|The Hobbit in Czech and Slovak: A Comparison
Some Notes and Observations on the Translation of Names of Places and Characters
|A Note on Illustrations|
The Slovak translation of The Hobbit was the first of Tolkien's works translated in the former Czechoslovakia. It was published in 1973 by a publisher of children's literature, in second edition again in 1994. Until today it remains the only existing Slovak translation of a Tolkien's work. (1)
The first Czech translation of The Hobbit was published in 1978 and in 2nd edition again in 1991.
Translation of proper names is not an easy task, and both translators had clearly approached it quite differently. While the Czech tried to naturalize as many names as possible, the Slovak decided to keep many foreign elements (probably to retain the atmosphere of an adventure in a fantastic and fictitious land).
i) Some names were left in their original form in both translations. These include names of the dwarves (with the exception of Dwalin in Czech), elf-names (Elrond, Gondolin, Orcrist, Glamdring, Girion, Galion, Bladorthin, Moria), and a few others (Gandalf, Bilbo, Azog, Radagast and elf). Names that are 100% identical in original and in both translations are not listed in the tables below.
In some instances, the Czech translator replaced foreign-sounding consonants with their equivalents in the given language, thus w>v, th>t, c>k, ll>l, bb>b in Dwalin, Dorwinion; Esgaroth, (but not in Thor, Thrain and Thorin); Orcrist, Roac; Belladona; hobbit. The Slovak translation uses such names in their original English form more often; changing only c>k in Orcrist, Roac.
ii) Several names are translated in Czech while used in their original form (or changed only slightly) in the Slovak translation. Beorn, Rivendell, Carc, Smaug, Mount Gram, William as well as goblin, orc, troll, Warg belong to this group.
In Slovak, the change c>k had been done in Carc, orc. In Mount Gram the first element only was translated, and to Rivendell another element was added, repeating semantically the word dell.
As far as I can tell, the Czech translations sound well and keep the meaning of the original, especially the proper names. It is probably a matter of personal preference, but I think that with these names it would be the best to translate the proper names and use the race-names in their original form.
iii) Proper names which were formed by capitalization of common names, plus a few others were translated in both languages, and in fact quite similarly. They include Dale, the Hill, the Water, the Mountain, the Wild, Misty Mountains, River Running, Carrock, Mirkwood, Necromancer.
iv) The remaining names are translated in both languages, but vary quite considerably in their meaning. As a rule, the Czech translation is closer to the original meaning, and is usually better -- sounding both more naturally and poetically. On the other hand, the Slovak translation in many cases failed to convey the meaning intended by the original, and sounds quite unnatural. In a few instances, the meaning is clearly beside the point: Thorin z Dubnej means T. of Oakland while T.Paveza means exactly the same as T. Oakenshield. The same with Lazy which in no way means Bag-End or anything similar, quite unlike Dno Pytle, which comes very close to it. Translations of Bullroarer and Baggins, Took, Sackville-Bagginses, Grubb, Grubb and Burrowes (i.e. hobbit-surnames) also belong to this category. Glgun, Slovak translation of Gollum, while not completely wrong, is I think not as fitting as Czech Glum, which is onomatopoeic, resembles the original and does not feel as an disturbing element in a Czech text.
Slovak translation of compound names such as Arkenstone and Hobbiton is not bad, but the Czech rendering is still better.
On the whole, I think that the job of translating the names in The Hobbit, albeit a challenging one, had been done poorly in the Slovak translation. This becomes even more poignant when compared to the Czech translation and cannot be explained solely by the fact that it is 25 years old. The Czech translation was published only 5 years later, and the qualitative difference is quite amazing. It is also worth noting that the Slovak translation, as bad as it is, was published in 2nd edition in 1994 *without* any changes. It can be said that the Slovak translation is at places too faithful to the original when a rendering of a name would be more fitting, and on the other hand not faithful enough to the meaning of a name in original when translating it. In making changes it is not consistent. As a result, the names stand out in the text as disturbing elements, the text is not homogeneous enough and does not read well. Perhaps it is time to make another translation of this great classic...
Pytlikove ze Sackova
Roak, syn Krakuv
Zrout, Zrac a Hrabal
Glamdring, Kladivo na nepriatelov
Orkrist, Sekac na skriatkov
Roak, syn Karkov
Thorin z Dubnej
Cervenovci a Kralikovci
Orcrist, the Goblin-cleaver
Roac Carc's son
Grubb, Grubb and Burrowes
|elf / -ove
zlobr, skalny obri
|elf / -ovia
|elf / elves (3)
goblin, orc (4)
(2) Note that only one of the dwarves' names had been amended (w replaced by v), and that only in the Czech translation.
(3) Perhaps it is not too far fetched to state that it was Tolkien who enriched the vocabulary of the Czech and Slovak with the word elf/ove/ovia.
(4)) To my knowledge, skret/i widely accepted also by Slovak fans as a translation of orc/s. A considerable percentage (just an educated guess here) preferrs ork/ovia, but skriat/ok/-kovia is not used because its reference which is too vague (it may refer to orcs and goblins as well as elves and other fictional beings).
|A Note on Illustrations|
It is probably worth noting, that until recently, translations of The Hobbit into both Czech and Slovak did *not* contain original illustrations by the author.
Thus, the 1973 Slovak translation was illustrated by Nada Rappensberger and had not a single map or rune in it, while the second edition contains no illustrations at all (again, no maps), and has Bilbo Comes to the Huts of the Raft-elves by JRR Tolkien on the cover.
The Czech translation from 1978 (and also its 2nd edition from 1991) has illustrations by Jiri Salamoun. Finally, the last edition available to-date has the illustrations that belong there, namely those by Prof. Tolkien himself.
You can view some of the illustrations mentioned above and evaluate them yourselves:
An Unexpected Party
by Nada Rappensberger
by Jiri Salamoun