Tri-lingual Hobbit re-read: Chapter 10 (French notes)

This post is the French notes for Chapter 10 of the Tri-lingual Hobbit Re-read! Spinning the French notes off into their own post because um, yeah, they got kinda LARGE.

Notes for the German edition will be in a subsequent post!

The chapter in this edition is called “Un chaleureux accueil”, which I note because of woo! SuperMemo vocabulary! It’s a straight translation of the original “A Warm Welcome”.

Right out of the gate I see this opening sentence: “A mesure qu’ils descendaient au fil de l’eau, le jour se faisait plus clair et plus chaud.” Googling a bit, I see references to “à mesure que” as an expression, noting the accent in particular–but the book doesn’t have an accent over the capital A starting the sentence. So I can’t tell whether I’m just not Googling for the right things, or whether the book might have printed it wrong. This exact same sentence also has “au fil de l’eau”, which seems to also be an expression of interest, translating roughly to “with the stream” or “with the flow”. It interests me though that there’s a sense of going downstream in this sentence, whereas in Tolkien’s original, “The day grew lighter and warmer as they floated along”, there’s no specific overt sense.

(But then, if you’re floating, you’re probably going with the current anyway, right? So it’s implied in the English, but called out more overtly in the French. The language of precision, indeed!)

Random pretty vocabulary word #1: “falaise”, which is “cliff”. Should not be mistaken for “malaise”, although it is nice to note for rhyming purposes!

Random comprehension point of interest: I’m seeing that longer clauses in sentences, big stretches of words unbroken by punctuation, are harder for me to parse than clauses that have commas or other punctuation in them to break them up.

I did however parse this entire phrase: “Ses voisines les plus proches vers le nord-est”, i.e., “its closest neighbors to the northeast”. (Tolkien actually wrote “Its nearest neighbors to the North-East”; way to rock the alliteration there, J.R.R.!)

This is an interesting bit: “il avait été plus heureux qu’il ne le pensait”. What caught my eye here is the use of “heureux”–a word which I’d learned as “happy”. Here, though, if I’m reading it right, it’s used more in the sense of “fortunate”. Google Translate offers that as an alternate meaning for this word, and that certainly is in keeping with what Tolkien originally wrote, i.e., “he had been more lucky than he had guessed”.

Oh! Further down the page I do in fact see “à mesure que”, so I suppose that this edition must have just printed that initial capital A wrong? Or maybe this edition’s font face has trouble with accents on capital A’s. I haven’t noticed this elsewhere in the book; I’ll have to keep an eye out for it in the rest of the chapters.

Here’s another large chunk I almost understood completely:

La conversation roulait entièrement sur le trafic qui allait et venait sur le cours d’eau et sur l’accroissement de la circulation sur la rivière, à mesure que les routes de l’est à Mirkwood disparaissaient ou étaient à l’abandon…

I got almost all of that thanks to vocabulary in SuperMemo! The only bits I didn’t quite get were the uses of ‘trafic’ vs. ‘circulation’, since I’ve seen both of those used in SuperMemo to essentially mean ‘traffic’, but here in the actual passage, ‘trafic’ is used more in the sense of ‘trade’. Nor did I quite get the last bit involving the routes east of Mirkwood ‘disparaissaient ou étaient à l’abandon’. The first verb of that I got, but not the latter one–I hadn’t quite gotten ‘étaient’ as the imperfect tense of “être”.

What Tolkien actually wrote for the paragraph above was:

The talk was all of the trade that came and went on the waterways and the growth of the traffic on the river, as the roads out of the East towards Mirkwood vanished or fell into disuse…

Here’s another bit shortly after the previous that caught my eye: “Ces régions avaient beaucoup changé dans les années récentes…” (“These regions had changed much in the recent years…”) The thing I had to keep myself from doing here was mistaking “changé” for an adjective. It’s not–it’s the past participle for the passé composé tense of the verb “changer”.

“On voit donc…” apparently means “We thus see…” Noted because of the difference here between the French translation and what Tolkien wrote, which was “So you see…” Interesting little shift to the narrator including him/herself in with the reader, observing the action.

Noting “réconfort” used in this phrase: “C’eût peut-être été un réconfort pour M. Baggins…” (“It might have been a comfort to Mr. Baggins…”) Noting because it’s not clear to me here why it’s “réconfort” and not just “confort”. Google Translate is not being helpful on clarifying this.

Ooh, another big chunk I almost understood!

Tout ce qu’il savait, c’était que la rivière paraissait poursuivre son chemin jusqu’à l’infini, qu’il avait faim, qu’il avait un vilain rhume dans le nez et qu’il n’aimait pas la façon dont la Montagne semblait lui faire grise mine et le menacer à mesure qu’elle approchait.

Tolkien’s original text here:

All he knew was that the river seemed to go on and on and on for ever, and he was hungry, and had a nasty cold in the nose, and did not like the way the Mountain seemed to frown at him and threaten him as it drew ever nearer.

I followed this bit right up through “la façon dont la Montagne semblait”. I fell over on “faire grise mine”, though–because that’s apparently an idiomatic expression. Google Translate had no idea what to do with it, but when I actually searched for it, I got references that suggested that “faire grise mine” roughly means “to pull a long face”. And, a bit more searching gets me “à mesure que” essentially meaning “as”.

This bit caught my attention, partly because of understanding about half of it, and partly because of the use of “se trouvait”: “Non loin de l’embouchure de la Rivière de la Forêt se trouvait l’étrange ville dont il avait entendu les elfes parler dans les caves du roi.” (“Not far from the mouth of the Forest River was the strange town he heard the elves speak of in the king’s cellars” being what Tolkien originally wrote here.) I note with interest that the translator used “se trouvait”, the imperfect tense of “se trouver”, i.e., “to be found”, rather than just a straight up “was”. I also note “embouchure” as a word I know from playing flute in band–and I know now that this is of course related to the root word “bouche”. Lastly, I note “caves” here as meaning “cellars”, not “caves”! (This is a word that came up for me recently in SuperMemo.)

WHOA, I understood almost this entire lengthy sentence:

Un grand pont de bois s’avançait vers l’endroit où, sur des pilotis faits d’arbres de la forêt, était construite une active ville de bois ; non pas une ville d’elfes, mais d’Hommes qui osaient encore habiter là dans l’ombre de la lointaine montagne du dragon.

Tolkien’s original text:

A great bridge made of wood ran out to where on huge piles made of forest trees was built a busy wooden town, not a town of elves but of Men, who still dared to dwell here under the shadow of the distant dragon-mountain.

The bits I had to look up here were “pilotis” (piles), “osaient” (imperfect tense of “oser”, “to dare”), and “lointaine” (“distant”). Note also that I believe “piles” here is not in the sense of “heaps of stuffs lying around”, but rather, in the sense of “big pylons”. Which makes absolute sense visualizing what the houses of the Lake-men must look like.

“Ils vivaient toujours du commerce…” Noting this as the translator is using “toujours”, which I mostly see used in the sense of “always”, but here it seems like it’s more “still”. Which is what Tolkien uses in the original. Also noting “vivaient”, imperfect tense of “vivre” (“to live”), though the original text uses “throve”.

“…la grande époque de jadis…” This is interesting since Tolkien wrote “the great days of old” in the original, and this seems to be close. Particularly interested in “jadis” here, described on over here. It’s odd, too, that I totally keep wanting to pronounce this as a German word, probably because it starts with “ja”!

“…leurs eaux étaient peuplées de flottes de bateaux…” Ooh, I got this bit, too. “Their waters were peopled by fleets of boats,” literally. What Tolkien actually wrote: “There had been fleets of boats on the waters.” Pretty close!

Another idiom: “hauts faits”, “heroic/high deeds”! Well, Tolkien’s certainly a good thing to be reading for those, in any language!

Ooh, this phrase has a great crunchy verb: “D’autres chantaient aussi que Thror et Thrain reviendraient un jour…” “Reviendraient” is the conditional tense of “revenir”, “to come back/return”! The phrase translates to “Others sang also that Thror and Thrain would come back one day…”

Another new verb: “hélèrent”, passé simple for “héler”, “to hail”.

HA! A pretty-looking word like “gémissements” is not something I’d have thought would mean “whining”. Which is why, O Internets, I try not to peek at the original English text until after I try to figure out what the French says!

Here’s a great Scrabble/Lexulous word, if you’re playing with the French dictionary: “ankylosé”, which means “stiff”. Note that it uses both a K AND a Y, which are very hard letters to deploy on a French Lexulous board!

Another sentence I almost got completely: “Peut-être avait-il oublié qu’il avait eu au moins un bon repas de plus que les nains et aussi l’usage de ses bras et jambes, sans parler d’une plus large ration d’air.” (“Perhaps he had forgotten that he had had at least one good meal more than the dwarves and also use of his arms and elgs, not to mention a greater ration of air” is my translation of this.) The part that threw me here was “au moins”, since I’d previously had “moins” in SuperMemo as “less”. Mm, tasty idioms are tasty!

New verb here: “Dans l’obscurité, barbotant dans l’eau froide…” This gives me “barbotant”, which apparently is the present participle for “barboter”, “to splash”.

A few more fun adjectives describing the condition of the dwarves coming out of the barrels: “trempés” (soaked), “contusionné” (contused), and “meurtris” (bruised). Also, “marmonnant”, the present participle of “marmonner”, “to mumble”.

“Il y a bien droit, encore que j’eusse préféré un voyage plus confortable.” Which has a couple of fun things in it–“encore que” being used in the sense of “although/even though”, and “j’eusse”, which is the imperfect subjective form of “avoir”! (Yes, I absolutely had to look that up. I wasn’t sure at all if it was a form of être or of avoir!) Tolkien’s original sentence: “I am sure he has a right to expect it, though I wish he could have arranged a more comfortable journey.” Note that Tolkien’s original sentence is wordier. And that in both, Thorin’s still a bit of an asshole. ;)

Ah! And the French edition makes me go back and look up a word in English, thanks to this phrase: “ils se moquaient des vielles barbes et des bonnes femmes…” The original says “the greybeards and gammers”. I just had to look up “gammers”, and see that it’s an archaic British term for old women, chiefly humorous–and of course it makes sense, because we know from Lord of the Rings that Sam’s father is called Gaffer Gamgee!

“Thorin, fils de Thrain, fils de Thror, Roi sous la Montagne!” Thorin, introducing himself to the guards of Lake-town. :D The translation of which should, I think, be self-explanatory!

In that same paragraph, though, there’s a weird use of parentheses, and by ‘weird’ I mean ‘check out the smilie face’:

— Thorïn, fils de Thrain, fils de Thror, Roi sous la Montagne ! dit le nain d’une voix forte — et il paraissait bien Roi, en dépit de ses vêtements déchirés et de son capuchon crotté. (L’or étincelait à son cou et sur sa poitrine ; ses yeax étaient sombres et profonds :) Je suis revenu. Je désire voir le maître de votre ville ! »

As near as I can tell, that punctuation is being used to call out where the narration ends and Thorin’s dialogue picks up again. Maybe? Also, note to self, “je suis revenu” does NOT mean “I am income”! It means “I have come back”!

Noting this for past tense of “il y a”, which is about as basic a French phrase to know as you get: “Il y eut alors une formidable agitation.” (“There was a great commotion.”) Pretty sure this is the passé simple of “il y a”, here.

Interesting word use closing out this sentence here: “— Raison de plus pour nous conduire à lui, s’écria Fili, qui commençait à s’impatienter de ces salamalecs.” “Salamalecs” is defined as “unctuousness” here.

Another fun word: “Dépêchez-vous donc sans plus tergiverser…” “Tergiverser” is “procrastinate/shilly-shally”–and OMG, there’s a direct English equivalent, “tergiversate”! This is the second time French has taught me a word in my own native language. I love it when that happens!

“Fauteuil” is a good word, meaning “chair/armchair”–used in the sense of a throne, almost, in this bit: “Le Maître de la ville se dressa de son grand fauteuil.” (“The Master of the town sprang from his great chair.”)

Bit of an idiom at the end of this sentence: “Le Maître hésita alors, regardant les uns et les autres tour à tour.” (“Then the Master hesitated and looked from one to the other.”) “Tour à tour” is “alternately/in turn”, according to my Googlings, and for added fun it falls on my ear a lot like certain repeating chorus lines from some of my favorite Quebec songs. (“Marguerite”, I’m looking at you!)

“Inimitié” is another good word: “emnity”, i.e., what the Master of Lake-town doesn’t want with the Elvenking. I note with interest its similarity of spelling–but not of meaning!–to the English word “inimitable”.

As with previous songs, we do get a pretty much direct translation of the impromptu song breaking out in the town at Thorin’s arrival.

As a Quebec music fan, of course, I cannot help but beam at seeing “violons” mentioned in the text!

I love French words that are mostly vowels! Like this one: “aïeul”, which means “grandfather”.

A fun compound word: “remue-ménage”, which apparently means “stir/commotion/hubbub”. Appears thusly: “Même Bilbo reçut un siège à la grande table et, dans le remue-ménage général…” (“Even Bilbo received a seat at the big table and, in the general commotion…”)

And poor M. Baggins, with his cold, is only able to say “Berci beaucoup” when addressed! Poor little schmoo.

One more verb to close us out, one that Google Translate doesn’t recognize, but which I found on further searching: “turlupiner”, which apparently means “to bother/to make fun of”! And an idiom to go with it: “l’hôtel de ville”, which means “town hall”.

4 Replies to “Tri-lingual Hobbit re-read: Chapter 10 (French notes)”

  1. I think that, in general, in French printing accents disappear over capital letters, so it’s not a typographical glitch. Also, “on” doesn’t really mean “we”; it’s a kind of a zeroth-person pronoun. Often something that we would write in English as passive voice gets translated into French as active but with “on” as the subject.

    Fauteuil is also one of my favourite French words–I like the “euil” diphthong.

    1. Yeah, I started peering elsewhere in the text to see whether the same lack of accent over capitals occurred, and I did see other instances of it. Do you know why this might be done? It strikes me as strange, given that there are perfectly acceptable accented versions of the capital characters. o.O

      Re: “on”… okay. I’ve seen it used sort of interchangeably in informal speech, by the various Francophones I’m following on Facebook and Twitter. :) But in a formal written context, that makes more sense.

      Re: “fauteuil”… yeah, that’s a great sound! I keep having a bit of a time practicing it when I get vocabulary words with it.

  2. Concur with poster above. Concerning circulation/trafic– circulation is traffic in the sense of vehicle traffic, while trafic is traffic in the sense of movement of goods, e.g. Narcotrafic

Comments are closed.