This is the first of the Tri-lingual Hobbit Re-Read posts I’m making from angelahighland.com rather than annathepiper.org; I hope those of you who’ve been following me on the other site will pick them up again here. And for those of you who may be just recently joining me on angelahighland.com (hi, fellow Carina authors!), I hope you’ll enjoy this linguistic geekery!
Those of you who are following me from LJ or Dreamwidth, you shouldn’t see any change in these posts, except for a different site showing up in the ‘Mirrored from’ tag.
And for those of you who may just be joining me, I’m re-reading The Hobbit! But I’m doing it in three languages at once: the original English, but also German and French, since I’m interested in learning both languages and I consider this excellent practice. So join me for hobbits and dwarves and wizards and language geeking, as I dive into Chapter 8, “Flies and Spiders”.
One of the first things that the party notices upon entering into Mirkwood is black squirrels. Given the paragraph that these appear in, one presumes Tolkien intended this to be weird. However, I’ve seen actual black squirrels in real life, in Stanley Park in Vancouver, and they behave just like regular squirrels. Except they’re black.
The cobwebs, on the other hand? Right there with him on the squick factor.
It is amusing to note here, especially in light of the recently released movie, that Fili is in fact the youngest of the dwarves. Apparently he is also the one with the best sight, though none of them have a patch on Bilbo.
I have to feel a bit sorry for Bombur, though, because he gets such shit in this chapter for being so fat. And it’s not really his fault at all that a flying deer showed up and made him fall in! Also: flying deer, wut? On the scale of fantastic creatures that show up in Tolkien’s works, flying deer may not seem like much compared to dragons or giant spiders–but on the other hand, that’s pretty awesome nonetheless. It’ll be really fun to see if one of these shows up in the beginning of the next movie.
The visual of the butterflies above the treetops, when Bilbo climbs up to see how much forest they have left to trudge through, is one of the things I remember pretty clearly from the animated Hobbit. And it’s another thing I’ll be looking out for in the next movie.
And oh, Bilbo spider-wrapped while the party is lured off the path by the visions of feasting elves! It’ll be tough for the next flick to play this in a way that doesn’t heavily visually call back to Shelob in the previous set of movies. That said, it’ll also be amusing to see whether this will be our next glimpse of Thranduil on camera.
But YAY! This is where we get the naming of Sting!
More extended wearing of the Ring here, too. One must develop a whole new respect for Bilbo, with all the wearing of the Ring he does in this adventure, without anyone to ever tell him how dangerous that is. And then he goes and hangs onto it for so many decades after.
Ah, I’d totally forgotten that the spiders talk. Given Jackson’s history with whether or not fantastical animals talk in his adaptations, I’m betting the spiders in Mirkwood will not be getting any onscreen dialogue.
Huh, I’d also forgotten that there’s a reference to Bilbo being good at a game called “quoits”. I had no idea what this was and had to look it up! It’s apparently, according to dictionary.com, “a game in which rings of rope or flattened metal are thrown at an upright peg, the object being to encircle it or come as close to it as possible”. Excellent!
Amusing, too, that Tolkien chooses to slip in a comment here about how Bilbo is good at a whole lot of things that he hasn’t time to go into, given that Bombur is in dire danger from the spiders. Which is kind of rich, given that word mileage had just been previously given to how good Bilbo is at games.
Any bets on whether we’ll see Bilbo singing his taunting songs to the spiders in the next film?
“Tomnoddy” is another word I had to look up, given that Tolkien asides to the reader that “Tomnoddy of course is insulting to anybody”. It means fool, dunce, or dunderhead.
Ah, interesting to note that Sting is actually glowing as Bilbo fights the spiders–“It shone with delight as he stabbed at them.” Which seems to be above and beyond the blade just glowing blue when orcs are near.
Something interesting to note here, also, especially given the tail end of the movie–I’ve seen people complain that Bilbo rushing Azog at the end of the movie, in defense of Thorin, seemed out of character for him. But on the other hand, we’ve got Bilbo attacking spiders right and left in this chapter. If Bilbo wasn’t a warrior yet as of Chapter 6 and the battle with those goblins, he’s getting a lot closer to being one here.
With Thorin captured by the elves, and with his documented hate-on for elves in the movie, one presumes he’s going to be severely cranky at this point in movie #2. I also note that the narrative here describes the elf-king’s weakness for treasure, and his people’s prior hostility to the dwarves; one does wonder how this is going to tie in with the Erebor flashback the first movie gives us. Especially given how the movie emphasizes the obsession with gold on the part of Thorin’s grandfather Thror. However, the narrative here talks about how Thorin’s family hadn’t had anything to do with the prior hostilities these elves had had with dwarves. So we’ll have to see how The Desolation of Smaug plays it.
But aside from that, I note intriguedly that Tolkien describes here that the Wood-elves are descended from ancestors who “never went to Faerie in the West”. I.e., Valinor.
Ha, this is either a pretty short chapter compared to the previous ones, or else it just read more quickly due to being heavy on the action!
In French, the title of this chapter is “Mouches et araignées”. Vocabulary I hadn’t previously known!
“Lierre” is ivy, and I would not have guessed that at all without checking the translation. Nice little word, though.
“Feuilles” I did recognize, though, from SuperMemo–leaves. And it is interesting to see “noircies”, which is “blackened”, as a word related to “noir”. Which of course I already knew.
Ah, I get an unfamiliar conjugation of a familiar verb, in “ils purent discerner”, “they could discern”. This threw me a bit since “purent” looks like “pur”, which is “pure”. But “purent” is the passé simple conjugation of “pouvoir”.
“Lueur” is “glow”, apparently, appearing in the context of “dans une sorte de lueur d’un vert sombre”, “in a sort of dark green glow”. I like that word.
I also note “maigre”, “meager/lean/slender”–Google Translate gives several potential meanings for this word. The phrase it appears in is “De temps en temps, un maigre rayon de soleil…” This seems to translate to “Occasionally, a thin ray of sunshine…”–though Tolkien actually originally wrote “a slender beam of sun”. Close enough. (Of course, my inner Quebec trad fangirl totally sees “De temps” and immediately follows it with “antan”, but I digress!)
Ha, the black squirrels are “écureuils noirs”. And the introduction of the spiderwebs comes with “Le plus vilaines”, which translates to “the ugliest” in Google Translate.
Spiderwebs renders as “les toiles d’araignée”, which is kind of fun given that I’ve been previously introduced to the word “toile” in the context of “tissue” or “canvas” (i.e., of a painting). Which is a strangely poetic notion to be applying to what comes out of a spider, but then, this is the French language we’re talking about, which is all about the poetry.
Ooh, this is a good word: “s’enchevêtraient”, which appears in the description of the cobwebs being entangled in lower branches. Which is what this word seems to mean at least in this context, i.e., “entangled”.
And, new verb alert! “Haïr”, which means “to hate”, and which is giving me a seldom-spotted i with an umlaut. My fellow Anglophones, please to not confuse this with “hair”!
The first whole phrase I was able to figure out on sight is: “mais le hobbit, qui aimait les trous pour en faire une maison”. I.e., “But the hobbit, who liked holes to make a house in”, more or less.
Another nice crunchy word: “s’évanouissaient”. “Vanished”. Similarly, “disparaissaient”. Hi there, imperfect tense!
I see a use here of something I’ve seen crop up in my SuperMemo vocab: i.e., approximate numbers! The narrative here uses “centaine”, a word that means “about a hundred”, in this phrase: “Cela semblait attirer tout autour d’eux des centaines et des centaines d’yeux…” What Tolkien wrote here was “It seemed to bring hundreds and hundreds of eyes all round them”.
“Pis encore” has to make me giggle, though. It means “Worse still”, but “pis” gets used entirely differently in Quebec French! I see that cropping up all the time in song lyrics, and what I’ve learned googling around indicates that it’s the Quebec form of “puis”!
More vocabulary for the creatures of Mirkwood: “phalènes” and “chauves-souris”, which are moths and bats respectively.
I understood this entire sentence! “Les nains essayèrent de tirer les écureuils, et ils perdirent beaucoups de flèches avant d’en abattre un seul.” What Google Translate makes of this is “The dwarves tried to shoot the squirrels, and they lost a lot of arrows before shoot one”, is what Google Translate says of this. Note that the engine falls over a bit on “abattre”, but I did type in directly what I see in the translation, and my grammar checker of choice likes it. What Tolkien actually wrote is: “They tried shooting at the squirrels, and they wasted many arrows before they managed to bring one down on the path.”
Bilbo laments the boat they find being on the opposite bank of the stream thusly in French: “Il y a une barque de l’autre côté ! Ah ! si elle avait pu être par ici !” Translated, this comes out roughly “There is a boat on the other side! Oh! If it could have been here!” (I’m not sure about the “could have been” bit here, given that I’m not sure how “avait pu” is playing conjugation-wise with “être”, here.) I contrast this with what he says in the English edition: “There is a boat against the far bank! Now why couldn’t it have been this side!”
Now, in contrast with the earlier use of “centaine”, I note “douze”–not “douzaine” used when Bilbo estimates how far away the boat is. I also note that in the English edition, Bilbo ballparks it at twelve yards. In the French, he estimates twelve meters. Converting between units reveals that in the French edition, Fili, tasked with rope-throwing, actually has to work harder since he has to throw farther!
Relatedly, I am amused to see that when Thorin laments the distance, he says “douze mètres, ça ne vaut pas mieux qu’un mille”. Nice mixing of units there, Thorin!
(It must also be noted that movie!Fili is presumably going to get a chance to look studly and swoonable throwing things, in this scene in the next movie. And movie!Kili will get to join him, tugging the boat in towards their side of the stream. Ha!)
Balin calls the dwarves “mes gars” here as he’s urging them on–“my lads”, in the English edition. This makes me grin–I’ve seen “gars” in active use amongst Francophone fans of Quebec music, more or less as “boys” or “guys”!
Oh! Getting into the French translation, where the deer causes Bombur to fall into the river, makes me doubt after all whether Tolkien actually meant the deer to be literally flying. The French translator certainly doesn’t seem to think so–now I’m thinking that the only sense of “flying” here is that of speed rather than actually taking wing in the air. And relatedly, I note that “deer” in French is “cerf”. The plural appears to be “cervidés”–but I also see “les cerfs”, so I am not sure of that.
Beech trees are “les hêtres”.
The singing of the distant elves is described as “étrange et surnaturel”. The first of these adjectives I knew, but not the second–“strange” and “supernatural/unearthly”.
“Chêne” is an oak tree, not to be confused with “chaîne”, which is a chain.
In “Le pauvre M. Baggins n’avait jamais beaucoup pratiqué l’escalade des arbres” (“Poor Mister Baggins had never practiced much tree climbing”), I note the absence of “pas”, which I’m used to seeing in a sentence involving negation. (At least in written French.)
“Papillons”, “butterflies”, is a word I knew! And again we have the use of “centaine”: “il y avait partout des centaines de papillons”. And it’s interesting to see that in the original English, Tolkien says that the dwarves “did not care tuppence about the butterflies”–but in French, at least for a neophyte like myself, it’s easy to think they might be mocking Bilbo’s news of them given the use of the verb “moquaient” in the phrase “Ils se moquaient pas mal des papillons”. This however seems to be a place where Google Translate falls over. While “se moquer” is indeed “to mock/make fun of”, a bit more detailed of a search suggests that this is also used in the context of “caring about something”. And when I changed “moquaient” in Google Translate to the present tense “moquent”, I did in fact get that translation.
Ah, good to know: “bribe” (pronounced with a long e sound) is not to be mistaken for the English word “bribe” (pronounced with a long i sound), but in fact means “scrap”.
“De toute façon”, I note, appears to mean “anyway”. Context: Bombur pointing out that without a feast, they won’t remain alive much longer anyway.
“Les lumières s’éteignirent” gives a nice crunchy verb–the passé simple of “s’éteindre”, where “éteindre” is “extinguish/snuff out”. I’ve run into two verbs that are spelled very close to this, i.e., “entendre” and “étendre”, “hear” and “spread/stretch out”, respectively.
Hee, when the dwarves are calling out for Bilbo, in English they yell, “You dratted hobbit! Hi! hobbit, confusticate you, where are you?” In French, though, they call, “Sacré hobbit ! Holà ! Que le diable vous emporte, où êtes-vous ?” I’m pretty sure they mean “sacré” here in the sense of “cursed” rather than “holy”! And the rest of it is “Hey! The devil take you, where are you?”
Oh, awesome, the translator does indeed translate the name of Sting!
« Je vais te donner un nom, lui dit-il. Tu t’appelleras Dard. »
SO COOL. I note that the blade gets the informal pronoun too!
When Tolkien tells the reader that Bilbo was born with a good share of luck, in French, that comes through as “il était né sous une bonne étoile” (he was born under a lucky star).
This description stood out for me where Bilbo notices the webs: “superposées et tout emmêlées”, “superimposed and all tangled”.
Ha, the dialogue of the spiders is much more formal in French!
“Déguerpissaient” is an excellent word–third-person plural imperfect of “déguerpir”, which appears to mean more or less the same thing as “skedaddle”. It appears in the bit that describes how rabbits, squirrels, and birds got out of Bilbo’s way “as quick as lightning if they saw him stoop”.
Ooh, and here’s another example of the translator trying for a bit of the same rhythm as Tolkien uses. In the English we get “The next stone went whizzing through a big web, snapping its cords, and taking off the spider sitting in the middle of it, whack, dead.” In French: “La pierre suivante partit en sifflant à travers une grande toile, en déchirant les fils et, vlan! emportant, morte, l’araignée qui siégeait au centre.” I particularly note “vlan” as a word here, the equivalent of “whack”.
Another approximate number word shows up here: “cinquantaine”, “about fifty”.
Ha, “Attercop” actually gets a footnote from the translator: “Terme désuet signifiant araignée, mais principalement venimeuse”. I.e., “obsolete term meaning spider, but mainly venomous”. Looking it up on dictionary.com backs this up–and why didn’t I ever know this? All the times I’ve read this book and I had no real idea that this was an actual word, as opposed to nonsense that Bilbo made up. “Tomnoddy” comes over into French as “Nigaude”, “simpleton”. And as with prior songs, the translator is pretty much going for a straight translation here.
“Entama” shows up in the context of Bilbo beginning his next song, and this makes me smile since I’ve had “entamer” now as a SuperMemo vocabulary word. I.e., “start/begin”.
(Come to think of it, I could actually see Martin Freeman trying to sing this second song in the next movie–maybe in a shaky-trying-to-sound-brave kind of way!)
“Floc” is another fun word–meaning “plop”.
“Catimini” is “sly”, used where Balin is chuckling to himself about how Bilbo snuck past him with the Ring. Specifically, it’s used in “en catimini”, which seems to be more or less “on the sly”.
“Par exemple” also appears in Balin’s expressing his amazement, and this is interesting because while it literally translates to “for example”, it’s showing up here more in the context of “oh my!” or “how about that?” According to french.about.com, this is a common usage.
Tolkien’s use of “Wood-elves” as a proper noun comes into French as “Les Elfes de la Fôret”. And as I’ve used this word myself in my own writing, it’s fun to see Faerie translated to “Féerie”!
I like that “vagabondaient” appears in the sense of “wandering”–i.e., as a verb. It’s the imperfect tense of “vagabonder”, and I very much like that that’s a verb in French when I’m used to thinking of “vagabond” as a noun in English! “Ils vagabondaient dans les grandes fôrets”, describing the wanderings of the Wood-elves: “they wandered in the great forests”.
“Magot” is “hoard”, not to be confused with “maggot”. It shows up in this chapter describing Thranduil’s hoard of treasure, and I expect we’ll see this again later with Smaug.
I’d noted the French for “ivy” above; in the German edition, that’s “Efeu”.
“Flechtenbehangen” is the first of the nice big crunchy words the German edition is throwing me. It took me a bit to break down that this is more or less “hung with lichen”, since Google Translate had no idea what to make of it. But when I broke it down into the constituent parts “flechten” and “behangen”, then general googling came through.
I like “Lichtstrahl”, too–“ray of light”.
The opening of this chapter also gives me “Blätterdach”, “canopy” (of leaves). I must remind myself to not confuse “Blätter” with “blotter”!
“Astwerks” took a bit to decipher as well. It seems to more or less mean “branches” if my googling is correct, but I’m confused since I’m seeing “Astwerk”, singular, showing up in German->English dictionaries as “branches”, plural. Any German speakers want to clear this up? (The context is the light coming down through the canopy of the forest, and, as Tolkien describes, “not being caught in the tangled boughs and matted twigs beneath”.)
The aforementioned black squirrels show up in the German edition as “schwarzen Eichhörnchen”.
Another fun compound word: “davontrippelten”. Breaking this down gives me “davon” and “trippelten”, and these are “thereof” and “tripped”, respectively. The verb is the past tense of “trippeln”.
Ah, cobwebs in German become “Spinngewebe”! And just after that word we get “außerordentlich”, “extraordinarily”, describing the thickness of the webs.
“Windhauch” is “breeze”.
Every so often I’m able to spot phrases in German–but not as often as I do in French since my vocabulary’s not as strong and I’m not actively studying German right now. That said, I DID get “Bilbo hielt die Hand vor seine Nase”, which is “Bilbo held his hand in front of his nose”. Interesting that the phrasing here is “die Hand”, which looks to my eyes like “the hand”, not “his hand”. But Google Translate thinks it’s “his”. There must be some nuance of pronouns I’m missing here.
Ooh, German plays a bit with number terms too. “Hunderte und Aberhunderte” seems to be “hundreds upon hundreds”. And yeah, googling for it gets me an entry on de.wiktionary.org that calls the French “centaine” a synonym of “aberhundert”.
“Fledermäuse” I recognize–“bats”! Even though I can’t think of this word without thinking of the Tick, and Der Fledermaus.
And “top hat” apparently is “Zylinderhut”. “Cylinder hat?”
“Ages upon ages” in the original English becomes “Jahre und Jahre”, “years and years” in German.
“Wasserschläuche” is kind of fun, given that Google Translate thinks this is “water hoses”, but in context it’s clearly the waterskins that Bilbo and the dwarves are carrying.
When they find the boat, the distance is interesting here. Bilbo in German says it’s “zwölf Ellen”–and it’s unclear to me here whether the translator means “cubits”, “ells”, or “yards”, because Google Translate gives me all three of those depending on how I finagle it. Nor are my German dictionaries, of which I have two, helpful in this regard–neither of them has “Ell” on the German side, and if I look up “yard” on the English side, they think that’s just “yard”. Again I call upon any German speakers out there–what do you think this unit is supposed to be?
“Dori ist der Stärkste”–ha, that makes me imagine Dori in a dwarf-sized Iron Man suit! It is of course “Dori is the strongest”. Which explains why Dori gets saddled with carrying Bilbo around so much earlier in the story!
“Patsch” seems to be onomatopoeia for “splash”.
Hee, I like that Balin in this edition calls the other dwarves “meine Lieben”. Especially now that I have movie!Balin in my brain. I can totally see movie!Balin calling the others “my dears”.
And speaking of the dwarves, hello, it looks like the German translator left a few dwarves out when Thorin states what order they’ll take to cross the stream. In English this is as follows:
“I shall,” said Thorin, “and you will come with me, and Fili and Balin. That’s as many as the boat will hold at a time. After that Kili and Oin and Gloin and Dori; next Ori and Nori, Bifur and Bofur; and last Dwalin and Bombur.”
But in German, we get:
»Ich«, antwortete Thorin, »und Ihr geht mit und Fili und Oin und Gloin und Dori; als Nächste Ori und Nori, Bifur und Bofur; als Letzte Dwalin und Bombur.«
We appear to be missing some words here! And also Balin and Kili! Did I just stumble across a misprint in this edition? Maybe there’s a line or two of text that got left out somehow?
The deer that causes poor Bombur to fall into the stream is “Hirsch” in German.
“Dünnstämmigeren” is “thin-stemmed”, in the context of “thinner trees”. And in the same sentence, we get “sonnenbeschienenen Stellen”, “sunlit places”.
“Doch ein schlummernder, lächelnder Bombur”, “but a slumbering, smiling Bombur” provides a couple of nice adjectives here. If I play with the words a little I can get the verbs “schlummern” and “lächeln”, which are “slumber” and “smile”.
Ah, the German edition actually has an illustration for when Bilbo climbs up the tree and sees all the butterflies! Surprisingly widely and cleanly spaced trees in this pic for a forest that’s supposed to be called Mirkwood, though!
We get a couple of nice big nouns describing the butterflies, too: “Purpurschillerfalter” and “Nachtschillerfalter”–referencing the Purple Emperor butterflies that the narrator tells us about, and calling Mirkwood’s butterflies “Black Emperors” (or in this case “Night Emperors”) by comparison.
The rhythm of the dwarves’ lament about the forest being endless is different in German: “Der Wald geht nach allen Richtungen hin endlos weiter!” (“The forest goes on endlessly in all directions!”) (And ha, with this level of lamenting, suddenly Bilbo’s earlier whinging about wishing he was back in Hobbiton doesn’t seem quite so bad.)
“Träume” is dreams, not to be confused with the English word “trauma”.
Some nouns used in Bombur’s dream: “Waldlandkönig” (woodland king), Blattkrone (leaf crown), and Herrlichkeiten (glories/splendors).
When the dwarves are trying to find Bilbo and are yelling for him, we get some fun colorful language: “Zum Henker mit ihm! He, Hobbit, verflucht, wo steckt Ihr bloß?” “Zum Henker mit ihm” appears to be “To the devil with him”, or perhaps “confound him”. “Verflucht” is “cursed”. I’m having trouble with “Wo steckt Ihr bloß”, though; it must be idiomatic, and the closest idea I can get here is “Just where are you stuck/hiding/plugged?”
And here we have the naming of Sting in German! »Ich will dir einen Namen geben,« sagte Bilbo zu seinem Schwert. »Du sollst Stachel heißen.« Stachel! “Heißen” is one of the few verbs I remember from studying German in high school; “wie heißt du?” is one of the first things I learned how to say. But I’m tickled to see informal pronouns here, too.
What he does after naming Sting: “Dann machte er einen Erkundungsstreifzug.” Tolkien writes “After that he set out to explore”, but the German appears to translate more to “Then he made an exploratory foray”. “Erkundungsstreifzug” is a nice large crunchy word, though!
“Beobachtete” leapt out at me just because of the “eo” set of vowels; it apparently means “observed”. It’s used to describe Bilbo’s hiding behind a tree and spying on the spiders, just before he realizes they’re talking about the dwarves.
“Attercop” in German is “Atterkopp”, and “Tomnoddy” becomes “Tratsche”. But I’m having a bit of trouble tracking down what that latter means; my best guess so far is “gossips”.
Bilbo’s second song uses the word “Lümmelei”, and I’m not picking up in context what this is supposed to be: “Die ganze lahme Lümmelei / wirft Netze aus, mich zu fangen”. This is the German answer to “Crazy Cob and Lazy Lob / are weaving webs to wind me.” But “Lümmelei” isn’t coming up in my searches as anything but “rudeness”, which doesn’t make sense in the rest of the song.
“Spinnengift”, amusingly, is “spider venom”. This is not a gift I would care to receive for Christmas.
Another phrase that jumped out at me: “Bilbo stieß einer Schrei aus”. “Bilbo let out a scream”.
Sting is described in one paragraph as Bilbo’s “Elbendolch”, “Elf dagger”.
In German, the various kinds of elves are mentioned as “Waldelben” (Wood-elves), “Hochelben” (High-elves), “Lichtelben” (Light-elves), “Unterirdischen” (which presumably is “Deep-elves”, but which renders as the adjective “Underground” when I try to translate it), and “See-elben” (Sea-elves). Interestingly, the German text also adds “(oder Gnomen)” after “Unterirdischen”, which is not in the English original.
Also! “Faerie” translates straight over in German!
And that’s an excellent place to end this post. Next time: Chapter Nine, and a hobbit and dwarves making a barrel escape!