And now, it’s time again for the Tri-lingual Hobbit Re-read! When last we left our intrepid band of short adventurers, they’d managed to escape the goblins only to run smack into a lengthy scene of exposition. This is what Bilbo gets for sneaking up on them all with a magic ring, doncha know. And then OHNOEZ ROCK SLIDE!
Bilbo really is a champion whiner, isn’t he? “My toes are all bruised and bent, and my legs ache, and my stomach is wagging like an empty sack,” he complains to Gandalf. I almost expect him to protest that he was going to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters! (Housemate points out that if Bilbo would have been wearing some SHOES, he could perhaps have avoided this problem, but noooo, he has to be all I’M A HOBBIT I DON’T WEAR SHOES!)
That said, I am also amused that Bilbo can see Thorin’s beard wagging in the dark. I note this because out of all the dwarves we’ll be seeing when the movie drops, Thorin is NOT one of the ones who’ll be portrayed with a beard long enough to wag. I cannot say that I object to this particular change!
Dori, whose last round of dialogue was all about snarking on the swords of Gondolin, gets in some snark here too about the others expecting him to carry Bilbo around. That Dori then promptly gets down out of the trees and lets Bilbo scramble up his back to safety does, I think, license Dori to whatever amount of snark he wants. Go Dori!
I have to giggle at Tolkien telling the reader how they’d laugh–but at a safe distance!–at the visual of the dwarves in the trees. One could interpret this as ‘because you wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the nasty wolves’, but I prefer to think of it also as ‘because if you were within range and laughing at the dwarves, Thorin and company would FUCK YOU UP’.
The extended bit here with Gandalf overhearing the speech of the Wargs raises the interesting point that why yes, actually, the Wargs are thinking creatures with their own language. This was definitely not called out in the Jackson movies–and I rather suspect we won’t see it in the movie version of The Hobbit either. There’s an interesting point here too to make about sliding over into Gandalf’s POV a bit, since he’s the only one in the party who knows what the Wargs are saying. This kind of POV shift in the middle of a scene these days is still heard of–but certainly more frowned upon than it used to be, I think.
And speaking of the Wargs, I have to wonder exactly how many Wargs are supposed to be IN this chapter, anyway. Tolkien makes it sound like there are at least a couple hundred, and while he’s doubtless engaging in narrative exaggeration here, nonetheless, I have to wonder exactly how big this clearing was if there was room for the four or five trees our heros scampered up AND room for the wolves to make a great big circle as well. ( chimed in that “what this scene needs is statistical analysis of the eye count!” To wit, yeah, snerk, but on the other hand this kind of super-detailed analysis is exactly what I’m trying to do when playing with translations!)
“Mais il connissait ce bruit.” (But he knew this noise.) This jumps out at me since I’ve been trying to nail down understanding the differences between savoir and connaître, and this seems to fit in with the connotation of “be acquainted with” for the latter verb.
The wolves coming after the party are of course loups, and that word I know from loup-garou, which shows up all over werewolf-flavored urban fantasy.
And connaître ties in nicely with me spotting this phrase: “au bord de l’inconnu” (on the edge of the unknown). “Au bord” promptly kicks my brain over to Le Vent’s “Au bord de la fontaine”, but “inconnu” seems pretty obviously related to the verb, especially given that I now know via another Le Vent song that “connu” is part of the passé composé of connaître as well!
Bilbo flipping out about the wolves, in the French edition, renders as “Qu’allons-nous faire?” That does actually flow nicely to my ear, and so does “echapper aux gobelins pour être attrapés par les loups” (escaping goblins to be caught by wolves)! Here, too, the French translator replaces Tolkien’s original “out of the frying pan into the fire” with “tomber de Charybde en Scylla” (fall between Charybdis and Scylla). I note this phrase particularly since the translator flips the names around; in English, I’ve always heard them listed in the order of Scylla and Charybdis. Also, the translation of “fall between” here doesn’t seem exact, from what I’m getting off of Google Translate. “De” is of course “from” or “of”. “En” can be “in” or “to” or “at” depending on context. But apparently they work together here to come out as “between”. I’d be interested to hear from Francophones if I’m coming across an idiomatic translation here!
And speaking of fun translations, the bit where Tolkien pokes a bit of gentle fun at the visuals of all these long-bearded dwarves scuttling up the trees goes like this: “You would have laughed (from a safe distance), if you had seen the dwarves sitting up in the trees with their beards dangling down, like old gentlemen gone cracked and playing at being boys.” In French, the translator writes: “Vous auriez ri (à distance respectable) de voir les nains assis là-haut dans les arbres, la barbe pendante, comme de vieux messieurs retombés en enfance et jouant à chat perché.”
Now, there are a couple of fun things here about this sentence! One, the translation here uses the notion of “like old gentlemen fallen back/relapsed to childhood”, rather than Tolkien’s notion of them “gone cracked”. Two, apparently “jouant à chat” is to play tag! Three, I’m not sure how “perché” fits into the sentence, but I think I AM sure that “la barbe” perhaps should have been “les barbes”, because “la barbe” doesn’t make sense in context.
(I’d just like to take this opportunity to go WOO! at having actually figured these things out. :D )
“Clairière” is a nice French word, meaning “clearing”. I’m pleased to have figured it out correctly from context, though I did doublecheck it with the translator!
Here’s another bit I translated without having to doublecheck it: “Dori n’abandonna toutefois pas Bilbo.” (If I’m right, this is “Dori did not however abandon Bilbo”, which is a pretty close match for the actual English, “Still Dori did not let Bilbo down.”)
And this bit, too, whoa! “Cette clairière était évidemment un lieu de rassemblement pour les loups.” (This clearing was obviously a gathering place for the wolves.) Not an exact translation of the English, but I actually understood it, thanks to ongoing vocabulary study with SuperMemo!
“Razzias” is apparently “raids”, which is interesting, since that looks way more like an Italian word to me than it does a French word. I’d love to know if it’s a loan word!
In the same passage I describe above, where Bilbo recognizes the noises of wolves, I get to have verb recognition for German as well: i.e., kannte, the past tense of kennen! Which is pretty much the equivalent of connaître.
“Weltreisender”, used to describe Bilbo’s cousin (the one who liked to make wolf noises at him to frighten him, and who, accordingly, one concludes was a bit of an asshole), is a pretty nifty German word. It means “world traveller”.
Oh good lord, the wolf in the illustration in this part of the German edition does NOT look scary at all! I’m not going to show you the whole picture, but I WILL show you a bit of it. Because seriously, you guys, this wolf totally looks like he wants to play catch. I think he’s just wondering why the dwarves aren’t pitching him a frisbee or something!
The German version of the sentence above about the dwarves in the trees goes like this: “Ihr würdet laut gelacht haben (aus sicherer Entfernung), wenn ihr die Zwerge mit ihren herabbaumelnden Bärten in den Bäumen hättet hocken sehen, wie alte übergeschnappte Herren, die sich wie Schulbuben benahmen.” I threw this through Google Translate, and I’m not entirely comfy with what it told me, but if I’m reading it right the German translator is rendering this a lot closer to Tolkien’s original English. Of note here is that “übergeschnappte” is the bit that means “crazy”!
Note to self: “ein mächtiger Grauwolf” does not actually mean “a mach tiger gray wolf”, though now I totally want to know what a mach tiger gray wolf would be! One presumes fast. And also stripey.
Ooh, here’s a good German word: “Kiefernzapfen”! Which apparently means “pine cones”, and in this context it’s the pine cones that Gandalf’s setting on fire and chucking down at the wolves. I love this word, it makes the pine cones sound way more appropriate to the notion of “things a wizard is setting on fire”.
This will, I think, do me for tonight. This post is getting long, and I’m still not done with the chapter yet! Next time: enter the Eagles, stage up!