A Latin Translation of “The Hobbit”

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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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