The Race to Translate “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”


Oct 13, 2007

Posted by: EdwardTLC


The Times Online has an absorbing new article online which examines the many translations of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” we’ve been telling you about in recent months. This article details the race that some foreign publishers have taken to satisfy the demand of their readers and of fans’ own strides in translating the book. In some cases, translating the seventh novel in author J. K. Rowling’s series within hours of its English language release.

The particulars of translating a book with such unique characters, places and words are also featured in this article. Noting Ukrainian translator Victor Morozov’s comment on the accuracy of some pirated copies: “The pirates are getting so good, it’s difficult to tell which is the original;” the article goes on to say:

But how does one translate words such as Wormtail and quidditch? Some names, though, translate more neatly than others. In French, Wood becomes Dubois; Wormtail is Queuedver. The Italian for Fudge, Cornelius Caramell, loses the secondary nuance; Severus Piton sounds snaky, but not as sneering as Snape. Albus Silente conveys quiet authority, but ignores Dumbledore’s archaic meaning: bumblebee. The Norwegian version was formed by adding humle (bee) to snurr (spin), also suggesting surr (buzz). Not only rhythmic, Humlesnurr captures Dumbledore’s sting in the tail.

Puns and references are intractable. Tom Marvolo Riddle is an anagram of I am Lord Voldemort. To preserve this, his middle name becomes Vandrolo in Hebrew, Marvoldo (Turkish) and Orvoloson (Italian). He is Tom Elvis Jedusor in French, Tom Sorvolo Ryddle (Spanish) and Trevor Delgome (Icelandic). Fawkes, the ever-so-British phoenix, defies translation: should we prefer fiery Vulcan (Norwegian) or alliterative Felix (Slovakian)?

The translators themselves, who in some cases receive poor fees and less popularity, were in many cases enthused as any Potter fan when the opportunity came to get the latest ‘Potter’ book. Yuko Matsuoka, from Japan describes the experience by saying: “A wave of shock ran through me. I said, ˜Here is something I have waited for’.” Others, who fear the critical eyes of the boy wizard’s most dedicated fans, such as Gili Bar-Hillel from Israel, note correction letters from readers of their translated editions. She laments, “Every mistake will follow me the rest of my life. The readers are young and unforgiving.”

A note to readers, this article does contain a number of the translated titles of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” which may shed more light on certain plot elements for those who have not yet read the book.

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The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.