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Middle Earth in Dutch
The first time I read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit was in the Dutch translation by Max Schuchart. I still have the books.

 photo LOTR cover Dutch_zps69oo7vqn.jpg  photo Hobbbit Cover Dutch_zpsnhhdgor2.jpg
© Het Spectrum 1956                                           © Het Spectrum 1960

The cover of "In de ban van de ring" shows Frodo, doing his disappearing act at Bree. The image above has always puzzled me. Is it Merry or Pippin being carried off to Isengard with Gimli and Legolas in pursuit? Or is it Frodo followed by Sam (carrying Sting) with his "great elf warrior"-persona hovering above him?

The illustration on the cover of De Hobbit is more straight-forward. It shows Bilbo running off after the dwarves, leaving a very hobbity meal behind. The subtitle reads (in translation): "How Bilbo Baggins, against his will, gets involved in a fabulous adventure and acquires the magic Ring".

More interesting than the covers are the maps inside the books. One reason why Middle Earth seems so real is that Tolkien invented such evocative names for his countries, mountains, rivers, lakes, forests and dwelling places. So, translators all over the world must have struggled to get it right.

The Dutch translation was the first one to appear and, unfortunately, Tolkien had some very strong objections to it. He wrote:
"In principle I object as strongly as is possible to the "translation" of the nomenclature at all (even by a competent person). I wonder why a translator should think himself called on or entitled to do any such thing. That this is an "imaginary" world does not give him any right to remodel it according to his fancy, even if he could in a few months create a new coherent structure which it took me years to work out. [...] May I say at once that I will not tolerate any similar tinkering with the personal nomenclature. Nor with the name/word Hobbit (3 July 1956, to Rayner Unwin, Letters, pp. 249-51)"

In spite of Tolkien's injunction, "similar tinkering" occurred in all other translations. (translated names).

So, what does a native Dutch speaker (me) think about Max Schuchart's translation of the names of characters and places?
I largely agree with this comment (from wikipedia: Translations of The Lord of the Rings):
"However, if one reads the Dutch version, little has changed except the names of certain characters. This to ensure that no reading difficulties emerge for Dutchmen who don't speak English"

With regard to the names of characters: Balings, Stapper, Brandebok, Toek, Gewissies, Boterbast and Boombaard convey the essence of the characters much better to a non-English speaking Dutchman than their English originals would have done. The same is true for many of the place names.

I love maps, so I've added some to this post with my comments on translation.

The Shire
What I like about this map is that they printed the names of the four farthings the right way up instead of tilted/upside down as in the English version.

Most place names have been translated in this map, which makes sense because they were in English, rather than one of the Elvish languages. In general, the translations work very well for me. They have the same rural flavor in Dutch as they have in English.
Many names are just literal translations from the English original ("Overheuvel", "Tookburg", "Wegemoet", "Distelbeek", "Stokbeek", "Brandewijn", "Wilgewinde", "Naaldhol" and others).
There are some really inspired choices, such as  "Grotedelft" for Michel Delving, "Brockenschacht" for Brockenborings, "Ringel-eiland" for Girdley Island, "Dieprading" for Deephollow, "Bosrode" for Woodhall and "Geenhuyzen" (= "no houses" in archaic Dutch) for Nobottle.
Some translations needed a bit of research before I understood the translator's thought process. At first, I couldn't see why Frogmorton had to become "Puitenlee" until I found out that "puit" is an archaic Dutch word for frog.
But I still don't understand why Pincup became "Vinkop" (not that the English name Pincup created any visual image in my mind, either).

800 photo De Gouw 800_zpscrq7osqi.jpg
© Het Spectrum 1956

The other maps in this post are cut-outs from a large map of the whole of Middle Earth that occurs as a 30x30 cm fold-out sheet at the inside of the front of my book. In this map, the translator has deviated less from Tolkien's original than in the Shire map.

Translating Harlond into "Harland" seems wrong to me. Harlond is not of English origin but a Sindarin word for Southhaven (tolkiengateway). The quays and docks for river traffic from the south to Minas Tirith have the same name. This is not a typo because Forlond (just outside my cut of the map) was also translated into "Forland".

I'm puzzled by the translation of Chetwood (near Bree) into "Kijtbos". In the text, Kijtbos is used only once; later on it is referred to as "Boogbos". According to tolkiengateway, the element chet (also found in Archet) is of Celtic origin and means "wood". So, "Boogbos" (English translation = Bow-wood) isn't quite right either.

I loved the translation of Hoarwell into "Grauwel". It's a perfect name for a river having its source in the gray, cold north of the Misty Mountains.

 photo Eriador 800_zpsfvmrk1ht.jpg
© Het Spectrum 1956

Gondor, Rohan, Mordor
This map contains a very funny error. The rapids of Sarn Gebir are given as "SAM GEBIR". The translator must have had dear Sam uppermost in his mind. But the error is understandable; it is easy to misread sarn for sam in small print.
All other names are either untranslated or straight-from-the-dictionary translations of English words.

 photo Gondor Rohan Mordor 800_zpskkzlcspv.jpg
© Het Spectrum 1956

Again, most names are either untranslated or standard translations of English words.
I love the choice of "Demsterwold" for Mirkwood. "Demster" is not an existing Dutch word but we have "deemster", meaning darkness or gloom.

 photo Anduin 800_zps1fvhij5b.jpg
© Het Spectrum 1956

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This is fascinating. As an American, I never thought about how the translated versions of Tolkien would have changed names of people and places.

The artwork on your covers is very interesting. I can't decide which of your ideas of what is happening I believe. I could be either! :))

I'm glad translators all over the world chose to translate the English names of people and places because you would miss so much if it was all in a language you didn't understand.

I hadn't thought about the specific challenges of translating names and place names in a fictional world, but this is very interesting and it's fun to see the different maps.

No idea what that top pic is supposed to represent. I think you made two good guesses.

Thanks for sharing.

You're welcome, Celebrian. I'm glad you liked the post. I had a lot of fun making it. :-)

That was fascinating to read and what a HUGE amount of work on your part. Wow!

Good to hear you found it interesting, Yeux. You're right, it was a lot of work, especially cleaning up the maps from very murky photographs. I wanted to post thumbnails here, with a link to my HD pictures but I couldn't figure out how to do that from my photobucket account. Still got to learn a lot.

I wanted to post thumbnails here, with a link to my HD pictures but I couldn't figure out how to do that from my photobucket account. Still got to learn a lot.

I thought I explained to you a while ago about how to do thumbnails at Photobucket. If you don't remember, I'll explain again. It's VERY easy to do.

"I thought I explained to you a while ago about how to do thumbnails at Photobucket"

You did explain it to me. This is what you wrote: "Do you use Photobucket? It's easy to do thumbnails there...just copy the thumbnail code when you post a photo."

The problem is that there is no "thumbnail code" on my Photobucket page. The options I can see are: Email & IM, Direct, HTML and IMG. Perhaps I'm overlooking something quite obvious.

That's strange. Here is a page from my Photobucket.


You'll notice under each photo there is a code:

Email & IM
HTML thumb
IMG thumb

~ HTML is the code to copy for LJ if you want a full-size picture.
~ HTML thumb is the code to copy for that same picture as a clickable thumbnail of the picture.

If your Photobucket doesn't have the necessary code, then I have no idea how you could make a thumbnail.

"You'll notice under each photo there is a code:"

For me, the codes appear to the right of the picture, not under it. HTML thumb and IMG thumb are not among the options.
Here is what I see when I click on one of your pictures, so there must be something wrong with my photobucket account:
 photo test thumbnail1_zpsiul7o7ig.jpg
 photo test thumbnail2_zpspldaawz4.jpg

Ahh! Thanks so much for the screen grab. It's helpful to see exactly what your Photobucket looks like.

Something just occurred to me. I have a paid Photobucket account which offers unlimited storage. If your account is free, perhaps that is why you don't have as many features.

That is the only reason I can think of for the difference.

Edited at 2015-11-24 02:03 am (UTC)

I also have a paid account so that's not the reason.
I've decided to forget all about the thumbnails. In general, my pictures show up well enough on LJ. It was just with the maps in this post that the JPG-artifact (grey shade around the letters) became a slight problem.
Thanks a lot for your help, Yeux!

Gosh, if you have a paid account, I don't know why yours and mine should be so different. I wonder if it could be because you're in Europe although I don't see why that would make a difference. Maybe it's like YouTube. I know a lot American videos don't work outside the US and vice versa.

Fascinating. To me the picture looks like the orcs carrying Frodo away.

Thanks, Linda.
Yes, my bet is also on the Cirith Ungol scene.

what a wonderful post! full of beauty and thoughtfulness, as ever!

Re the book cover: that is definitely Frodo being carried off by orcs, with Sam in pursuit:


Several years ago, on the urging of "Tolkien LOVED Cor Blok", I bought the Blok "official Tolkien calendar" for myself and a friend. We had a laugh every month captioning that month's offering. But.....in the intervening years, I've developed a certain respect and liking for Blok. No, he isn't beautiful like Lee, or solidly .....ummm....medieval, like the Bros Hildebrandt. But he's clever. If it weren't for his (i feel) really unfortunate Gollum (looks like a duck much of the time, and a dog much of the rest!), I might love him. Look at this "Mirror-mere: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/224124518929823309/

Of course, when it comes to non traditional LOTR art, the piece I love best is the one I commissioned from Nan ("Rosie") Gagnon, "Across So Wide A Sea" (not to mention its companion, "Harvest"). I can't look at it without the vista of ME opening before me. Here it is, on Mechtild's LJ: http://mechtild.livejournal.com/56480.html

The maps are wonderful, and thank you for posting them. I wonder if you might find answers to your questions re the translations by writing to Dr. Lynn Forest Hill of the Tolkien Society She is quite a scholar and might either have answers ready or at least a direction to point you to. She has just finished a translation of Bevis, so she certainly has linguistic credentials! link to info re her book: https://bevisofhampton.wordpress.com/

(she is also the author of many a thoughtful LOTR essay, and the editor of "The Mirror Crack'd" )

Edited at 2015-11-14 04:34 pm (UTC)

I'm glad you liked the post, Jan.
I had forgotten all about Cor Blok's LOTR illustrations. I remember seeing some of them a long time ago but I never had the calendar. As you say, his Gollum is unfortunate but the Mirror-mere illustration is wonderful.
The "Across So Wide A Sea panels are beautiful. I loved that glimpse of Middle Earth behind the cloud and the image of the two reunited hobbits quietly smoking a pipe. Frodo looks remarkably familiar.
I suspect the key to Tolkien’s angry comment about the Dutch translation lies in this sentence: “even if he could in a few months create a new coherent structure which it took me years to work out”. Of course, Tolkien would feel protective about the world that took him so much time and effort to create but I feel he may have underestimated how much of the magic of that world would have been lost to a non-English speaker if the nomenclature had remained entirely un-translated.
Thank you for the link to Dr. Lynn Forest Hill’s work. I should try to contact her.

I wrote to Lynn this afternoon and linked her to the post. I'm sure she'll reply, but just what she'll say there's no way to know.

I quite agree with the your analysis. I would feel the same way the Prof. did. But you certainly would think (being the person of language he was, the word-smith and master of it) that he'd realize the impact of non-translation. At the end of the day, he may have felt that the words he used were words enough.

There are so many things I'd like to write 'to'. And now, beyond all imagining, Cor Blok is one of those things. Who knew? Certainly not jan!

(loved the post!)

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