including three of Fëanor’s sons (Celegorm, Curufin, and Caranthir). Dior and Nimloth have also been killed. Dior and Nimloth’s young sons, Elured and Elurin, are taken from their home by Celegorm’s servants, and the boys are left in the forest to die. Interestingly, Maedhros (one of Fëanor’s sons) feels awful about what he’s done and tries to find the boys, but nothing ever comes of it. They are gone for good, and there’s no record of what happened to them.

S.B. Roberts 2015

S.B. Roberts 2015

And the Silmaril? Fëanor’s sons can’t find it. And for good reason. Before they attacked, some of the Elves of Doriath were sent away, including Elwing (Dior and Nimloth’s daughter). They took with them the Silmaril so no one could steal it and escaped to the shore of the sea. Fëanor’s sons are foiled again.

Next week, it’s time to shift gears and focus on Tuor, son of Huor and nephew of Hurin. Like his cousin Turin, he has quite the story as well.

Superbowl Survival: Arm Knitting

Happy Groundhog’s Day! Since there are six more weeks of winter coming, this post seems quite apropos.

I’m not much of a sports fan, and I come by it honestly. My mom grew up in a football town and never really cared for it. And my dad, who used to like football, changed his tune after his team lost a Superbowl. For that reason, I didn’t really grow up around sports. However, my husband’s family is quite the opposite, which means that we usually end up watching the Superbowl at their house.

While I usually bring a book or chat with another family member who’s not particularly interested in the game (like my husband’s sister or grandmother) between the commercials, this year my husband’s grandmother introduced me to a new craft: arm knitting.

For those familiar with regular knitting, it follows the same idea (though is more unforgiving if you need to get up while in the middle of a row). Since my husband’s grandmother is a serious crafter, she has countless skeins of yarn hanging around, so I’m not sure of the brand or other specifics of the yarn I have. All I know is it was thick and makes for a great, chunky scarf.

Nice thick yarn is perfect for a cozy scarf, and I love the color!

Nice thick yarn is perfect for a cozy scarf, and I love the color!

My Marsala arm-knitted scarf!

My Marsala arm-knitted scarf! (And yes, that is Arwen’s pin from The Two Towers.)

What you need:

2 arms
1 skein of thick yarn

For my scarf, I did twelve stitches across and made it long enough to wrap around my neck twice. It took about an hour to learn how to arm knit and make the scarf itself.

Since the stitches are very loose, I bound them closer together by creating a small, finger-knitted cuff (on the opposite side of the pin in the picture). (Finger knitting uses the same idea as arm knitting but instead is done on the index fingers. I did five stitches across to create the cuff.) Then I used spare yarn to “stitch” the layers together through the cuff to keep everything arranged the way I want it.

Ready for a quick tutorial on arm knitting? Here’s the tutorial we used.

Did you watch the Superbowl? Do you like crafting? If you give arm knitting a try, let me know how it goes!


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