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.’