Tri-lingual Hobbit re-read: Chapter 5 (Post 1 of a few)

I am so, SO overdue to continue this that it’s not even funny! But since I definitely want to get this done before An Unexpected Journey comes out in December, and because my language geekery is wanting the love, let’s dive into Chapter 5, shall we? Bring on the riddles in the dark!

This won’t be the whole chapter, but it’s a start, and I’ll keep chipping away at this as I can!

General notes:

And right out of the gate in this chapter, the very first thing that happens is that Bilbo finds the Ring. I love how it’s described:

“… his hand met what felt like a tiny ring of cold metal lying on the floor of the tunnel. It was a turning point in his career, but he did not know it. He put the ring in his pocket almost without thinking; certainly it did not seem of any particular use at the moment.”

Oh man. Just thinking about all the shit that’s going to go down several decades after this because of that “tiny ring of cold metal” is almost enough to make me want to yell “DON’T DO IT, BILBO”!

“Miserabler”? Is that actually a word?

Also, I’ve got to say, after having just edited an entire manuscript and pulled out over a thousand words just by adding in a bunch more contractions, one of the first things that leaps right out at me from this part of the story is Tolkien’s avoidance of contractions. Also, he did love him some semicolons, didn’t he? Ha!

I really like this sentence, describing how the tunnel Bilbo’s following seems to go on forever: “It seemed like all the way to tomorrow and over it to the days beyond.”

Gollum rowed about “quite quietly”? More in the category of Stuff Tolkien Was Able to Pull Off That You’ll Never See Me Getting Away With!

French notes:

The name of this chapter, “Riddles in the Dark”, translates in the French edition to “Enigmes dans l’obscurité”. Not what I would have expected as the translation of “dark”! I have to remind myself to not confuse this with the English word “obscurity”.

“Un miniscule anneau de métal froid”. Hee hee hee.

Interesting. “Goodness knows” goes over to “Dieu sait”, i.e., “God knows”, in the French.

“Une lame elfique”: an elvish blade. Which is, of course, Sting. Nice! And I’d just learned the word “lame” for “blade” thanks to having bought the Esther Rochon novel of that title.

Oh, hee, the part where Bilbo’s psyching himself into going on through the dark, since going forward is his only option? In the French edition, he tells himself, “Allons-y!” Which, of course, immediately made me giggle and think of the Doctor.

Ooh, and here’s a big enough word in the French edition that it rivals German words for length: “silencieusement”! Silently!

And HA! Now we get into Gollum’s first bit of dialogue, and the French translator didn’t even try to do anything with “Bless us and splash us”. Instead, we get “Par ex-s-s-semple”. However, much love for seeing “my precious” rendered as “mon trésor”!

French!Gollum hisses his s’s and his c’s! At least if his c’s come before vowels!

German notes:

In the first paragraph of the chapter, I have to giggle at the German edition encouraging the reader to imagine Bilbo’s fear–or in this case, “seine Angst”. After all my years of history of giggling over angst-ridden MUSH plots or angsty romance novels, it’s always a bit of a shock to me to remember that that was, in fact, originally a German word.

And, of course, in German the finding of the Ring is rendered as “ein dünner Ring aus einem kalten Metall”.

First so very German word noted in this chapter: “zur¨ckgelassen”, left behind, abandoned.

Another good German word: “erklären”: explain. Or in this particular case, “sich erklären”, explain to (him)self.

“Elvish blade” in this edition is “Elbenklinge”. (And wait, whoa. ‘Klinge’ is German for blade? I’m a little sad that this wasn’t the reason that Star Trek Klingons got their name, because that would have been totally awesome!)

And, a German word that I should NOT mistake for an almost identically spelled English word: “seltsame”. Which means “strange”, and is not to be confused with “selfsame” even if there’s only one letter of difference.

“Hereinschwammen”: another great compound German verb. “Swam in”, cropping up in the bit describing the cold, cold water Bilbo steps into, and how it was full of fish whose fathers had swum in there so many years ago and hadn’t ever swum out again.

The introduction of Gollum has a phrase in it in the German edition that has a wonderful rhythm you’d only get in German: “wer oder was er war”. (Who or what he was.) I really like that!

Here’s another word you’d only get in German: “Orkfleisch”! (Which is what Gollum likes to nom, when he can get it.)

And man, the intro of Gollum is just chock full of awesome compound German words: “Teleskopaugen”! Telescope eyes! That brings to mind all sorts of imagery the translator may or may not have actually been intending–all I know is, I’m totally envisioning Andy Serkis’ Gollum with CGI telescopes poking out of his skull now.

Fun to see how German!Gollumn hisses his s’s AND his z’s. And “my precious” in German is “mein Schatz”–which I actually already knew about, from, of all things, the Elvis song “Wooden Heart”. Which has a German bridge, and the line “und du, mein Schatz, bleibst hier”!

Next time–oh, Ring-thief, it is ON.