Tri-lingual Hobbit re-read: Chapter 7 (third post)

Nothing quite like two viewings of the brand new Hobbit movie to get me in the mood to keep up with the Tri-lingual Re-read! Though I gotta say, people, it’s going to be difficult swinging back into Tolkien’s descriptions of the various dwarves, now that I’ve seen the movie–twice now–and have completely fallen in love with the parody Thorin Dreamboatshield: An Unexpected Hotness of Dwarves.

Because, seriously, say what you will about Jackson, love him or hate him, laud or decry his filming in 48 frames per second… the achievement for me in the new movie? Making me swoon for dwarves.

And on that merry note, let’s get back into Chapter 7, shall we? We left off with Bilbo and the dwarves taking it easy at the House of Beorn!

General notes:

Gandalf gets a lot fancier with the smoke rings than we ever see him do in the films, so far–with the exception of the ship he sends through Bilbo’s smoke ring in the film edition of Fellowship. Almost a shame, it’d be totally fun to see Ian McKellen doing amusing special effects with smoke rings. Maybe in extended edition Hobbit footage, or something!

Beorn’s having a summit of bears does raise all sorts of interesting questions about whether the bears are shapeshifters like himself, or whether he’s just got an in with all the local bears, or whether the local bears are themselves thinking creatures anyway regardless of the ability to change shape. All of which certainly seem plausible in Tolkien’s world, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the bears of the non-shifting variety were able to talk.

Interesting questions are raised as well by Beorn’s recounting to the party about how he went out to check their story and caught a Warg and a goblin. I’ll definitely want to know if we’ll get to see this on camera in the second film, given that this’d be an excellent opportunity to show something rather than tell it.

Beorn gives the group “twice-baked cakes that would keep good a long time, and on a little of which they could march far.” I wonder if this was an early version of lembas bread? Because while Beorn’s recipe for this stuff appears to be his personal secret, this certainly sounds like lembas bread.

Beorn’s telling the party about the stream in Mirkwood that causes drowsiness and forgetfulness is, of course, quite evocative of the River Lethe in Greek mythology. I have never confirmed this for certain, but I’m assuming that’s what Tolkien’s calling back to, with that.

Are we going to see bear!Beorn trailing the party as they head to Mirkwood, as he does here in Chapter 7? That’ll be a fun visual for the second film.

And here we have a mention of the Necromancer, as Gandalf is warning the party just before he leaves them at the edge of Mirkwood. LOTS of interesting questions here about how the second film is going to play this–whether they’re going to have to tweak the plot some to have the threat of the Necromancer increased now that he’s been introduced in the film that’s just come out. I strongly suspect that Gandalf’s departure from the party in the films at this point might not be as peaceable as it is here in the book.

French notes:

The first of the translation quibbles that caught my eye in the French edition is in the phrase “dès que nous avons mis les pieds dehors”, which translates to “as soon as we set foot outside”. Tolkien says “as soon as we went out”. Not a huge difference in phrasing, but it’s the little differences like that that intrigue me and make me do this in the first place!

The first phrase to leap out at me without needing translation: “un question à la fois”, “one question at a time”.

When Gandalf remarks upon the hall being a splendid place for smoke rings, he says “bless me!” in the English edition. In French, he says “tiens, tiens, tiens!” This seems to be more or less the equivalent of “well, well, well”, if Google Translate is to be believed.

“Franchir” leaps out at me in this phrase: “sauf de l’ouest, où il y a la rivière à franchir”, “except the west, where there is a river to cross/where there is a river crossing”. “Franchir” is a word I just had in SuperMemo!

“Ne soyez pas stupide!” Ah! Here we have “soyez”, which is the imperative form of “être”. I hadn’t encountered this before! Gandalf, telling Bilbo not to be stupid.

Beorn pokes Bilbo, in the French edition, with “son index”–his index finger. This is not called out in the English edition. In the very next sentence, he calls Bilbo “Little bunny” in the English edition. But in the French, he says “Jeannot Lapin”! A bit of Googling suggests this may be an attempt on the part of the French translator to reference the French translation of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Benjamin Bunny. I’d be really interested to know from any Francophones if this is a common figure of speech–in continental French OR in Quebecois or any other North American branch of the language!

“…afin de découvrir les nains ou de se venger des hommes et des créatures qui vivaient là et qui devaient, pensaient-ils, les abriter.” This refers to the goblins and Wargs wanting to seek out the dwarves, or to take revenge on the Men or creatures who might be sheltering them. This phrase stood out for me because of “abriter”–another word I’ve just had in SuperMemo!

Bilbo asks Beorn what he did with the goblin and Warg he captured. In the English version Tolkien says that he asked “suddenly”; in French, it’s “brusquement”, which is interesting just because that looks like “brusque” to my Anglophone eyes. Which has an entirely different connotation. So there’s a thing to look out for when jumping between the languages.

“Miel” stands out for me as the word for “honey”, of which Beorn eats quite a bit.

Beorn warns them in English, re: straying off the path in Mirkwood: “That you MUST NOT do, for any reason.” In French this renders as “Et cela, il ne le faut POUR RIEN AU MONDE.” I think that would translate to “this must be done FOR NOTHING IN THE WORLD”. Interesting to see that phrasing and the differences in all caps, as well.

“Nourriture” jumps out at me a couple of places in the text, too. It means “food”.

Beorn says of his house, “Elle est bien protégée la nuit !” I.e., “it is well protected at night!” Noting the use of the feminine pronoun here, though, calling back to “ma maison”, “my house”, which is a feminine noun.

“Ils établirent un campement”–i.e., “they set up camp”. A phrase I was able to translate on sight.

Seeing a lot of “de nouveau” used to mean “again”. I’m familiar with “encore” for “again”; it would be interesting to know which is in more active use in French, and whether it changes across the branches of the language.

“Nos amis chevauchèrent donc deux ou trois jours…” This stands out because of the use of “nos amis”, “our friends”. The French translator put that in; Tolkien actually wrote in the corresponding sentence, “So they rode now for two more days…”. Also, I like “chevauchèrent”, a nice crunchy verb there.

When Gandalf tells Bilbo “Hush! Take no notice!” re: spotting Beorn in bear form following them, it’s “Chut ! N’y pas faites attention !” I.e., “Shhh! Do not pay attention!”

Heh, “Thorïn et Cie” appears to be “Thorin and Company”.

“Autrement, il y a neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf chances sur mille…” I had no idea that “ninety-nine” actually comes out “quatre-vingt-dix-neuf” in French, but apparently it does! In the original, Tolkien has Gandalf saying “If you do, it is a thousand to one…”. Here, it’s “otherwise, there are nine hundred ninety-nine chances in a thousand…”.

The Necromancer, in French, is “Le Nécromancien”.

“Tentation” is “temptation”, a word that falls into the category of “almost sounds like the equivalent word in English, except it’s spelled differently”. Which seems to happen just often enough to keep me paying attention!

And one more word that stands out, in Gandalf’s final call to the party as he leaves them: “sentier” is “path”, which looks like “sentience” to me. Or “sentinel”. I thought he was telling them not to let down their guard, but apparently not, “NE QUITTEZ PAS LE SENTIER” is indeed “DO NOT LEAVE THE PATH”.

And the dwarves reply, “Adieu et fichez le camp”. I.e., “Goodbye and get out”. Ha.

German notes:

Over in the German edition, when Gandalf tells the group one question at a time, but not until after he has something to eat, the phrasing for that is odd in the German edition. It’s written as “Eine Frage immer hübsch nach der anderen–und das erst nach dem Abendbrot!” The first part of it is the part that confuses me; Google Translate is not being helpful here. All it can do is tell me that this means “A question always nice after the other”, and I’m pretty sure that’s not actually what this is supposed to mean. Any German speakers want to clarify?

“Schließlich schob Gandalf Teller und Krug von sich…” This is Gandalf finally pushing his plate and jug away, though “Teller und Krug” totally made me think of Penn and Teller. And also, the Klingon commander in Star Trek III.

Gandalf’s smoke rings are “Rauchringe” in the German edition. Excellent. Certainly in this paragraph, as well as in the equivalent one in the French edition, there’s plenty of opportunity here to pick up vocabulary for colors!

“Bärenfährten” is “bear tracks”, and that’s a nice strong German word with plenty of umlauts to go around.

And speaking of good strong German words, I give you “hinüberzuwechseln”, which appears in “aber für mich war das Wasser zu tief und die Strömung zu stark, um hinüberzuwechseln”–Gandalf describing how for him, the water was too deep and the current too strong for him to cross. Nice word smooshing going on there, German translator!

Gandalf’s telling Bilbo not to be silly renders in German as “Seid nicht albern!”

And, I note with amusement that Beorn’s calling Bilbo a little bunny does get a pretty much direct translation here: “Das kleine Kaninchen”.

The Warg that Beorn catches is described by the translator as “einen Riesenwolf”, “a giant wolf”. This seems to be part of a general trend of the German translator just referring to the Wargs as “wolves”.

Here’s a weird word that looks almost French: “Orkpatrouillen”, “orc patrols”.

The chief of the Wargs is called “der Wolfhauptmann”, “the Captain Wolf”.

When Beorn marvels that they’d killed the Great Goblin, in the German edition he says, “Den Großen Ork erschlagen, wer das bedenkt!” This seems, if I’m reading this correctly, to translate to “To slay the Great Orc! Who considers that?!” Or maybe to get closer to how it might be said in English, “Who’da thunk it?”

No wait–Bilbo does in fact use the word “Warg” later in when he asks Beorn what he did with the Warg and the goblin. So apparently the translator is jumping back and forth between the terms. Maybe just to remind the German reader that Wargs are in fact great monster wolves?

“Sorgfältigem” is another good strong German word. It means “careful”. And “Nahrungsmittel” appears to be the equivalent of the French “nourriture”, i.e., “food”.

“Unberechenbar” flows nicely, I think. It’s “unpredictable”, used by Beorn in his description of Mirkwood.

“Lebensmittel” is also “food”. But if I’m finessing Google Translate appropriately, the connotation here appears to be more “provisions”, whereas “Nahrungsmittel” is less specific.

In German, Beorn’s description of his house being well-protected at night comes through as “nachts ist es wohlgeschützt!”

Sometimes I am also impressed by short German words. Like “knorrig”, which means “gnarled”.

Mirkwood is rendered in this edition as “der Nachtwald”.

The German translator has Gandalf be a bit more eloquent when he’s telling everyone to cheer up even though he’s leaving them: “Seid ein bisschen vergnügter, Bilbo – schaut nicht so sauer drein! Und ihr, Thorin und Kumpanei, seid auch zuversichtlicher und nicht so betrübt!” If I’m reading this right, this comes out more or less to “Be a bit cheerful, Bilbo – don’t look so sour! And you, Thorin and Company, be also confident and not so sad!”

The Necromancer in German becomes “das Geisterbeschwörers”.

I note that Gandalf does NOT go all caps when yelling at the party to not leave the path, here: “und verlasst niemals den Pfad!”

Next time: chapter 8!

2 Replies to “Tri-lingual Hobbit re-read: Chapter 7 (third post)”

  1. > And the dwarves reply, “Adieu et fichez le camp”. I.e., “Goodbye and get out”.

    Actually. it’s considerably ruder than that, as the verb ficher (to drive something in such as a nail), is a politer euphemism for the much more explicit foutre. A looser English transation might be ‘bog off’.

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