35

When reading LOTR in my native language (Bulgarian) I noticed that the Hobbit names were translated too. For example Baggins was translated by taking the root of the name - bag - and using the corresponding Bulgarian word. Same applies for other names and/or nicknames like Strider or even Gollum.

My questions are:

  1. Is this also done in translations in other languages?
  2. If yes - is this something that Tolkien authorized/requested or it is just a decision of the local translator?
  • 3
    In French, "Bilbo Baggins" is "Bilbon Sacquet" or "Bilbo Bessac" and "Frodo" is "Frodon". "bag" is translated in "sac" or "besace". – Yohann V. Jun 2 '15 at 13:27
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    After the very first translation - a translation into Swedish, I believe, which Tolkien absolutely hated - he actually wrote a guide for translators of the book. Can't remember the name offhand. – Matt Gutting Jun 2 '15 at 13:45
  • 1
    In French (II), where name was english word 'Thorin Oakenshiled' a translation was provide : 'Thorin Ecudechène', whereas elvish and orc name were not e.g. Legolas, Thranduil, Azog. – Archemar Jun 2 '15 at 14:25
  • 3
    @Thomas: I think family names particularly tend to be translated in past settings, maybe to convey that names in those times still have actual, comprehensible meanings, that they are not just the abstract identifiers we per eive them as today. The same has been done, for instance, in Game of Thrones. – O. R. Mapper Jun 2 '15 at 15:23
  • 2
    @Bakuriu - this is not true. Tolkien explicitly documented what to translate and what not. See the accepted answer for the document describing this. – vap78 Jun 8 '15 at 10:26
30

Yes to both your questions.

From Wikipedia:

The Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings is a guideline on the nomenclature in The Lord of the Rings compiled by J. R. R. Tolkien in 1966 to 1967, intended for the benefit of translators, especially for translations into Germanic languages. The first translations to profit from the guideline were those into Danish (Ida Nyrop Ludvigsen) and German (Margaret Carroux), both appearing 1972.

...

Photocopies of this "commentary" were sent to translators of The Lord of the Rings by Allen & Unwin from 1967. After Tolkien's death, it was published as Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings, edited by Christopher Tolkien in A Tolkien Compass (1975). Hammond and Scull (2005) have newly transcribed and slightly edited Tolkien's typescript, and re-published it under the title of Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings in their book The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion.

...

The Danish (Ludvigsen) and German (Carroux) translations were the only ones profiting from Tolkien's "commentary" to be published before Tolkien's death in 1973. Since then, throughout the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, new translations into numerous languages have continued to appear.

I can tell you about the Italian translation, a lot of names were changed.

Especially hobbits' family names.

  • Actually this is the correct answer. You could just update the answer with a link to "The Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings" and provide some extracts from there. The document appears from simple search on the net and it contains exact instructions what to translate and what not. – vap78 Jun 8 '15 at 10:24
33

In fact, according to the appendices in The Lord of the Rings, several of the names in the English version of The Lord of the Rings are transliterations from Westron (the common speech of Middle-earth).

For example, the true names of the four Hobbits in the Fellowship are (as stated in The History of Middle-earth, Volume XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth, "The Appendix on Languages"):

  • Maura Labingi -> Frodo Baggins
  • Banazîr Galbasi -> Samwise Gamgee
  • Kalimac Brandagamba -> Meriadoc Brandybuck
  • Razanur Tûk -> Peregrin Took
  • 5
    @MattGutting - See Christopher Tolkien's: The History of Middle-earth, Volume XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth, "The Appendix on Languages". – RobertF Jun 2 '15 at 18:36
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    While this is interesting, the original question seems to be about real-world translation of the names, not in-universe translation. – user33616 Jun 3 '15 at 13:52
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    @cde The original question isn't asking about Hobbit names being translated within the mythology, but about how Hobbit names are treated when LOTR is translated into other real-world languages (e.g. the Hobbits' names are altered when the books are translated into Bulgarian). The idea that 'Frodo Baggins' is an English translation from the Westron name 'Maura Labingi' is altogether fictional, and is not what the original question is asking about. – user33616 Jun 3 '15 at 15:38
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    @MarkEdward - I added this response because I found it interesting and relevant that the Hobbit names themselves are translations from a fictional language created by Tolkien. – RobertF Jun 3 '15 at 16:47
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    It's relevant in the sense that stuff which Tolkien translated to English (from his fictional language) should ideally be translated from the original to the new language, but other words (like some in one of his fictional languages) should stay unchanged. Pretty sure that's what's his guide on translating says too. – Nobody Jun 3 '15 at 22:23
9

Yes, some Hobbit names are translated in foreign language editions of "The Lord of the Rings".

The (deservedly) highly regarded Spanish translation by publisher Minotauro does some strange things with Hobbit names. Some are translated, like Samsagaz Gamyi ("sagaz" = "wise", "Gamyi" is a Spanish phonetic spelling of Gamgee) or Frodo Bolsón (a loose translation of "Baggins"), but others such as Merry or Pippin are not. Likewise, some place names get (half-)translated, such as Oesternesse for Westernesse ("Oeste" = "West" in Spanish).

These oddities aside, the translation is awesome.

  • 1
    That's interesting. I'm bilingual but I haven't read much actual literature in Spanish. Maybe I should look this translation up. I will say, though, that as odd as "Samsagaz" sounds, leaving the English spelling would make for very awkward Spanish pronunciation, because the E on the end is not silent. Merry's and Pippin's names don't have the same problem. – Mason Wheeler Jun 2 '15 at 18:06
  • @MasonWheeler Agreed. But even with that consideration, some names are left untranslated (and "un-phonetized") which are difficult for us Spanish speakers to pronounce, such as "Theoden" or "Rohirrim", where others are changed, such as "Tuk" for "Took" (as in "Peregrin Tuk"). – Andres F. Jun 2 '15 at 18:12
  • @MasonWheeler I cannot find a reference now, but word goes that the Spanish translator from Minotauro wasn't fond of LotR or even fantasy literature in general... she thought it was silly. And she still managed to write one of the most beloved translations of the Spanish-speaking world :) – Andres F. Jun 2 '15 at 18:17
  • 1
    Other examples I can remember:Strider is translated as Trancos ("huge steps") and Thorin Oakenshield is Thorin Escudo-de-Roble (direct translation here) – Pablo Lozano Jun 3 '15 at 16:08
  • @Pablo Yup. I focused mostly on Hobbit names, but yes. And "Bárbol" for Treebeard :) – Andres F. Jun 3 '15 at 19:02
5

Sometimes they are... sometimes they aren't... and sometimes it's inconsistent between translations. That was so screwed up in the multiple Russian translations, that Russian Tolkien fans have tons of jokes on the topic, e.g.

Собрались как-то на поляне орк, тролль и Горлум. Спрашивают орка: - Ты, мол, кто такой ? - Хоббит, дык - отвечает. Спрашивают тролля: - А ты кто ? - Тоже хоббит... Спрашивают Горлума: - И ты хоббит ? - Да-сс, хоббитсс... - Так чего ж это мы такие разные-то ? - А из разных переводов...

One time, an Orc, a Troll, and Gollum met in a dale. The other two are asking the Orc: who are you? He goes "I'm a hobbit". They ask the Troll, who he is. "I'm a hobbit". The ask Gollum the same. "Hobbitses". "So...why are we all so different?" - "Because we are from different translations".

Or, more ontopic to Bilbo's name (bonus points if you get the Tolkien point of the joke):

Остановились раз четверо хоббитов на границе двух переводов. Один и говорит спутникам: - Запомните, я теперь никакой не Торбинс. Спросят - так Бэггинс.

Once, four hobbits stopped at the border of two translations. One says to the others: " Remember, from now on I'm not a Torbins anymore! If anyone asks, I'm a Baggins!" (Note: "Torbins" is a pretty close idiomatic translation of "Baggins", from old Russian "Torba"=="Bag")

  • Torbins ... Baggins ... Underhill? – Rand al'Thor Jun 3 '15 at 23:20
  • Eeeek 8-/ Torba is bag also in Polish - my poor eyes! – Mithoron Jun 3 '15 at 23:59
4

I will just shortly add a note for Czech. As for the first question, I think this is more or less the same situation as in Your case. The translator used his "common sense" - some names are just slightly modified to better fit Czech pronunciation (Gollum -> Glum, Hobbit -> Hobit and so on). Surnames are commonly translated (Baggins -> Pytlík - "pytlík" is a little bag). Note exhaustive list is in dictionary. As for the second question, I don't know, but if I can compare with situation in Pratchett's books, the translator said he discussed those issues with the author, but as the author didn't speak Czech, he had to finally trust the translator...

  • J. R. R. and Christopher Tolkien were both experienced linguists, though! While they certainly wouldn't know every language that their books were translated to, they'd be likely to have much more of an opinion on translations than Pratchett would. – duskwuff Jun 2 '15 at 21:04
  • 1
    I believe, Tolkien actually corresponded with Ms. Carroux, the author of the original German translation. He was particularly fond of the fact that she was able to find a word for elves (Elb/Elben) that is distinct from the word Elfe/Elfen. – Jörg W Mittag Jun 2 '15 at 22:23
  • The extent of the localization is mostly similar to German. Meaningful English names are translated, some others are slightly changed to better fit Czech language. There's a marked difference between the translations of the Hobbit and the rest of the translated works (different audience, translators and time). Interesting case are orcs: just as "orc" was translated to "skřet", so "uruk-hai" was translated to "skurut-hai". Even Haldir's company utterance of "yrch" was rendered as "skiriti", to the chagrin of Tolklang audience. In the Hobbit, orc was "goblin" or "šotouš" (whatever that is). – Edheldil Jun 3 '15 at 7:55
3

In Portuguese (Brazil) there are lots of things that are left untranslated and those who are actually keep their meaning, here are some of those

Baggins = Bolseiro
Rivendell = Valfenda
Thorin Oakenshield = Thorin Escudo(shield) de Carvalho(oak)
Daín Ironfoot = Daín Pé(foot)-de-ferro(iron)
Treebeard = Barbárvore - this is an interesting one, because they just stick the words "barba" (beard) and "árvore" (tree) togheter.
Sting = Ferroada
Shire = Condado (county)
Bag-end = Bolsão (big bag)

Names as Minas Tirith, Barad-dûr and such aren't translated.

  • 1
    A few more: Took -> Tûk, Brandbuck -> Brandebuque, Gamgee -> Gamgi. Special mention to Tûk which is actually the original Westron name, my guess is that they could not come up with a better translation. Before the prologue to the brazilian books I believe there is a translators note explaining the translations. – Hoffmann Jun 3 '15 at 17:11
  • Just remembered those: Legolas Greenleaf = Legolas Folha(leaf)-Verde(green) and Witchking of Angmar = Rei(king) bruxo(witch) de Angmar. I'll check as soon as I get home about that translator's note, but I'm not sure there is one, at least on my copies. – Lucas Hoffmann Jun 3 '15 at 17:44
3

In German not only the names are translated, but also the areas and other names.

Unchanged are all which also sound strange in English: Gandalf, Sauron, Aragorn, Isildur, Arwen, Boromir, Faramir, Elrond, Gollum & Smeagol, Galadriel, Saruman, Mordor, Gondor, Rohan, Rhun, Harad, Lorien, Fangorn, Moria, Barad-Dur, Uruk-hai, Nazgul.

Bilbo and Frodo Beutlin ("Bag" = "Beutel").
Samweis "Sam" Gamdschie
Rosie Hüttinger
Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybock ("Brandy-bock"(buck)
Peregin "Pippin" Tuk
Gimli, Gloins Sohn (son of Gloin)
Legolas Grünblatt (green leaf)

Grima Schlangenzunge (snake tongue)

Mirkwood = Düsterwald
Weathertop = Wetterspitze
Shire = Auenland ("meadow land")
Misty Mountains = Nebelgebirge
Grey Havens= Graue Anfurten ...

Sting = Stich
Orcrist = Orkspalter
Glamdring = Feindhammer

Orcs = Orks
Trolls = Trolle
Shelob = Kankra (no idea why)

The problem we have with German is that many creatures have names, but are quite distinct in mythology and folklore. Elf, Elb and Alb are all the same names for fairy creatures in German which are quite unlike Tolkien's elves. Dwarves, well, they are a bit like Tolkien's counterparts, but they could also use magic in folklore. Given that, the German translator simply used Bilwiß (a kind of demon) as translation for goblin.

As bonus here "the" standard green Klett-Cotta German edition with the Carroux translation. It is one of the most used and oldest versions, unfortunately it misses all appendices except Aragorns death. German Tolkien edition

Addendum: The Hobbit has several translations (mostly because it is thought as a children's book, e.g. from Wolfgang Krege and Juliane Hehn-Kynast). The version I read was published in 1974 from dtv junior (it has a dragon with blue butterfly wings...yeah, you read that right), so it is very possible that the translation was a bit mangled.

  • Which translations did you take these names from? I seem to remember reading Orcrist and Glamdring in my Carroux translations, but it's been a time. – Raphael Jun 3 '15 at 10:22

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