Swedish Woman Protests “Hobbit” Translation

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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.