Trilingual Hobbit Reread

Tri-lingual Hobbit re-read: Chapter 5 (Post 2 of a few)

Picking up where I left off in Chapter 5, with the introduction of Gollum!

General notes:

I’d forgotten that we pretty much dive right into the riddle contest, as soon as Gollum runs across Bilbo. But then, that’s fine for the pacing of a story that is, after all, more or less being aimed at a younger audience. I catch myself thinking of the theme raised about Gollum all throughout Jackson’s movies, though–that he’s a creature to be pitied. And here, seeing a Gollum that’s a tiny fraction more innocent than the creature we see later in The Lord of the Rings, I can see it coming. I mean, sure, he’s only seizing on riddles as a means to stall while he figures out whether Bilbo is dangerous and/or tasty, but hey!

It’s also kind of weird to think of Gollum having friends and riddle contests before, and the implication here is that he used to do this before he “lost all his friends and was driven away, alone”. Can’t really be for “before he murdered Déagol”, since that wasn’t in play yet when this story was written, but it fits nonetheless.

I pretty much had to read through the whole riddle competition straight through, on general principles. Because I hadn’t in ever so long, and I do very much love the riddles. And I grinned outright at Gollum burbling to himself, “Is it nice, my precious? Is it juicy? Is it scrumptiously crunchable?” (I can’t wait to hear Andy Serkis hissing this in the movie. Muahaha.)

And hitting the bit about Gollum living “with his grandmother” really adds to the whole air of pathos the poor wretch has, doesn’t it?

French notes:

After all the French I heard spoken around me when I visited Quebec, and now that I’ve got a sense of how the language’s spoken rhythm, it’s extremely odd to think of Gollum speaking in that language. I don’t have enough French yet to be able to tell if the translator’s trying to pull the same tricks Tolkien does with language, to add colloquialisms–but at least in the bits I could translate directly, it seems like the answer to this question is “no”. Such as Gollum saying “we eats it” in English, and in French this seems to me more like “it is eaten/it can be eaten”. Hee.

I DO have enough French though to see that the translator left out “white” in Bilbo’s first riddle, the one that starts “thirty white horses on a red hill”. Also of interest: there’s actually a footnote on this riddle in the French edition, where the translator says: “To stamp signifie en même temps « frappe du pied » et « frappe une marque »”. Apparently the translator is assuming that the French reader will also have access to the English edition, if this is being called out…?

The French translator is definitely trying to do a straight translation of the riddles, it looks like–but in the case of Gollum’s second one, “Voiceless it cries…,” the rhythm in French actually works all right even if it doesn’t rhyme:

Sans voix, il crie ;
Sans ailes, il voltige ;
Sans dent, il mord ;
Sans bouche, il murmure.

I like the word “heureusement”, “fortunately”. I’ve come to recognize French adverbs just by them ending in “-ment”, much as English adverbs end in “-ly”.

Hee, “le vent” as a riddle answer is pretty obvious when my favorite Francophone band has that right in their name!

Oh wow, “marguerite” is French for “daisy”? Awesome! And here all this time I only knew it as a woman’s name.

“Gober” is apparently “swallow”–and is of course mentioned in the context of Gollum teaching his grandmother to suck eggs. Which is an expression I’m never going to be able to think of again without thinking of Gollum. THANK YOU, TOLKIEN! This gets a footnote from the translator, too, explaining the English expression: “Expression anglaise qui correspond à « Gros-Jean qui en remontre à son curé ».” “Big John who can teach his priest”? Hee!

“Il se tortilla” is a phrase used for the translation of “he squirmed”. I had no idea “tortilla” was also a French verb in addition to being a Mexican foodstuff!

German notes:

WOW, the picture of Gollum in the German edition is really rather hilarious. He’s this blobbular frog-looking thing, much, much bigger than Bilbo! The huge lamplike eyes are still right, but the size–ha! This is not really a creature that could be described as “not so very different from a Hobbit, once”.

There’s a word in Gollum’s dialogue here that threw me a bit. In English, he whispers to himself, “What iss he, my preciouss?” In German, this is rendered as “Was ist das bloß, mein Schatz?” And when he says “What he’s got in his handses?”, he says in German, “Was hat das Ding bloß in seinen Händen?” Google Translate wasn’t helpful here, describing this word “bloß” only as the equivalent of “bare” or “just” or “merely”. So I googled further, and found a page suggesting that this is a word thrown into an expression to give it more the sense of “what on Earth…?” Can any German speakers reading this confirm?

Hee, when Gollum gets all polite when Bilbo says he has a sword, the German for this is “ungewöhnlich höflich”. I love the rhythm of those two words together.

Riddle, in German, renders as “Rätsel”. I actually knew this word from, of all things, the game genres on our site at work!

Gollum keeps calling Bilbo “das Ding”, instead of “it”. Which I suppose works a bit better in German.

“Wettkampf” is “competition”. Another word I like.

Ooh, the “thirty white horses on a red hill” is tweaked by the German translator, too. In German it’s “zweiunddreißig”, which is thirty-two, not thirty. Also, I note that the word “Schimmel” translates to “white horses”, at least according to Google Translate.

As previously observed with the songs that occur in the book, the translator’s definitely tweaking the riddles to make them scan better in German. They’re rhyming here, where they don’t in the French edition.

“Fortunately” is fun in German, too: “glücklicherweise”!

“Daisies” in German is apparently “Gänseblümchen”. I think I like the French word better! (That there is a Le Vent du Nord song by that title has absolutely nothing to do with my partiality here, oh my no.) (Much.)

“Ungemütlicheren” is a good solid German word, that’s for sure! I can’t tell if it’s “uncomfortable” or “more uncomfortable”, given the context of where it appears: “einem schwierigeren und ungemütlicheren Rätsel”.

“Gebt uns eine Chance” didn’t even need thought to translate. Woo!

I didn’t recognize the word “Atemlos” at all, which is “Breathless”–the beginning of the fish riddle.

HA, this is another bit that is pretty easy to translate even without much German: “Das ist nicht fair! Das ist nicht fair, nicht wahr, mein Schatz? Zu fragen, was das da in seiner garsstigen kleinen Taschsche hat?” (And here of course Gollum’s hissing his s’s and sch’s! I can totally hear German!Gollum spitting these words!)

And to finish this round, I’ll note my amusement that “laws” in German seems to actually be fairly similar to the same word in French: i.e., “Regeln” vs. “règles”.

Next time: what happens when Bilbo reveals what he does, in fact, have in his pocketses!

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like