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Monday, July 18, 2011

Le Tour de la France (11)—Reaching France

Translated by Robert André LaFleur
Le Tour de la France par deux enfants (A Journey Around France Undertaken by Two Children) is a little 119-chapter book about French geography and culture. Written in 1877 by Augustine Fouillée (under the pseudonym G. Bruno), it was geared toward primary school students in their fourth and fifth years (cours moyen).  It has been read by generations of French students, and has played a small but important role in the development of a French national imagination. It was the little book that launched the Tour de France.

1            2            3            4            5            6            7            8            9            10            11
Click here for the introduction to Round and Square's series on this 1877 classic. 
The Fog Lifts;
André and Julien Reach French Soil
When we are separated from our homeland, we realize better how much we cherish it.

Gradually, the gentle tranquility of sleep overtook André, too. He remained still, so as not to awaken little Julien, but he felt his own eyes fill with fatigue. In vain, he struggled to fight off sleep, yet in spite of it his eyes half closed.

After a long time, as if submerged in a kind of dream, it seemed that he perceived through his half-closed eyes a kind of faint light. He started, and shaking himself out of his dreams, he opened his eyes wide. The fog still surrounded them, but a kind of half-light had emerged. Pale rays penetrated through the mist. The moon had just risen.

Soon the mist itself became thinner and then vanished like a bad dream. Through the branches of the old fir tree, the bright stars appeared in all of their glory. A short distance away, they could see the aging tower flooded with moonlight. 

André's heart beat with joy. He shook his brother's arms.

          —Wake up, my Julien, he said. Look! The fog and darkness are gone. We can finally leave!

Julien opened his eyes and saw the bright sky. He smiled innocently, clapped his little hands together, and jumped for joy. 

          [—God is good! he said], and the mountain is beautiful now that it is all lit by beautiful moonlight! Ah, there is the old tower, André. We have not lost our way. Let's get going.

They quickly organized their travel packets. The cheerful moonlight led them to forget their past hardships. The two children resumed their journey happily, as the walked and ate small pieces of bread. They finished their small meal by sharing an apple that mère Etienne had put into Julien's travel packet.

The children walked on bravely for the rest of the night—and as fast as they could. The sky was so bright that the path was easy to recognize. Their only concern at this point was to elude the border guards until they had crossed the mountain pass that separated this territory, which had become German, from the French homeland. The young travelers advanced carefully, quietly, passing like shadows through the woodland.
COL DES VOSGES— A pass (col) is a narrow passage between two mountains, passing from one side to the other. When you arrive at the top of a peak, you can see behind you the mountain you just climbed and in front of you the mountain to be descended.
Toward morning, they finally reached the pass. Suddenly on the other side of the mountain, the two children realized that they were walking on the soil of the French countryside—all illuminated by the light of dawn. It was to this beloved country—their homeland—that they had traveled with so much effort.

Their hearts leaped, knowing that they were finally on the lands of France. The wish of their father was accomplished, and they knelt reverently on the native land that they had reached by their courage and perseverance. They lifted their souls up to heaven, thanking God and whispered: —France, beloved; we are your sons and we want our lives to remain worthy of you.

When the sun began to rise, reddening the peaks of the Vosges, they were already far from the border and out of danger. Walking hand-in-hand, they made their way happily onto French roads, marking time anew as young Frenchmen.

Brief Break
We'll take a little break from Le Tour, and return to the story in the fall. The children have made it to France, and about eight percent of the book is translated. I will start working to build up the "back story" (how did this book get written?), and we will pause before André and Julien begin to explore the country of their homeland. Le Tour has just begun.

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