Tri-lingual Hobbit re-read: Chapter 2 (post 2 of 2)

Picking up where I left off in Chapter 2 of The Hobbit, the award for “next idiom found” goes to the German edition!

To wit, the part where one of the ponies has run off with most of the food, and everything’s all wet and miserable and Oin and Gloin are trying to light the fire and bickering about it. I did a doubletake at this rendering of same, in German:

Da sassen sie klamm und nass und laut brummend, während Oin und Gloin es noch einmal mit dem Feuer versuchten und sich dabei in die Haare gerieten.

That latter bit initially made me go “wait, what? Surely the translator isn’t trying to say Oin and Gloin set their hair on fire?” (Which would have made for a more amusing paragraph, but not, I think, what Tolkien had in mind.) Turns out, though, that “in die Haare gerieten” is German for “getting on each other’s nerves”. Or more specifically, “getting in each other’s hair”, as near as I can tell. To wit, cool! This was idiom use too where Tolkien didn’t actually use an idiom himself–his phrase was simply that Oin and Gloin were “quarreling about it”, i.e., the fire.

Also observed in the German edition: the dwarves referring to Bilbo as their “Meisterdieb”, i.e., their “master thief”, where the English edition uses “burglar”. Hee!

And oh yes, though this is more of a world-building amusement than a language one: the dwarves talking to each other about how they are now in wilder lands where people haven’t even heard of “the King”. Which immediately makes me think “what King?” Since of course Aragorn is still in hiding at this point, and there is no King in Gondor. Dara points out quite correctly that the dwarves and Bilbo are so far out in the middle of nowhere in this story that it’s absolutely plausible for the locals to have forgotten there ever was a bigger civilization–and that even the people who retain some sort of knowledge that there should be “a King” could be working on old data and not even aware that Gondor is in a Steward’s hands.

As a general point of reference, even trolls sound better when their dialogue’s all in French. William, Bert, and Tom never sounded so classy!

I am however deeply charmed to see that the “burrahobbit” joke (which I’d totally forgotten about!) translates well over into French, when M. Baggins starts to identify himself as “un cambrioleur”, and then says “un hobbit” instead. So the trolls call him “un cambunhobbit”. In German, they call him “ein Meisterhobbit”!

Also: I am rather charmed by the German edition’s illustrations of the trolls as well, who are positively enormous next to Bilbo. But then, the artist renders Bilbo as quite tiny, even noticeably tinier than the dwarves, who are barely distinguishable from Gandalf himself in size.

This chapter portion’s “awesome German word” award goes to “Keilerei”, which means “brawl”! Surprisingly lyrical, for a German noun!

Thus concludes Chapter 2, and it’ll be fun to head into Chapter 3 and see how much I imagine Hugo Weaving as Elrond!