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Swedish Woman Protests "Hobbit" Translation

It’s a dangerous business, walking out your front door…and the same can be said of translating movie subtitles into another language. A word-for-word translation is almost never good enough, as idioms, jokes and slang often don’t translate well.

Then, after the translation is released, sometimes issues pop up that even a skilled translator wouldn’t expect. For example, a Swedish woman named Yvonne Ekenskjöld is threatening legal action against the Swedish Film Institute because of their translation of “The Hobbit.” The problem? Torin Ekenskölde, the Swedish translation of Thorin Oakenshield’s name, is apparently too close to her own last name for comfort. Since she carries the last name of an ancient noble family, her complaints may actually have the potential to cause problems for the institute.

While many of us would be beyond thrilled if our names showed up in “The Hobbit”, Ms. Ekenskjöld is apparently not a Tolkien fan. Swedish news site The Local quotes her as saying.

“It’s like a slap in the face. I don’t think our name should be associated with fairy-tale figures. I actually feel violated, and it’s offensive that they didn’t even bother to call and ask if it was alright…I want them to take away the name from the subtitles but I can’t afford to go up against the big guys. But even if you’re small and insignificant, you still have your rights.”

Since 1982, Sweden’s Naming Law has prohibited non-noble families from giving “noble” names to their children, and businesses from using noble names as trademarks. But does it prohibit a similar name from being used in a movie? And does Ms. Ekenskjöld have any basis for her threats of legal action? The answers are unclear.

Stefan Klockby, the information head of the Institute, told the Local that Ms. Ekenskjöld was “suggesting that we have used a Swedish noble name in our translation. It’s not a noble family name anymore though; that family died out 200 years ago. We’re not really sure what she’s talking about – she’s claiming that her name is special and it’s only her family that can use it.”

Even more galling, according to the Local, Ms. Ekenskjöld apparently only adopted the name for herself about ten years ago.

 

An Irish Translation of "The Hobbit"

Irish-speaking Tolkien fans, rejoice! A special edition of The Hobbit is due out this month — translated entirely into Irish!

The Irish version of Tolkien’s classic tale is being published by Evertype Publishers, a small publishing company owned by Michael Everson which specializes in minority language translations, specialty fonts and typesetting. Here are some details of the release, courtesy of The Independent:

  • The book will cost €39.95 for the hardcover edition, which is all that will be available at first. The publisher does plan to release a cheaper paperback version later on.
  • When it’s first released, it will be available only on the publisher’s website, Evertype.com. Eventually, you’ll also be able to order a copy from Amazon.
  • Only 18 copies will be printed initially, with additional copies printed “on demand” as orders are placed.
  • The book is due to be released on the 25th of March.

Translating The Hobbit into Irish proved to be a quest in and of itself. In The Independent, Everson said he argued with the translator, Nicholas Williams, for “for about five years on what to call the elves.”  Another challenge was finding appropriate translations for Tolkien’s lyrical, evocative place names.  According to Everson, here’s what they finally decided on:

“Gleann na Scoilte’ was chosen for Rivendell, ‘An Mhodarchoill’ for Mirkwood and ‘An Dobhar’ for The Water, while Hobbiton will be known as ‘Baile na Hobad’.”

Despite Tolkien’s passion for languages, he didn’t have much l0ve for Irish. In a letter excerpted in the Irish Times, he wrote :

“I go frequently to Ireland (Éire: southern Ireland) being fond of it and of (most of) its people; but the Irish language I find wholly unattractive.”

Hence, one of the only scraps of Irish you’ll find in any of Tolkien’s invented languages is the word “Nazg,” or “ring” in the Black Speech of Mordor, which may be derived from the Irish word “nasc”.  In another letter quoted in the Irish Times, Tolkien denied intentionally including using nasc as the source, but admitted that it had most likely become “lodged in some comer of [his] linguistic memory.”

To whet your appetite, here’s the first paragraph of the Irish translation:

I bpoll sa talamh a bhí cónaí ar hobad. Níor pholl gránna, salach, fliuch é, lán le giotaí de phéisteanna agus le boladh láibe. Níor pholl tirim, lom, gainmheach a bhí ann ach an oiread, gan aon rud ann le n-ithe ná le suí síos air; poll hobaid ab ea é agus is ionann sin agus compord.

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A Latin Translation of "The Hobbit"

Peter Jackson’s long-awaited first film installment of “The Hobbit” premiered in New Zealand on Wednesday, and there was much rejoicing amongst the geeks of the world.

However, for fantasy lovers who also speak Latin, there was another reason to rejoice this week. On Tuesday, the first-ever Latin translation of “The Hobbit” was released. Titled “Hobbitus Ille,” the translation was done by classicist, author and Latin teacher Mark Walker.

Why Latin? Here’s what Mr. Walker had to say on the subject, taken from an excerpt from the foreword reprinted on the Huffington Post:

“There is, as anyone who has taken the trouble to study Latin knows, a curious gap in the available reading material. On the one hand are simplified stories for classroom use, on the other the glories of high Latin literature — but remarkably little in between… This is where the Latin Hobbit comes in. It is nothing more or less than a novel — but a novel now in Latin. Which is to say, it is a Latin text whose principal aim is to be read solely for the pleasure of reading….”

The translation was obviously a labor of love. Mr. Walker even went so far as to translate the songs in the book into Latin, using classical Latin meters appropriate for the mood of each song.

According to a press release issued by the publisher, the novel ” follows the Cambridge and Oxford Latin conventions” and is therefore “ideal for school use.”

This does look like it would be a lot of fun for children and teenagers, and a great way to motivate young Latin students.

One caveat: Translating a novel is no easy task, and a lively debate over some of Mr. Walker’s word choices is currently raging on the book’s Amazon page, with one reviewer declaring it “bad Latin.” If that’s the case, hopefully a revised second edition will be released in the future.

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