Trilingual Hobbit Reread

Tri-lingual Hobbit re-read: Chapter 11

After another pause, I finally bring you Chapter 11 of The Hobbit, “On the Doorstep”! All prior Hobbit re-read posts can be found here.

Let’s get started, shall we?

General notes:

Definitely starting off kinda grim, with the men from Lake-town dropping the dwarves off with a bunch of supplies. Which is nice and all, except for the part where they’re all WE CAN’T STOP HERE THIS IS DRAGON COUNTRY, and then promptly adding “Y’all have fun with that Smaug thing, mmkay?”

Interesting as well that Tolkien writes “It was easier to believe in the Dragon and less easy to believe in Thorn in these wild parts.” I don’t know if Tolkien meant this as foreshadowing, and surely more in-depth Tolkien geeks than I have more to say about that. But it certainly strikes me as a nice little hint of what’s to come.

I note as well that “Dragon” is consistently capitalized as we’re heading into this chapter. Smaug is “the Dragon”, as if there weren’t any other ever. Of course, according to the men of Lake-town and Dale, not to mention the dwarves themselves, any other dragon is pretty much irrelevant. One is plenty.

“Mountain” too is consistently capitalized, referring to the Lonely Mountain. Same codicil as previous, really; in these parts, no other mountain really matters.

Ooh, and how grim is it that we get to see the first sight of ruined Dale, here?

Its bank was bare and rocky, tell and steep above the stream; and gazing out from it over the narrow water, foaming and splashing among many boulders, they could see in the wide valley shadowed by the Mountain’s arms the grey ruins of ancient houses, towers, and walls.

“There lies all that is left of Dale,” said Balin. “The mountain’s sides were green with woods and all the sheltered valley rich and pleasant in the days when the bells rang in that town.” He looked both sad and grim as he said this: he had been one of Thorin’s companions on the day the Dragon came.”

As we have, in fact, now seen vividly depicted in the movie. And with that Balin delivering these lines in my head, damn, I do get a bit of a pang. And this is quite the contrast to the merry welcome the company received in Rivendell, as Tolkien does of course call out in the narrative. Hefty stuff for a tale aimed at children.

Bilbo starts taking more and more of an active role here, as Tolkien describes him as being the one who gets the dwarves’ spirits up and gets them searching for the secret door. At this point this is definitely not the hobbit who was whinging about wishing he was home earlier in the book! (At least, if he’s whinging, he’s keeping it to himself!)

General giggles for “one of the more active dwarves, such as Kili”. Pause to insert obligatory swoonpic of Kili here!

Definitely an Active Dwarf

Definitely an Active Dwarf

(What, you thought I was kidding?)

Ha, spoke too soon. Bilbo gets bummed when their efforts to get in through the secret door prove futile, and he starts just sitting “on the doorstep” and telling the dwarves he’s sitting and thinking. He is, in fact, thinking of home: “But I am afraid he was not thinking much of the job, but of what lay beyond the blue distance, the quiet Western Land and the Hill and his hobbit-hole under it.”

So yeah. Still whinging, but now at least he’s keeping it to himself. Bilbo has MATURED.

And heh, he even finds himself hoping Gandalf will catch up with them again and save their asses. A perfectly reasonable hope, I feel, considering how often it happened up until now! But, of course, cue the thrush.

And wow, really short chapter! It ends right on them opening the door!

French notes:

The first sentence right out of the gate gives me a bit of fun in the French edition. In the English the first clause of it reads: “In two days going they rowed right up the Long Lake and passed out into the River Running”. In the French, it reads: “En deux jours de voyage, ils avaient remonté à la rame tout le Long Lac et passé dans la Rivière Courante”. As near as I can tell this is almost a straight translation, but if I read it literally, I get “In two days of travel, they had climbed by the oar all the Long Lake and passed in the River Running.” It’s the verbs getting me here, as is generally the case. “Avaient remonté à la rame” seems a rather roundabout way of saying “they rowed right up the lake”. Especially given that a bit of searching gets me “ramer” as a verb that specifically means “to row”.

But then, this is French, and this could be the translator’s style speaking here. It’s certainly rather lyrical.

“À la fin du troisieme jour, à quelque milles en amont…” This is the first of the phrases of any length that stood out for me as immediately comprehensible. It means “At the end of the third day, some miles upstream”, roughly. (I had “amont” as a SuperMemo word, and I only slightly sheepishly admit I keep using “amont A BOAT” as a mnemonic to try to remember its definition!) Tolkien actually wrote “some miles up the river”, but close enough!

“Ils chargèrent ce qu’ils purent…” Noting this for two reasons. One, “chargèrent” is the passé simple of “charger”, another of my SuperMemo words–and it means “load”, not “charge” (unless maybe you’re talking “charge” in the sense of a battery, a question I’d like to put forth to the Francophones out there!). Two, “purent” is the passé simple of “pouvoir”, and it took me a moment to recognize that. Thank you, irregular verbs!

Ooh, here’s another one–“mirent” is the passé simple of “mettre”, another critical verb. Used here to describe how the dwarves are putting some of their supplies in reserve in a tent: “mirent le reste en réserve sous une tente”.

In the bit talking about the men of Lake-town not being about to stay with the dwarves so close to the Mountain, there’s an interesting little construction: “fût-ce pour une nuit, aussi près de l’ombre de la Montagne”. Google Translate thinks “fût-ce” translates to “even”, though if I do a bit more in-depth searching, I find references to it being the past tense of “que ce soit”. I can’t find a good confirmation of that, though.

“En ces régions sauvages, il était plus facile de croire au dragon que de croire Thorïn.” This being a sentence I could actually understand straight up (woo!), I can focus on how it’s interesting that the translator seems to have rearranged it a bit from the English original, which is: “It was easier to believe in the Dragon and less easy to believe in Thorin in these wild parts.”

This is another sentence I was able to almost fully understand, except for the final verb: “Ils passèrent une nuit froide et solitaire, et leur ardeur s’évanouit.” It’s the translation of “They spent a cold and lonely night and their spirits fell.” The verb “s’évanouit” in this case appears to generally mean “faint”, though it’s an interesting question whether that connotation is what the translator meant here, i.e., whether the dwarves’ spirits are “fainting” here.

Since I know from above that “mirent” comes from “mettre”, I can therefore conclude that “remirent” comes from “remettre”–and since there’s a “se” in front of it, that makes it a reflexive verb. Thusly: “Le lendemain, ils se remirent en route.” (Or, as Tolkien actually wrote, “The next day they set out again.”)

I couldn’t find an actual definition for this on casual Googling, but the meaning is pretty obvious from context since I know that “chevaux” is “horses”: “Balïn et Bilbo chevauchaient en queue”. This is Balin and Bilbo riding behind the others.

“C’était un voyage fastidieux”–note here that “fastidieux” should not be mistaken for “fastidious”. Instead, it means “tedious”, as befits Tolkien’s original phrase “It was a weary journey”.

“Il n’y avait pas de rires, pas de chansons, pas de sons de harpes”: noting not only because I could translate this, but also because of the negative past tense form of “il y a”, which of course beginning French students should recognize as the construction for “there is”.

This is a bit of a trick: “la superbe” is used as a noun, not as an adjective! It’s apparently the translation for when Tolkien describes the pride and hopes of the company dying away on their grim journey: “la superbe et les espoirs qui avaient animé leurs cœurs au chant des vieilles chansons…” Tolkien actually wrote “the pride and hopes”, but as I try to find a proper translation for “la superbe”, the closest I’m able to come is “arrogance” or “haughtiness”, which has a more negative connotation. It would be interesting to know whether the translator intended that, or whether the more straightforward sense of “pride” applies here.

“La Désolation du Dragon…” Yeah, actually, that sounds pretty grim in French, too. Though I note that unlike in Tolkien’s original prose, the translator is not capitalizing Dragon everywhere in this chapter.

The translator actually adds in a bit where Tolkien describes where the dwarves make their first camp, providing a French translation for “Ravenhill”, thusly: “… qui se terminait par une éminence nommée Ravenhill, le Mont aux Corbeaux.” Not really surprised to see that clarification in there.

Here’s a good word: “éclaireurs”, meaning “scouts”. NOT meaning “eclairs”, no matter how great the temptation to make that connection may be.

And now we get into the bit where Balin describes what Dale had once been like:

« Voilà tout ce qui reste de Dale, dit Balïn. Les flancs de la Montagne étaient verts de forêts et toute la vallée abritée était riche et agréable, au temps où les cloches sonnaient dans cette ville. »

Balin About to Have a Very Bad Day

Balin About to Have a Very Bad Day

“Par là jaillissaient les eaux de la Rivière Courante…” This is the translation of “Out of it the waters of the Running River sprang”, and “jaillissaient” is the imperfect tense of “jaillir”, which means “to spring”. Not to be confused with “to put someone in jail”.

“Rien ne bougeait sur l’étendue déserte…” This is “Nothing moved in the waste”, and it gives me “bouger”, which means “to move”, and which makes me wonder if the English word “budge” is somehow related. And later in the same sentence I get “hormis”, which means “except”, and which I expect will eventually show up in SuperMemo.

Here, we have Bilbo borrowing Thorin’s map and studying it and the moon-letters: “Il empruntait souvent la carte de Thorïn et il la consultait longuement, méditant sur les runes et sur le message des lettres lunaires qu’Elrond avait déchiffré.” That very last word, “déchiffré”, might make sense to anybody who remembers “Le Chiffre”, the villain from Casino Royale–which translates to both “the number” and “the cypher”. Tolkien actually wrote “the moon-letters Elrond had read”, but “déchiffré” is more along the lines of “deciphered”.

Ooh, there’s a nice crunchy verb in here, too: “ils s’acharnèrent à rechercher des sentiers montant au flanc de la montagne”. “S’acharnèrent” is the passé simple of “s’acharner”, which can mean “to go fiercely at”, “to slave away”, or “to perservere”.

And ooh! The whole phrase means “they fought hard to find trails climbing the mountainside”, according to Google Translate. Well, sort of. The translation it gives me actually says “they fought hard to find trails amount mountainside”, which of course makes no sense–but I think it’s getting hung up on “montant” as a noun, which it can be. But it can also be the present participle of “monter”, “to climb”, which is what I think is actually meant here.

This sentence demonstrates that apparently, “rien” can be used in the sense of “anything” as well as “nothing”, if I’m translating it correctly: “Jour après jour, ils revenaient au campement sans avoir rien trouvé.” (Day after day, they returned to camp without having found anything.)

Breep breep breep idiom alert in this sentence: “Fili, Kili et le hobbit étaient redescendus un jour par la vallée, et ils jouaient des pieds et des mains parmi les rochers éboulés au coin Sud.” (Or, according to Tolkien, “Fili, Kili and the hobbit went back one day down the valley and scrambled among the tumbled rocks at its southern corner.”) I had to hunt for this one. Tolkien says “scrambled”, but the closest I can get to what’s written here is “faire des pieds et des mains”, which has the general connotation of “move heaven and earth for”, “bust your ass for”, etc.

Another nice crunchy verb, when they finally find the way up to the secret door, make it to the top of the cliff, and look down on their own camp below: “… et qu’ils surplombaient leur campement.” I read “surplombaient” as the imperfect of “surplomber”, “to overhang”.

Oh, and speaking of “montant” as a noun, here you go: “On n’y voyait aucun signe de montant, de linteau ni de seuil…” (“No sign was there of post or lintel or threshold…”)

The place where they find the door is called a “bay” in the original English, but the French edition calls it a “renfoncement”, which apparently translates to “recess”. Tough to not think “reinforcement” when reading this!

Apparently, a “mouche” is a fly! Not to be confused with “bouche”, which is “mouth”. Or the noise you might make when mooshing a fly with your flyswatter, either.

Ah, a verb Google Translate does not in fact know: “ils s’escrimaient sans répit…” This occurs when they’ve finally found the secret door, and the dwarves have pretty much neglected to bother with the moon-runes and are instead all MUST SMASH DOOR WITH MINING TOOLS OH SHIT TOOLS DON’T WORK OH SHIT WE’RE MAKING A LOT OF NOISE. However, a bit of searching quickly finds me “s’escrimer”, “to strive for”. So “s’escrimaient” will be the third person plural imperfect of that, then.

Once we finally get to the point where Dwalin bursts out with “make the burglar go scout the Front Gate”, the French edition says that Bilbo hardly slept that night, but it says it like this: “il dormit à peine”. “À peine” is an adverb here, meaning “barely” or “hardly”, which is worth noting since it’s idiomatic and doesn’t look like most of the French adverbs I know that end with -ment.

Though, speaking of adverbs, “mélancoliquement” is a nice big one! This means “gloomily”, or of course more specifically, “melancholically”. (Though I can’t remember ever hearing or reading anyone actually using “melancholically” in English.)

“Tout à coup” is another nice little idiom, meaning “all at once/suddenly”.

One last interesting little bit, when Bilbo calls for Thorin to bring the key: he calls it “la clef” in the French edition. Which is interesting, considering I have “clé” in my head from SuperMemo. Google Translate thinks both are correct, but I’m not sure of the difference between them.

German notes:

Ha! Here’s a whole sentence I was able to read in German: “Sie packten, was sie konnten, auf die Ponys und ließen den Rest als Reserve unter einem Zelt.” Mostly, anyway, and what specific words I didn’t know I got from context, like “Zelt” for “tent”.

And here’s the sentence about it being easier to believe in the dragon than in Thorin: “In diesen wilden Gegenden war es leichter, an den Drachen zu glauben als an Thorin.”

In the description of the dwarves avoiding laughter and song and the sound of harps, in German we get: “Da klang kein Lied, kein Lachen, kein Harfenspiel…” I like the word “Harfenspiel”, even though it makes me think of a harp as being more like a glockenspiel instead!

“The Desolation of the Dragon” in German becomes “Die Verwüstungen des Drachen”–though I’m guessing at the article “Die”, since I had to deconstruct the sentence a bit: “Sie waren in den Verwüstungen des Drachen angelangt…” Also note that Tolkien’s use of capitals for dramatic emphasis loses something in the translation to German, given that German capitalizes All The Nouns!

Since I did Chapter 10 I have since added German to my SuperMemo lessons, finally–and now I can start spotting SuperMemo vocabulary in the German edition as well as the French! The first verb I recognize from SuperMemo is therefore “erreichen”, which means “to reach/achieve”. (And it’s a bit of a task to not think “achever” every time I see this one pop up in the vocabulary, either, since I’m still geared towards providing French answers!) This appears when the dwarves reach the foot of the mountain: “Sie erreichten den Fuß des Berges…”

And it’s not to be confused with a very similar verb, “errichteten”, which means “to erect”. Appearing thusly: “Sie errichteten ihr erstes Lager an der Westseite…” This is talking about the company setting up their first camp on the west side of the mountain, and I do mean camp, not beer, despite the urge to giggle at the word “Lager” here.

“Überschaubaren” leaps out at me as a nice crunchy word, appearing in this sentence: “Aber sie wagten nicht den von allen Seiten leicht überschaubaren Berg zu erklettern.” This is where they’ve found the watchpost on Ravenhill, but they’re not daring to climb it because it’s too “exposed”, as Tolkien describes it. Presumably “überschaubaren” is meant to be the translation of “exposed”, but my efforts to translate this are coming up with “manageable” instead.

Balin’s lament about Dale comes out like this in German:

»Da liegt, was von Dal übrig blieb,« sagte Balin. »Die Berghänge trugen grüne Wälder und das ganze geschützte Tal war reich und schön in jenen Tagen, als die Glocken noch in der Stadt klangen.«

Good word: “hinüberspähen”. Any word that can throw two umlauts at you is fun! This one apparently means “peeking over”, and it appears in this phrase: “hinüberspähen und der düsteren Höhlenrachen in einer großen Klippenwand…” Also, “Klippenwand” is a good word, too, meaning “cliff face”.

Here’s an unexpected incident of a German word looking like an English one, yet meaning something completely different: “Qualm” being the word for “vapour/smoke”.

“Entgegnete” jumps out at me as well as an example of the translator using a word that Tolkien didn’t–it means “answered”, in a sentence where Tolkien originally just wrote “said”. Guess the translator wanted to vary the dialogue tags up a bit!

Nice big crunchy noun here: “Keiner besaß mehr einen Funken Unternehmungsgeist.” This is the translation for “None of them had much spirit left.” And “Unternehmungsgeist” appears to translate roughly to “enterprising spirit”.

Fili, Kili and Bilbo scrambling around the rocks gives us a nice compound verb here: “… wobei sie zwischen den verstreuten Felsblöcken der Südseite umherkletterten.” It’s almost onomatopoeic, that word “umherkletterten”. It works very well for the notion of scrambling around rocks.

Yet another fun compound noun: “Lebensmittelvorräte”, the food supplies that Bofur and Bombur are guarding down in the lower camp while the rest of the dwarves hasten up to make camp #3 where they find the secret door.

Ah, and as a followup to “Unternehmungsgeist”, here’s “unternehmungslustigeren”, used in the sentence describing Kili as one of the more active dwarves! “Unternehmungslustigeren” being kind of a long-winded way of saying “active”, but hey! German! Also kind of a long-winded way of saying “yum”, because hey! Kili!

“Zersplitterten” apparently means “fragmented”, though I keep thinking “zerbert” when I see it.

This gets the prize for biggest compound noun, though, I think: “Ihr sagtet, das Auf-der-Türschwelle-Sitzen und Nachdenken würde meine Aufgabe sein…” This is where Bilbo’s telling the dwarves that they’d told him sitting on the threshold and thinking would be his job. I’m amused that the translator dropped dashes into that compound noun, though, as if that particular word-smoosh would be a bit too nuts even for German, without them!

And of course, we eventually get to Bilbo spotting the thrush having at it with the cracking of snails (a chancy thing to build a prophecy on if you ask me). Or, as the German edition puts it: “Krach!”

Snails are Tasty

Snails are Tasty

This is, I think, one of the nicer pictures out of the German edition.

Which brings us to the end of the chapter. Next time: SMAUG!

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