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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some thoughts concerning translation


First thing’s first, I’m really glad to see people commenting on the translation and making suggestions. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them, but a couple important issues have arisen which I’d like to turn to.

The first is regarding the words for elf and dwarf. The suggestion has been made that I use the Latin nanus, so that I don’t have to invent a word. Finding a word for elf is harder, since the Latin word for elf also has connotations such as nymph or faerie, which is not what I don’t think the Professor was going for. Nanus could be used, yes, but then what for elf? I want to keep a sense of the uniqueness of the elves, the dwarves, the hobbits in Tolkien’s work.

I am trying to convey the uniqueness of the English text, the original, and not another translation of LOTR when it comes to the names. The translation is intended for English readers (I don’t know any other modern languages, sorry), hence why there’s a Latin-English glossary. This is why I brought up the issue of recognisability to the reader with names, place names, et cetera. Someone did make the point of it being recognizable to which reader, in reference to their language, and my response is simply that it is intended to be recognizable to the English speaking and reading person.

Returning back to the idea of recognisability, although adjectives like Elvenibus and Dwarvenibus are recognizable, they may seem a tad primitive on second glance to me. Although Dwarvenibus seems appropriate since it gets across the idea of dwarven so well in the word. But what for elven, or elf? How does one keep the uniqueness and still remain recognizable to the English reader? I think I will use nanus, as has been suggested (adjective nanus, a, um). However, for elf and elven I think it may be best to take Eldar and decline it. So, Eldar, is for the noun (m.) and Eldar, e for the adjective. 

As for whether to leave the place names and names untranslated and decline or to actually translate their name meanings, I think it may be best to just decline and leave them unless there’s a necessary exception to this, such as Bilbo’s name and Bag End. Carlos suggested Bursonus for Baggins, which I think is quite clever. Since this comes from bursa, for bag, it might be good to combine it with ima (bottom- so bottom of the bag- i.e. cul-de-sac)  for Bag End. Perhaps Bursa Ima?

As for Tolkien’s suggestion that Hobbiton be translated hobbit + town, in this case oppidum hobbitorum (town of hobbits), that doesn’t exactly work in my opinion. Hobbiton will remain declined. The same goes for the Sackville Bagginses: Bursoni Villa Sacci (Bagginses from a village of a sack) doesn’t really work. Sometimes being literal about things does work (although my translation of colloquialisms in chapter one will doubtless have to improve). Although the spelling for Sackvillus could be Latinized (Sacvilla might be better). Bursoni Sacvilla (Bagginses from Sackville).

As for putting the Ring Poem in hexameter, I don’t think that would work, fun and hate filled though it would be. For one thing, the meter in English is very inconsistent. Although most of the lines have eleven syllables in English, some of the lines have eight, nine or even thirteen! I don’t think Tolkien set out to create a strict metric formula with the poem. I agree with one comment that lines 2 and 4 are rather unwieldy… I will try to make the poem flow a bit better though while not remaining in any consistent meter.

My translation updates will be sporadic, since I have my university studies to attend to, so hang in there. I’ll likely try to update on weekends. 


  1. Sackville might refer to the type of strong wine called sack, rather than a bag.

  2. Really very relevant artical with the topic it is good work.

  3. I like the idea of using Eldar, but Eldar is already in its plural form. Elda is the singular. So if we were to attemp to create a Latin word for it, wouldn't that make the noun a first declension feminine noun?


      This is where I got the info from :)

  4. If I were doing this translation, I would borrow vocabulary from Hobbitus Ille (Mark Walker trans.). Why re-invent the wheel?