Bilingual LotR Reread: The Fellowship of the Ring: Chapter 1 (French commentary)

Finally, another post in the Bilingual Lord of the Rings Reread series! This post provides my commentary on the French edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, and specifically on Chapter 1.

As I get into the bilingual commentary on these chapters, I’m going to be following a similar format to what I’m doing in the Harry Potter Reread posts. So I’ll be borrowing many of the same headers I’m using on that series!

General Commentary

For my commentary on the original edition’s Chapter 1, go refresh your memory with this post.

General Things About the French Edition

On the opening page of the first chapter, I’m amused to see the chapter header reading as follows:



What amuses me here is that it’s “chapitre premier”, as opposed to the English “Chapter 1” or “Chapter One”. Also, I’m intrigued by the presence of the “depuis” in the translation of the title “A Long-Expected Party”. I know the word “depuis” as meaning “since”, so it’s interesting to me to see it here, as it makes the translation more play in my head as “A Long-Since Awaited Party”, without ever really needing to specify “since when”.

When the Gaffer and the other hobbits are gossiping about Bilbo and Frodo in the Ivy Bush, they specifically talk about the Brandybucks who “fool about with boats on that big river”. The verb the French translation uses is one I didn’t recognize: “batifoler”, which means lark about, romp about, or frolic. Also, in that same sentence, the Gaffer proclaims “that isn’t natural”. In French this becomes “ce n’est pas naturel, ça”. That little addition of the extra “that” on the end is a thing I’ve seen before from the various French speakers I follow on Facebook, so it’s good to see it in the text here.

This is yet another thing from the Gaffer: when he’s telling the story of Drogo being drowned, he describes his wife Primula as his first and second cousin. In French, the terms used are unfamiliar to me: “le cousin germain” and “le cousin issu de germain”. And there’s another one, “cousin à la mode de Bretagne” (distant cousin), which is particularly strange in this context given that it’s bringing “Brittany” into it, a bit of real-world saying distracting the reader from the Shire.

When Bilbo gives his speech to the attendees of his party, I note with interest that the name of the Proudfoot family is translated as “Fierpied”. However, the translator still has the callback of “ProudFEET!” rendered in English, with a footnote explaining the joke for French readers. One does wonder whether it would have been possible to translate “Proudfoot” in a way that would have allowed for making a similar pun in French. If any readers of this post know, fill me in!

The word “brouhaha” gets used more than once in the translated text in connection with the events of the party, where it does not appear in English. Which led me to look it up and discover that, indeed, the word comes from the French. Which I hadn’t known before. It pleases me to learn a new thing when I delve into any book, but especially on rereads of Tolkien!

Another thing I hadn’t really grasped before: the word “parent” in English specifically refers to one’s mother or father. But in French, it can also be “general relation”. We see this occur in Bilbo’s chat with Gandalf about wanting to see mountains again. In the original, he complains about “a lot of relatives”, but in French, it’s “un tas de parents”.

One more footnote from the translator appears when Merry’s nickname is mentioned, specifying that “Merry” means “joyeux”.’

The morning after the party, when Frodo is kicking people out of Bag End, the original text mentions that he has a tussle with young Sancho Proudfoot. The translator does not actually identify Sancho by first name when he first appears, only calling him “le jeune Fierpied”. One presumes, based on how other Hobbit names that end in -o are translated, that Sancho would have been Sanchon. But on the second mention of the character’s name, he is in fact Sancho.

Gandalf’s final urging to Frodo to “keep it safe, and keep it secret” (which, I note, is actually reversed in the movie) translates to “gardez-le en sécurité et gardez-le secret!”

French Worldbuilding Terms

Interesting–in the Prologue, I saw Hobbiton spelled as “Hobittebourg”, but in Chapter 1, it’s “Hobbitebourg”. One therefore presumes that the Prologue had a typo, given that the text does keep two b’s in the word “Hobbit”.

The Sackville-Bagginses become “les Sacquet de Besace”. Note the lack of an “s” on “Sacquet” here; I’m given to understand that family names are not pluralized when you’re speaking of a general family set in French.

Bywater is rendered as Lèzeau.

Sam’s father, the Gaffer, is dubbed “l’Ancien” in French.

The Ivy Bush, the Gaffer’s favorite hangout, is called Buisson de Lierre.

Interesting that the Gaffer’s predecessor, who is called Holman in the original, is called “Trogon” in the French. Equally interesting is that his name is given as “Troglon” later in the chapter. That’s two inconsistencies in naming I’ve spotted so far and I’m barely into chapter 1.

Bagshot Row is called “Chemin des Trous-du-Talus”.

It pleases me that the hobbits have the word “gentlehobbit” instead of “gentleman”, which makes perfect sense. In French, this becomes “gentilhobbit”, which also makes sense, as the word “gentilhomme” is one I have encountered before as well.

Bilbo’s father follows the same pattern as Bilbo and Frodo with the translation of his name. Namely, Drogo Baggins becomes Drogon Sacquet. Later, the old Proudfoot who has his feet on the table, Odo, becomes Odon Fierpied.

Brandy Hall, the home of the Brandybucks, is called Château-Brande.

Species identifiers are not capitalized in the original text, but in the translation, I’m seeing they are: Hobbits, Nains, Elfes, Dragons.

Dale, which figures so prominently in The Hobbit, is translated as Val here.

Other words that stood out to me

undécante-unième: This is the word given for “eleventy-first”, and that’s some almost German-level word smooshing going on there, that is. Also, I think this is the first time I’ve seen the word “unième” in the sense of “first”, as opposed to “premiere”.

boustifaille: This means “grub”, in the sense that English speakers use for “vittles”.

se renfrogner: This means “to scowl”, and is used to describe the Sackville-Bagginses scowling at Bilbo’s speech.

tarabuster: This means “to bother”, and appears when Bilbo is griping about Gandalf hassling him about the Ring, unlike anything else he acquired on their journey to Erebor.

And in closing

I’m finding that unlike with The Hobbit or Harry Potter, I have to work harder to read the paragraphs in Fellowship‘s translation–which makes sense, given that the original text is indeed more densely written. I’m having to jump back and forth between the English and the French every couple of paragraphs or so, and sometimes every single paragraph.

So this’ll be an interesting and probably slow ongoing read! But we’ll see if I can pick up the pace a bit.