Reading Tolkien in translation/original

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Endril 30/Dec/2006 at 03:47 AM
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A few days ago I bought The Hobbit and LOTR in a box set. The books were edited by HarperCollins. As I began to read The Hobbit I realized that it seems in a way a new book and it again captivated me and made me read more. Before I read the two books in translation, and well, the effect was the same but it is something different about reading the original writing of Tolkien.

Anyone experienced this before. It seems to me like a very interesting fact.
likuku 30/Dec/2006 at 12:29 PM
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Oh yes thes feelings aren’t different to me because all Tolkien books, whom are translate in my lanuage(Latvian) are very off-grated. I now that because first I read in Latvian lanuage and only then in English and there were so many differences. It is just foolish than for example place names like - Khazad-Dum and Lothlorien is written differentlKazads and Zeltmezs) in my opinion all place words would have to write as it is.
Anarríma 30/Dec/2006 at 01:27 PM
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*nods* I so agree with you both! I’ve read the trilogy several times in my native language, Swedish, but when I read the original version a year ago, it was as if reading another book. Tolkien wrote in such a fluently and beautiful language, which I believe no translation can do justice. And of course, as you Iikuku say, it’s a whole other thing with Tolkien’s own names, both persons and places.

A quite funny thing though, is that another translation into Swedish was made a couple of years ago. The first translater actually changed and added a few details, so now this new translater wanted to do another version. I cannot say too much about it, as I’ve only read the first book. I have to admit that I grew tired - the language was not at all as rich and beautiful as neither Tolkien’s original edition nor the old translation. Are there perhaps any Swedish folks around who read the whole trilogy in this second translation?

Compa_Mighty 30/Dec/2006 at 02:20 PM
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I have only read the books in Spanish. The translation was done some 30 years ago, and I myself find it pretty good.

However, I have discussed this with other people and a Spanish person (from another forum), who is a linguist, tells me she doesn’t like it at all, to the point she said it was terrible. Anyway, I feel the translation is good enough for me not to get lost here in the forums without having read it in the original language.

Place names are not translated as in Latvian, but some personal names are. Not the Gondorian, dwarven and elven ones, mainly nicknames and Hobbit names. We have Sr. Sotomonte, a direct translation of Mr. Underhill, Baggins is translated as Bolsón (in a direct reference to the "bag" particle in the name). However, I believe the Spanish translator (Francisco Porrúa under the nickname of Luis Domenèch) is not the only one to have done so... it’s funny how the name "Took" was changed in French and in Spanish in order to keep its phonetic properties, rather than its spelling, thus we have Touk in French and Tuk in Spanish. exact same pronunciation.

Endril 30/Dec/2006 at 02:54 PM
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I read them first in my language too (romanian) and quite a lot of names were translated and sometimes the same name in different ways. That could prove hard in locating things in the books and remembering places. Making the links between english/romanian names it’s very hard, because there are a lot of names. Also the typing errors were nasty too. In the Hobbit written in my language Moria is recalled as Moira. That’s bad.
Kirinki54 31/Dec/2006 at 03:23 AM
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Hi Rima, it is almost like I had written your post word for word. No, I only read the FotR in new translation out of curiosity and found it dry and boring. One can say much of dr Åke Ohlmarks (and in fact Tolkien had a lot to say about him and his translation) but there is much more juice in the old translation. I read the LotR first time in 1971 and in 1972 I got my first copy of the original. I got the original Silmarillion in 1977 before there was any translation - god I wish I still had that copy! The language of Tolkien is so rich it is long back since I bothered reading anything but the original texts.

Padmé Amidala 31/Dec/2006 at 06:56 AM
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"Anyway ’language’ is the most important. For the story has to be told, and the dialogue conducted in a language; but English cannot have been the language of any people at that time. What I have, in fact done, is to equate the Westron or wide-spread Common Speech of the Third Age with English;and translate everything, including names such as "The Shire", that was in the Westron into English terms, with some differentiation of style to represent dialectical differences."
Letter 144
                                                                                                
With this extract I just wanted to make something that Tolkien himself wanted clear: for the translators to translate Westron names into their own language, like Tolkien himself had translated Westron names into English. So any criticism on the fact that the names have been changed should be given to Tolkien himself - but if you think the translated name doesn’t do the English one justice because the translator did a bad job, then he is to blame - of course.                        
Tinúviël 31/Dec/2006 at 09:57 AM
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I have read the books in both German and English and i think the German translator did a pretty good job. Of course many names of places and people are changed but i don’t think that it is bad, some of them are nicer that way and the text flows better than if there were some English words in there. So i would say the German translation is very good, but i don’t know how it is in other languages.
Turambar_77 01/Jan/2007 at 05:00 AM
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I also read the German translation of LotR, as well as the French translation of the Unfinished tales...
Both translators did very well, I think... but nevertheless, the English version is still the best! I think that is the case with all kinds of books and their translations, so I always try to read the original, if it’s in English.

Lady Rowena 01/Jan/2007 at 07:04 PM
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the english version is always the best one.it is always the one that is the most accurate to what tolkien first wrote. i have he silmarillion i spanish, and i must say that the translation was very good, but they always reapeted a sentence at the beginning of many paragraohs, and that really bugged me-

i agree with you likuku, i think that the names of places and people should be left as they are (some of them sound as invented by the translator, as baggins into ’bolson’)

Anarríma 02/Jan/2007 at 04:43 AM
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Kirinki - Ah yes, I’ve read a few comments said by Tolkien about dr Åke Ohlmarks. It’s actually quite amusing. Concerning the newest translation, I’ve heard of no one who read all the trilogy. Everyone got too bored of it.
And although I might agree with you, Padme, about that Tolkien himself had nothing against the translations, I also have to say that any books, not only Tolkien, are better in the original language. At least in most cases.
Padmé Amidala 02/Jan/2007 at 06:22 AM
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Rima: I agree with you that books normally are better in the original language, and I absolutely think this is the case with The Lord of the Rings, I was just commenting on the change of specific names in the translations and saying what Tolkien thought about it.

On reading translations - I’ve read the trilogy in both English and Norwegian. I think the Norwegian translator did an amazing job with capturing the mood of the original, and all the translations of the names are very accurate.
Magradhaid 02/Jan/2007 at 07:02 AM
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Ohlmarks, the original Swedish translator? He translated the Far Downs as "the Great Suicidal Precipice"! And the last couple lines of Namárië were translated as "Lost is the hero, is Valimar to us, that the east holds in an irongrip. Farewell! Maybe you will find his soul, Valimar’s. Maybe your road will bend, maybe you will find what you seek!"  And the beginning of the Ring-verse is "Three Rings for the Power of Fairy Kings High in the Blue!" And then there’s the matter of him Tolkien-bashing and calling Tolkien Societies "Neo-Nazi" groups after CJRT vetoed his translation of the Silmarillion (and rightly!) First, because his translations were horrible, and secondly because of an awful thing he had done: "the notorious Swedish translator, Ake Ohlmarks, who is said to have visited Christopher Tolkien while _The Silmarillion_ was being prepared, possibly with a hidden tape recorder and a spy camera, and later attempted to publish in advance of _The Silmarillion_ a book which not only revealed much about that work but also described Christopher’s house in considerable detail." [TolkLang 21.14] But that is getting a bit off-topic.