Opus D

Well, there was I thinking, so I was, that this post will be the 500th entry in this blog as presently incarcerated, and, notwithstanding inasmuch as which such an artificial anniversary will be manna from heaven to fans of base 10, I wondered with what I might commemorate such an apparition. Happily Mr R. C. of Yorkshire came up with the solution by kindly sending me this link.
Yes, folks, The Hobbit has been translated into Yiddish! Oy gevalt! A perfect combination of two of my interests, Tolkien and Yiddischkeit, fitting for my Dth blog post. Well, leafing through the pages, I am reminded of the problems of translation. When I was at school, learning various languages, I learned that the best translations are the freest as regards idiom. Such seems to be the case with this particular translation, as I found when translating extracts of Der Hobit back into English. Here are some examples.

‘In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with yesterday’s kneidlach and the lingering odor of gefilte fish, nor yet a dry, sandy hole with nothing to sit on and bupkes to eat. It was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort. This hobbit had plenty of gelt, and his name was Bagginsky. It was often said (in other families) that long ago one of his mispoche must have married a shiksa. That was, of course, absurd, but certainly there was something not entirely onshtendik about him.’

‘The Bagginsky was standing at his door after breakfast, making sure the mezuzah was stuck on properly, when Old Gandalfovitch came by. What the Bagginsky saw was an old man with a beard and a broad-brimmed, fur-trimmed hat. He had a waistcoat with a fringe of tassels on the hem, knee breeches and big black boots. He had thick spectacles, framed by curls hanging from each cheek beneath his hat. In each hand he carried a dead chicken. The chickens’ heads bounced along the ground as the old man shuffled along. “Good morning!” said the Bagginsky, and he meant it. “Ver deharget,” said Old Gandalfovitch.’

‘”Vot iss he, my bubeleh?” whispered Golem, who always spoke to himself through never having anyone else to speak to. Nobody wrote. Nobody phoned. He just sat there in the dark. Nobody cared about him at all.’

‘”Gevalt geshreeyeh, Avram, look vot I’ve gekhapt!” said Yacov.
“Vos iz?” said the others, coming up.
“How should I know? I’m not a zoologist. What are you?”
“My names Bagginsky! A burrahobbit!” said the poor Bagginsky, torahfied out of his wits.
“A burrahobbit?” said they a bit startled. Trolls are verklumpt in the uptake, and anything new to them they need like a loch im kopf.
“Can you cook ‘em?” said Yitzhak.
“Good question. Are burrahobbits kosher?” asked Yacov, now holding the Bagginsky upside down by the hairs on his feet.
“He wouldn’t make above a mouthful, anyway,” said Yitzhak, “not when he was properly porged, skinned, boned, gutted, minced, pressed, salted and bottled, with a certificate from the Chief Rabbi and all.”
“Porged, schmorged: has he got cloven hooves, or not?” asked Avram.
“Dunno,” said Yacov. “His feet are covered with hair.”
“And has he had a bris?” Avram added.
“In that case I’ll play sandek,” said Yacov. Yitzhak went off to fetch his best peeling knife.
“Well, I say we eat him now, maybe with some grivenes,” said Yacov, “and worry about kashrut later. We’re trolls, after all. Not like we can get rabbinic supervision.”
“It could be he’s parve,” said Avram. “Are you parve?” asked Yitzhak, poking the Bagginsky in the toches with his knife.
“The rabbi we ate last week. He was parve.” said Yitzhak.
“That schmuck,” said Yacov, “insisting he was treyf. Maybe he was right. I’m still picking the bones from me teeth.”‘
“You putznasher!” said Yitzhak, “you fressed like a pig on that rabbi!”
“Who are you calling a putznasher, you schmendrik!” Yacov retorted.
“Schtup ir! Kis mein toches!” Yitzhak shouted back, brandishing his knife. Yes, I’m afraid trolls do talk like that, even those with only one head each.’

About cromercrox

Cromercrox is a recovering palaeontologist, author and editor who lists his recreations as writing, beachcombing, playing hard rock organ, supporting Norwich City FC and falling asleep.
This entry was posted in Silliness, Writing & Reading and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Opus D

  1. Brian Clegg says:

    Very good!

    Seriously, though, I’ve just read an excellent book on the difficulties of translation that is highly recommended – Is That a Fish in Your Ear? by David Bellos.

    • cromercrox says:

      I should look that one up. BTW I heard a fascinating interview with the person tasked with translating the Harry Potter novels into Hebrew. Names were a particular problem. She cited the name ‘Remus Lupin’, which is full of hard-to-translate connotations. Remus was one of the founding Romans, reared by a wolf: and though ‘Lupin’ sounds like a flower, it is close to ‘Lupus’, the Latin for ‘Wolf’. As any Pottermane will know, Remus Lupin is a werewolf. But the closest Hebrew equivalent would be something like ‘Zev Zevi’ or ‘Wolf Wolfy” which has none of the subtlety of the original. So in the end she simply transliterated ‘Remus Lupin’ as it was.

  2. ‘”Vot iss he, my bubeleh?”

    Brilliant :) ‘Old Gandalfovitch’…

    And another copy of ‘Der Hobit’ I have to buy ;)

    The diffculties of translations… A nightmare and a pleasure at the same time.

  3. John the Plumber says:

    Travel down through Shropshire in the half-light of a misty morning before the day has dawned and make Herefordshire just before the sun rises to drive the mist away. – Mr Baggins is thinking what to have for breakfast not too far away. – You tangibly hold Englishness in your nostrils and at the back of your neck.
    Conan Doyle in ‘The White Company’ and Tolkein in ‘The Hobbit’ wrapped it in brown paper and tied it with string.
    Intriguing how culture with just a collection of traditions and folkllore can stamp itself. Fascinating how, after the first sentence of your wondrous translation, the Englishness disintegrates word by word.
    All except Golem.
    He just gets more Golem.

  4. Steve Caplan says:

    I always wondered whether Tolkien was in any way inspired by the Golem of Prague for in the creation of his ‘precious creature.’ But interestingly, that infallible source of information, Wikipedia, does not have Tolkien among the authors who used Golem for their own art: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golem

    Any comments from the expert?

  5. John the Plumber says:

    Has the film version of Golem anything to do with Tolkien?

    You have me pondering words and pictures in my brain – which struggles to find words but loves music and the pictures created by good writer’s words.
    Hopeless for me to learn another language – enough with English.
    But the music of language.
    ‘‘”Vot iss he, my bubeleh?” whispered Golem,’
    Now that’s music.
    Yiddish and Welsh make music like no other.
    At an early age the Hobbit was nice, Lord of the Rings wondrous. – Images that were limitless,
    No movie, with their limitation, could come close to the pictures it had put in my head.
    But there was never Golem – I missed him out somewhere – the film won that one.
    But I’ve no intention of reading Tolkien again to find Golem – not wanting to alter the magic it created those years ago.
    So I settle for the film image enhanced by your contribution.

  6. John the Plumber says:

    The question which your 500th post has planted, but which I struggle to pose, goes something like this. – My dog – Pugsley by name – him and his fleas lead a fairly simple life, not overly confused by myth and legend. – We on the other hand are host to a vast array of imagined creatures of invented races living imagined lives on which it might seem our version of reality owes much and maybe now depends..- Is this a good thing?

  7. John the Plumber says:

    Pugsley says, ‘Nice one Henry.’