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Translating Tolkien: Text and Film

Cormarë Series No. 6.

The Westron Turned into Modern English:
The Translator and Tolkien's Web of Languages

Thomas Honegger

Tolkien's presentation of The Lord of the Rings as a translation out of the original Westron into modern English inspired him to go one step further and reproduce the relationship between the various languages of Middle-earth by means of linguistic transposition (e.g. Rohirric = Old English, Language of Dale = Old Norse). The resulting 'web of languages' presents itself as a highly complex and not always fully coherent structure and poses an additional challenge to every translator.

"The New One Wants to Assimilate the Alien."
Different Interpretatons of a Source Text as a Reason for Controversy: The 'Old' and the 'New' German Translation of The Lord of the Rings

Rainer Nagel

In 2000, Klett-Cotta, the German publisher of The Lord of the Rings, ventured forth with a new translation of the novel. This translation caused a big controversy among fans and casual readers alike. The 'new' translator, Wolfgang Krege, defended his version on grounds of his translation "assimilating the alien," whereas the first one (by Margaret Carroux) had just "rendered the text" from one language into another. From this point of view, it would appear that the major differences between the two texts are those of interpreting the source text, the author's intention, and the expectations of the potential audience. The article traces these factors against the backdrop of modern translation theory, contrasting especially J.R.R. Tolkien's intentions with the intentions and interpretation of Wolfgang Krege. Comparisons will be made on the levels of morphology, syntax, semantics, and stylistics, if necessary back-translated from one of the German versions into English should major differences arise.

The Israeli Translation Controversy -
What About and Where To?

Danny Orbach (with contributions by Yuval Kfir and Yuval Welis)

This article looks into the controversy around the two Israeli translations of The Lord of the Rings into Hebrew. The older (and more archaic-literary) translation by Ruth Livnit is compared with the more recent (and more modern-technical) one by Emanuel Lottem. Supporters of each translation are given the opportunity to voice their opinions.

Estne Tolkien Latine Reddendus?
A Light-Hearted Look at Some of the Challenges

Richard Sturch

Four main problems are identified and discussed which arise in the task of rendering Tolkien into Latin. One is that of names (and a few other Middle-earthly words) - does one translate or simply reproduce, and in the latter case should the name be declinable or not? A second is the occasional verse: what forms should be used to translate the very different kinds of English verse that we find in Tolkien? A third is the similar variation in prose styles between the homely and the rhetorical. And a fourth, related to this last, is how to handle the "rhetorical" passages when Tolkien's style is so unlike that of the standard models for Latin prose.the standard models for Latin prose.

Dutch Samizdat:
The Mensink - van Warmelo Translation of The Lord of the Rings

Mark T. Hooker

This article takes a first look at a recently discovered Dutch samizdat translation of The Lord of the Rings and compares it with the two published Dutch translations of the LotR (Schuchart 1958 and 1996).

The Treatment of Proper Names in the German Edition(s) of The Lord of the Rings as an Example of Norms in Translation Practice
Rainer Nagel

The translation of proper names in literature has always been regarded as a problem area both by translators and linguists, especially when an author uses telling names to illustrate particular plot aspects. In most cases, translators are left to their own devices as to capture the exact meaning of such a term and find a suitable equivalent in the target language. While The Lord of the Rings is basically no exception in this field, in this case the aspiring translator might benefit from help by the author himself, in that J.R.R. Tolkien had prepared an extensive glossary of translation hints, explaining not only the concepts behind the names, but also giving suggestions (or, in terms of translation theory, norms) for the major European languages. This article looks at these norms in the light of means of translation involved, and will also enter into the ramifications of German Tolkien translations based on and beyond this material.

Tolkien in Swedish Translation:
from Hompen to Ringarnas herre

Anders Stentström

Hompen, 1947, was the first published translation of The Hobbit, and indeed of any Tolkien text. This article presents the story of Swedish Tolkien translation, to which a number of translators have contributed over the decades, ending with the new translation of The Lord of the Rings that is currently being prepared.

Tolkien, Our Judge of Peter Jackson
Vincent Ferré

This article discusses J.R.R. Tolkien's judgement upon cinema and the adaptability of The Lord of the Rings (as exposed in his Letters), then confronts his criterias and judgement with the story-line submited to Tolkien in 1957-1958, and with Ralph Bakshi's and Peter Jackson's achievements, 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Fellowship of the Ring'.

Humiliated Heroes:
Peter Jackson's Interpretation of The Lord of the Rings

Anthony S. Burdge & Jessica Burke

Tolkien in writing Lord of the Rings and even The Hobbit has almost single-handedly resurrected images of the hero. Inspired by heroic motifs from Beowulf to King Arthur, Tolkien wished to reintroduce such heroism to a world robbed of such wealth, a world corrupted by mechanized visions of greed and power rather than a world sustained by honor, virtue, and Yeats' sanctified earth. Tolkien's heroes are so remarkable, so applicable and so universal because of their adherence to Frye's fictional modes. Tolkien doesn't merely write of one hero in one mode alone. Tolkien has heroes and anti-heroes in virtually all the modes. Since the publication of Lord of the Rings there have been scores of would-be usurpers who have attempted to interpret the epic tale into other media - from graphic novels to fan fiction to radio drama to film. There has been one interpretation that will stand-alone and for many it will be the 'quintessential' interpretation: this is, of course, Peter Jackson's film adaptations of Lord of the Rings (2001-2003). In these works Jackson endeavors to preserve Tolkien's heroes, however, he fails miserably. One of his chief failures is his and his screenwriters' inability (or unwillingness) to understand how each of Tolkien's heroes incorporated one of Frye's fictional modes. In his haste to bring Lord of the Rings to the mainstream, Jackson has succeeded in demoralizing not only Tolkien's heroes, but his anti-heroes as well. This articles endeavors to show this demoralization.

The Adaptation of The Lord of the Rings
A Critical Comment

Øystein Høgset

This article presents the principal theories of adaptation and then moves on to discuss whether or not Peter Jackson has succeeded in adapting The Lord of the Rings according to these criteria. Based on the theories of Dudley Andrew, the article explores key aspects of the three films and attempts to illuminate any lack of fidelity to the spirit J.R.R. Tolkien's novel evident in the adaptations.

The Professor and the Director and Good vs. Evil in Middle-earth
James Dunning

The article discusses aspects of philosophical or spiritual Weltanschauung behind Tolkien's Middle-earth: The Thermodynamics of Middle-earth, The Encroaching of the Shadow, Benevolent Serendipity (Divine Providence), and certain other manifestations of Good vs. Evil in The Lord of the Rings. How these factors play out, in the original vs. Peter Jackson's film trilogy, is explored.

The Soundtrack Lyrics of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings -
A Legitimate 'Translation' of Tolkien?

Alexandra Velten

This article deals with the texts accompanying the orchestral score to the Peter Jackson films. The texts are presented in an overview and examined according to their contents and form, discussing the question whether or not they can be seen as true to Tolkien's textual legacy. Remarkable parallels can be drawn between the function of non-English texts in the book and in the films.

243 pages, Walking Tree Publishers 2004, Cormarë No. 6, Editor: Thomas Honegger , ISBN: 3-9521424-9-2.

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