Trilingual Hobbit Reread

Tri-lingual Hobbit re-read: Chapter 14

Fell behind on this again due to being in MASSIVE DEADLINE mode with Vengeance of the Hunter–for the past several months. But now that Vengeance is signed off on text-wise, and with the coming of The Desolation of the Smaug VERY NIGH, I feel a mighty need to return to this project.

So let’s get cracking with Chapter 14, shall we? Esgaroth has a pissed-off dragon to contend with, after all!

General notes:

As Tolkien sets the narrative scene in the opening paragraphs of this chapter, I note the use of the word “drear”, without a -y on the end. Essentially a poetic shortening of “dreary”, according to Also of interest: ‘foreboding’, apparently, can be a verb as well as a noun! I never noticed that in The Hobbit before.

Also, I feel kind of sorry for that poor schmoo who’s all “bet you five bucks it’s the dragon and we’re ALL GOING TO DIE” and his buddies are all “oh you old sourpuss you”…

Wait. And, of course, the poor grim schmoo in question is Bard the Bowman (yeah, I was slow on the uptake there, this is what I get for starting this read late on the day after I got back from a vacation, ha!). In which case heh, now I imagine him facepalming after the battle and thinking why do I live in a town full of idiots? But that said? Good on him for warning his town, and making sure they got their shit together before Smaug showed up.

Also, I am amused anew that groups in this book have a way of all crying the same thing at the same time, as they do here when they’re all “YAY KING UNDER THE MOUNTAIN”. I keep imagining the various NPCs of The Hobbit, and sometimes even the dwarves, going around like Greek choruses reciting their dialogue.

Convenient that Bard can apparently speak Thrush, with no other explanation given than “he was of the race of Dale”. I expect this is going to play out in the movie version rather like Jackson’s handled Gandalf and his messenger moths–i.e., I bet we’ll get a shot of Bard with the thrush flying around him, and then he suddenly gets this look on his face like OH YOU MEAN SHOOT HIM THERE.

Here the Master of the town proves his general skeeviness, and the people, the ease with which they can be influenced. They do seem to whip awfully fast between “YAY DWARVES” and “BOO DWARVES”.

And here, too, for the first time, we get to see the Elvenking doing something positive: i.e., sending help to the people of Esgaroth, and specifically stopping to help even though his army had set off on a treasure hunt.

Which pretty much makes the chapter–it’s quite short.

French notes:

As this chapter is called “Fire and Water” in English, the translation into French is of course “Feu et eau”. Very nice, very simple!

The very first sentence gives me a construction I don’t think I’ve run into before, namely, the Or donc used thus: “Or donc, si, comme les nains, vous désirez avoir des nouvelles de Smaug…” I have known the word or as the word for “gold”, but here, it’s a conjunction meaning “now/yet”.

A sentence I understood almost completely: “De leur ville, la Montagne Solitaire était presque entièrement cachée par les collines au bout du lac.” The parts I didn’t quite get were de leur ville since I’m used to seeing de in the sense of “of”, and au bout du lac took me a minute before I had bout pop off my mental stack as “end”. But here de is in the sense of “from”, and of course I knew that existed as well–I just had to remind myself of it by looking at the original sentence in English: “From their town the Lonely Mountain was mostly screened by the low hills at the far end of the lake…” (Here, too, we have an example of the translator breaking up a longer English sentence into shorter ones for the target language.)

I hadn’t seen this word before but it seemed pretty obvious what it was: menaçante, meaning, “menacing”. (Used here in the feminine form with the -e on the end.)

Ooh! Something in this chapter just made a song I know make better sense to me, too. At the beginning of the chapter the Lake-town men are guessing the King Under the Mountain is at work at his forge and the translator uses the phrase en train de forger de l’or. Reading that, I had a bit of the chorus of La Volée d’Castor’s “Revenez donc toutes” pop into my head: Car il va bon train mon moulin.

A bit of googling led me to find two helpful idioms. One is être en train de qqn, which is “be in the process of something”, and in the story that means the men are saying that the King Under the Mountain is forging. On the other hand, the song is using aller bon train, which according to my googlings means “go at a good round pace”. In both cases, I was mentally pinging off the word train (NOT to be confused with the English word of the same spelling), thanks to the rhythm of the song. I love it when my language investigations merge like that! And both my reading and my affection for Quebec music benefit as a result!

Grim-voiced Bard is described in the French as “un troisième d’un ton sardonique” (a third with a sardonic tone). Google Translate thinks that apparently sardonique can in fact mean “grim” in French, but it’s quite far down the queue of proposed translations, and a couple of my usual sources aren’t agreeing with it. So I’m not sure whether I buy this or not. Any French speakers want to address this, do drop a comment!

Further down the page Bard is described as “l’homme à la voix sinistre”. Two things of interest here. One, the use of à. An English speaker would say “the man with the sinister voice”, but in French you don’t use avec for that. You use à, from what I’ve picked up from SuperMemo. Two, the use of sinistre here–which is another proffered translation for “grim”, according to Google Translate. Either way, these are interesting adjective choices to an Anglophone. Makes Bard come across a tad darker, I think.

Bard yells in the English edition, “The dragon is coming or I am a fool!” In French, however, it’s “Le dragon arrive, ou je ne suis qu’un imbécile!” Noteworthy for the use of ne, here. I expect that most beginners at French, like me, expect to see ne used in conjunction with pas to negate a verb. GT seems to think this translates to “I’m just a fool”, but again, not sure I buy that.

Here is a good word I had to look up, in the midst of the paragraph describing the arrival of Smaug: retentissant, which means “resounding”.

I made it almost all the way through this sentence: “Parmi les cris, les lamentations et les clameurs des hommes, il arriva sur eux, se dirigea droit sur les ponts et se vit déjoué!” This parsed for me more or less as “Among the cries, the lamentations and the clamors of the men, he arrived on them, straight for the bridge…” And then I lost it on “et se vit déjoue!” What Tolkien actually wrote was: “Amid shrieks and wailing and the shouts of men he came over them, swept towards the bridges and was foiled!”

So I didn’t get “se dirigea”, and neither did GT–it fell over on the “se” part of this verb. If I’m understanding this correctly, the verb diriger by itself is more or less “aim” or “direct”, but make it se diriger and it becomes “go toward/head for”.

And ah! GT fell over on the se in se voir as well. So the end of this sentence becomes “and saw himself foiled!” I had to look up déjoué, too–I didn’t recognize that word at all. This is from déjouer, which is “to foil/thwart/frustrate”. I note with interest that it is “dé-” + “jouer”, the latter of which is of course a very familiar verb.

I like the verb choices in this bit, it makes for a nice bit of verbal rhythm that isn’t in the English: “Une grêle de flèches noires s’éleva ; elles claquèrent et cliquetèrent sur ses écailles et ses joyaux…” (“A hail of dark arrows leaped up and snapped and rattled on his scales and jewels…”) I note that the pertinent verbs here are claquer and cliqueter, and in both cases we’re looking at the passé simple here.

Whoa. French just taught me about a word I didn’t know existed in English–i.e., souffle, NOT to be confused with soufflé, both of which are apparently totally valid in English. And I looked this up because of being amused by this phrase in the middle of the attack Smaug makes on Lake-town: “enflammés par son souffle”. I read that and was all “nooooo, I’m PRETTY sure that doesn’t mean ‘set on fire by his soufflé”…”. (Dara points out that we have absolutely no basis whatsoever to know how spicy Smaug may have made his soufflés, since he was, after all, a dragon.)

An entire sentence I understood! “Vous ne sauriez imaginer un feu d’artifice aussi beau que le spectacle de cette nuit-là.” Which is, essentially, “You can’t imagine fireworks as beautiful as the spectacle of that night.” And that’s interesting in comparison to Tolkien’s actual sentence: “No fireworks you every imagined equalled the sights that night.” The French puts it rather more poetically, and yet, it’s still overall fairly chilling given that this sentence is talking about Smaug setting Lake-town on fire.

The verb in this bit threw me: “Il tournoya un moment dans les air…” Just looking at it, I think “tournoya” is a conjugation of “tourner”, but looking that verb tells me I’m wrong. A little bit more exploration tells me it’s actually the passé simple of “tournoyer”, which is “to wheel around/to spin around”.

And another fun verb that threw me: “luisaient”. The bit that confused me was that I know “lui” as a pronoun that can mean “him” or “her”. I had to do a bit more googling to determine that this was the imperfect tense for “luire”, which means “to glisten”.

HA! Finding, even after months of a pause, I’m still finding slowly larger chunks of this text that are making sense to me–because I haven’t paused my daily language study, and boy howdy, does that help. So I pretty much parsed this entirely: “Des flammes inextinguibles s’élancèrent dans la nuit. Une nouvelle descente, une autre encore, et une autre maison, puis une autre s’enflammèrent et tombèrent en cendres…” (Essentially: “Inextinguishable flames lanced through the night. Another descent, and another, and another house and and another caught fire and fell into ashes…”)

Ooh, and here’s another bit that parsed: “Maintenant, les hommes maudissaient leur nom.” (“Now the men cursed their name”–interesting, too, that I see “leur nom” here in this sentence, NOT “leur noms”. I don’t know if this is something idiomatic, or if it’s a typo. But I did recognize that “maudissaient” was the imperfect for “maudire”, “to curse”, which I recognized from a Le Vent du Nord album title! So yeah, everybody in Lake-town at this point is all FUCK YOU, DWARVES.

And another bit: “Pour le moment, le harcèlement de la ville lui donnait davantage de plaisir qu’aucune autre distraction depuis des années.” (“For the moment, the harrassment of the village gave him more pleasure than any other distraction in years.”)

And oh yes, I see that Bard the Bowman here is “Barde”.

Speaking of Bard, here’s what he says to his Black Arrow in this edition:

«Flèche ! dit l’archer. Flèche noire ! Je t’ai gardée jusqu’au dernier moment. Tu ne m’as jamais trahi et je t’ai toujours recouvrée. Je te tiens de mon père, comme il te tenait de ceux de jadis. Si jamais tu es sortie des forges du véritable Roi sous la Montagne, va et touche au but ! »

I like this bit in no small part because I recognized “trahi” from “trahison”, a word I’ve had in SuperMemo–i.e., “betrayal”.

And heh. I have this speech fairly well emblazoned into my brain from the animated The Hobbit, so I know roughly how this goes. But the bits I didn’t recognize were “de ceux de jadis” (from those of the past/old), “tu es sortie des forges” (I’m pretty sure this is “you came from the forges”, and in particular that “tu es sortie” is the passé composé for “sortir”–with an e on the end because “flèche” is a feminine noun), and “va et touche au but”. The last bit is particularly interesting since what Tolkien actually wrote was “go now and speed well”, so this isn’t directly translated. Looking it up tells me that “toucher au but” is idiomatic and means “to near one’s goal”. So the end bit here more or less means “go and hit your goal”.

And now this: “Je suis Barde, de la lignée de Girion ; c’est moi qui ai tué la dragon !” (“I am Bard, of the line of Girion; it is I who killed the dragon!”)

Which is a pretty good place to stop, given that the last few pages of the chapter didn’t parse as well to me upon casual reading.

German notes:

“Feuer und Wasser” is the translation of the title in German, which is pretty direct, like the French edition.

“Zurückkehren” is our first amusing verb in this chapter, meaning “to return/to come back”. And in the same paragraph, we get “zerschmetterte” as an adjective, meaning “shattered”. I quite like the rhythm of that latter word. A bit of investigation suggests it’s related to the verb “schmettern”, “to shatter”.

This is also a fun verb: “beobachteten”, “observed”.

“Wahrscheinlicher”: “more likely”. Nice sturdy adjective, this. (I have a WAY harder time coming in cold on the German than I did on the French, but at least I was able to figure out that this is showing up in the bit where the men of Lake-town are reacting to the light on the Lonely Mountain.) This same section also gives us “Überschwemmungen”, which is “floods”, as near as I can tell.

“Begeisterungssturm”: “storm of enthusiasm”. I like this as a long, strong noun. And ah okay, this is in the paragraph where Bard is yelling about the dragon coming, because this is a bit that I can actually parse: »Der Drache kommt«, schrie er, »oder ich will ein Narr sein!« Though, interestingly, Google Translate claims the latter bit here is actually “I want to be a fool”, which matches my actual read of the sentence. Yet I’d be surprised if that was indeed the actual proper read of this. Any German speakers care to comment, let me know!

And this of course means that “Zu dem Waffen!” is “to arms!” Didn’t previously know that “Waffen” is “weapons”, but it was easy to guess in context.

HA, another nice long compound noun: “Fluggeschwindigkeit”. Which is “airspeed”.

And for contrast, a short but hard to pronounce adjective: “zerstört”, which means “destroyed”. Which I actually recognized thanks to having the verb “zerstören” in SuperMemo!

Ah, and just to remind myself and to verify, yes, “Die Brücke” is “the bridge”. Too used to seeing this be “pont” in French, now!

“Zu tief, zu dunkel und zu kalt für einen Drachen”–“too deep, too dark, and too cold for a dragon”. That bit I understood!

Going to quote this whole bit since I realized that it’s the same bit that talks about fireworks that I mentioned up above, but it looks like the translator doinked around with the sentence structure. Here’s the German:

Ein Hagel dunkler Pfeile prasselte ihm entgegen. Sie klirrten gegen seine Schuppen und Juwelen, entzündeten sich in Smaugs vernichtendem Atem und fielen brennend und aufzischend in den See–ein Feuerwerk, wie man es sich prächtiger nicht vorstellen kann.

This translates roughly (and I do mean roughly) to:

A hail of dark arrows pattered against him. They clinked against his scales and jewels, became inflamed in Smaug’s withering breath and fell burning and (something) in the lake–fireworks as magnificent as one cannot imagine.

Here’s what Tolkien actually wrote:

A hail of dark arrows leaped up and snapped and rattled on his scales and jewels, and their shafts fell back kindled by his breath burning and hissing into the lake. No fireworks you ever imagined equalled the sights that night.

Now for one thing, I’m amused that the translator stuck an emdash into the text, as well as generally rearranging the sentence structure here. But for another thing, I’m amused that Google Translate totally failed to pick up on “aufzischend”. From context, this is clearly “hissing”, and that would make sense if I knock off the “auf”. I can find “zischen” as a verb in my usual online translation dictionary, and that does mean “to hiss”.

Later on, here’s the German version of the French sentence I was able to parse: “Jetzt verfluchten sie die Zwerge.” (“Now they cursed the dwarves.”) Not quite the same translation as the French translator’s.

Dale, it is worth noting (probably ‘again’, though I don’t remember if I’ve noted this in previous posts), is “Dal” in the German edition. So we get the description of Bard as descended from “Girion, Fürst von Dal”.

This bit made sense, too: “Seine Kameraden verschließ ihn.” Google Translate thinks this is “His comrades left him”, but I’m pretty sure the context here is supposed to be “His comrades abandoned him”. But I’m not a hundred percent sure, given that Tolkien actually wrote “His companions were leaving him.” So I don’t know!

Here’s the German version of Bard’s speech to his arrow:

»Pfeil«, sagte der Bogenschütze, »schwarzer Pfeil, ich habe dich als Letzten aufgespart. Du hast nie gefehlt, immer habe ich dich wieder gefunden. Ich habe dich von meinem Vater erhalten und auch er erhielt ihn als Erbe aus alten Tagen. Wenn du wirklich aus den Schmieden des wahren Königs unter dem Berg kommst, so flieg jetzt, und Glück sei mit dir!«

Fun things to note here. One, arrow is a masculine noun in German–but feminine in French. Two, I recognized “hast gefehlt” as the past tense of “fehlen”, one of my SuperMemo verbs (“to lack/to miss/to fail”). Three, “erhalten” is another SuperMemo verb! It means “to receive”, and “erhielt” would therefore be the past tense of that. And lastly, I note that the translator here didn’t quite match Tolkien’s ending words here either. “Und Glück sei mit dir” is “and luck be with you.”

And I’ll call this bit out separately since it’s weird. I did notice in that paragraph that the translator abruptly switched to “ihn” where I would have expected him to say “dich”, given that he’s addressing this entire speech to his arrow. Again, not sure if this is a idiomatic thing or a typo, though in this case I’m actually wondering if it’s an error on the translator’s part.

This may be my favorite compound noun of the chapter: “Edelsteingeglitzer”. Rough guess: “gemstone-glitter”, since that’s what I get if I break the word in half in Google Translate.

And now, just because I barely see a dragon in this picture, much less the razing of Lake-town, here! This is the artwork that comes with this chapter!

The Razing of Lake-town, Sort of

The Razing of Lake-town, Sort of

I mean seriously, butterfly wings? On Smaug? I believe I expressed some WTF about this in prior chapters, but it’s worth expressing again.

Meanwhile, this is the people of Lake-town lamenting Bard’s (apparent) loss, and I more or less got this though I had to confirm some of the words with GT: “Wir würden ihn zum König machen. Bard, der Drachenschütze, aus dem Geschlecht von Girion! Welch ein Jammer, dass er tot ist!” (“We would make him king. Bard, the Dragon Sniper, of the lineage of Girion! What a pity that he’s dead!”)

“Dragon Sniper”, I note, is what Google Translate made of the word “Dragonschütze”. To wit, lol. Though I’m pretty sure that “schütze” is more supposed to be “archer” or “shooter” here. Still, “sniper” is amusing considering how well he got a bead on the one spot on Smaug’s breast that could take him down. (And won’t THIS be amusing to see played in the movie that’s coming out in less than two weeks, hmm?)

Still Not Dead (And Also Not King)

Still Not Dead (And Also Not King)

Heh, here’s the Master of Lake-town bitching about what all they’ve gotten from the dwarves: “Drachenfeuer und Vernichtung!” (“Dragon fire and destruction!”) I just like the juxtaposition of these two nouns.

And to finish up, a few more words and phrases that leapt out at me: “Ohne Zweifel” (without doubt), because I’ve had “Zweifel” in SuperMemo; “Lebensmittel”, which apparently means “food”, though if I parse this literally, it’s “life means”; “Einige Handwerker und viele geschickte Elben”, which is “some craftsmen and many skillful elves”, though I had to look up “Handwerker” and “geschickte”. (“Einige” leapt out at me as another SuperMemo word.)

Next time, hopefully sooner than this one: Chapter 15!

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