This page is the result of a questionnaire that I sent out to translators of Terry’s books in about 2000. Translating Terry’s books into other languages poses considerable difficulties for the translators who have to cope with different cultural traditions, as well as working out equivalent puns to those in English – one translator even joking said he thought Terry didn’t like translators because he made their job so difficult. Here is a list of those titles that have been changed in translation with literal English translations of the ‘original’ foreign translations. As you will see, some are completely unrecognisable, but intriguing. In particular, I’m grateful to Roord Gruut (who translates under the pen name ‘Venugopalan Ittekot’) for providing glosses on the Dutch titles, which explain the reasons for the changes made. I had hoped this would be published in one of the Convention programmes, but evidently it was only of limited interest. Anyway, here it is, with the answers I got from translators to my questionnaire. Colin Smythe
The Dutch explanations are © Ruurd Groot
1. The Colour of Magic
Croatian: With a translator’s note and guide, pp. 231-234, as to how names were translated from English to Croatian.
Danish: WHEN THE MAGIC BECOMES TOO MUDDLED
Dutch: A literal translation. ‘Toverij’ is distantly related to the German noun ‘Zauberei’, but less heavy-handed and often used in the expression ‘het lijkt wel toverij’ = ‘it seems like magic, doesn’t it?’. In particular it can have the value of supernatural white/black magic, but it never means just conjuring, except figuratively. The Dutch word ‘magie’ is inappropriate, as it is only used for special exotic cases like voodoo or the Indian rope trick, or for certain ancient (classical or medieval) formal traditions. See also 5.
French: THE EIGHTH COLOUR
German 1st: THE COLOURS OF FANTASY
2nd: THE COLOURS OF MAGIC
Japanese: THE TUMULT IN THE DISCWORLD
2. The Light Fantastic
Croatian: 1. Fantasti¹no Svjetlo, trs. Sanja Pavličević, in Futura Znanstvena Fantastika, Bakal,
Dutch: That Fantastic Light and That Miraculous Light. Also quite literal. The use of ‘dat’ (as English ‘that’) for ‘de’ (same as ‘the’) before ‘wonderbare’ (something like ‘awe inspiring’, not like the German ‘wunderbar’ at all, but more like miraculous) entails some ironic echo from the days that Dutch phrases were influenced by the Staten Bible (cf. my comments with title 19). One might think of similar Scottish (i.e. ‘Kirk’, in more ways than one nearly identical with the Dutch reformed ‘Kerk’) expressions.
Estonian: Fantastiline Valgus, THE FANTASTIC LIGHT
Finnish: Valon Tanssi, DANCE OF LIGHT
French: THE EIGHTH MAGIC
German: THE LIGHT OF FANTASY
Hebrew: FANTASTIC LIGHT or AMAZING LIGHT
Polish: The translator, Piotr W. Cholewa, wrote: ‘Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic were easy enough with literal translation (the poem by John Milton, that the title comes from, is not known here, or at least was not translated, so I went for the literal translation meaning something like Fantastic Light.
Russian: MAD STAR (there’s no equivalent in Russian of the original phrase, as until the 1990s they had no musicals)
3. Equal Rites
Brazilian: SAME RIGHTS SAME RITUALS
Bulgarian: EMANCIPATED MAGIC
Dutch: Meidezeggenschap, Co-girlagement or Girl-say. A play on words in a similar vein as the English title. ‘Meid’ (related to English ‘maiden’) is actually a rather rude form of ‘Meisje’ (‘girl’, in fact the diminutive of ‘meid’), but often used in jest. The basic and much more fashionable term ‘medezeggenschap’ (without the extra ‘i’) is rather a political fad word for ‘participation in management’ or ‘co-partnership’ etc.
Estonian: Võluv Võrdsus, CHARMING EQUALITY
Finnish: Johan riitti! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
French: THE EIGHTH DAUGHTER
German: THE LEGACY OF THE MAGICIAN or THE WIZARD’S HEIR
Hebrew: WITCHCRAFT RITUALS (or RITES)
Japanese: WIZARD ESKULINA or ESCALINA, THE GURU IN MAGIC
Polish: Equal Rites was slightly more difficult. In Polish ‘equal rights’ policy is called ‘równouprawnienie’ (meaning something like ‘giving equal rights’ so I translated the title as ‘równoumagicznienie’ which again can be translated back to English as – extremely long – Equimagicalization, i.e. giving equal access to magic.
Russian: THE CREATORS OF SPELLS. Rather awkward, but it was impossible to make the same play of words.
Serbian/Yugoslav: Jednakost Rituala, Laguna/ReVision THE EQUALITY OF RITUALS [like Equality of Sexes]
Swedish: THE SORCERER’S WAND
Dutch: Dunne Hein, Thin Henry or Slim Reaper. The traditional name for Death in Dutch is ‘Magere Hein’, something like ‘Skinny Henry’. This title is just a variant form, like ‘Thin Henry’. In the book the boy Mort is called Hein.
German: GODFATHER DEATH
Hebrew: THE TRUMPET CALL OF DEATH (The title name in Hebrew is an expression which means The Trumpet Call of Death. The word in Hebrew for ‘Trumpet Call’ also means ‘cheers’, So the Hebrew expression can also be translated as ‘Death’s Cheer’, or something like that….
Italian: MORT THE APPRENTICE
Japanese: THE HOUSE OF THE DEATH GOD
Russian: MORT, THE DISCIPLE OF DEATH
Dutch: Betoverkind, Sourcery Child or Great-great-greatchild. For the verb ‘toveren’ (‘doing magic’, see also 1. on the noun ‘toverij’) often the form ‘betoveren’ (more like ‘changing by magic’) is used. Accordingly, the special Discworld noun ‘sourcery’ is mapped to a Dutch neologism ‘betoverij’, and ‘sourcerer’ to ‘betovernaar’ (in stead of ‘tovenaar’ = ‘sorcerer’, ‘wizard’). However, in this particular book a key phrase about the key character goes like ‘a source of magic’, and the pun on source is doomed to be lost in translation. This key character is just a child, ‘kind’ in Dutch. When read with the emphasis on the second syllable the Dutch title means something like ‘sourcery child’ — of course without any suggestion of ‘source’, which would be ‘bron’ in Dutch.
However, this child is the eighth son of the eighth son of the eighth son of its great-grandfather, making it the great-grandchild thereof, albeit a very special one (‘a wizard squared’). A great-grandfather we call an ‘overgrootvader’ (something like ‘overgrandfather’); such a relative once removed (an extra ‘great’ prefix in English) we call a ‘betovergrootvader’ in Dutch — but now the emphasis in ‘betover’ lies on the first syllable (‘bet’ being an ancient form of ‘good’, cf. the English ‘better’ — well, as you can see the Dutch language is nearly as complex as the English).
The pun is not as obvious as it may seem; to complicate matters, in Dutch a grandchild is called a ‘kleinkind’ (a ‘smallchild’), a great-grandchild an ‘achterkleinkind’ (a ‘rear-smallchild’), and a great-great-grandchild a ‘achterachterkleinkind’ (yes, a ‘rear-rear-smallchild’).
Estonian: Ürgsorts, PRIMEVAL SOURCERY
Finnish: BORN SORCERER
German: THE MAGIC HAT
Hebrew: MAGICAL DEEDS or ACTS OF MAGIC
Hungarian: CHARMING TROUBLES or WIZARD TROUBLES (Bübájos has two meanings in Hungarian: 1) as an adjective = charming, bewitching, enchanting and 2) as a noun = wizard, mage who casts spells)
Italian: THE ART OF MAGIC
Polish: Sourcery is a puzzle, of course. In the end I decided on Czarodzicielstwo, which suggests that sourcerer (czarodziciel) in Polish is not a ‘source’ of magic, but rather a ‘parent’ of magic. ‘czaro-’ means something connected with magic sorcery, spells, ‘rodzicielstwo’ means parenthood (slightly old-fashioned version of the word) PARENT OF MAGIC
Russian: THE HAT AND THE STAFF
Serbian/Yugoslav: 1udotvorac, THE SORCERER
Spanish: Rechicero, DOUBLE WIZARD [Hechicero is wizard and adding RE in front of a word doubles it, and here the translator has then contracted rehechicero]
Swedish: roughly BLACK MAGIC
6. Wyrd Sisters
Bulgarian: SISTERS IN THE ART
Dutch: De Plaagzusters, The Bully Sisters or The Vexing Nurses. There is a now obsolete Dutch word ‘pleegzuster’, meaning a (female, medical) nurse. People remember it because until recently there was a brand of ‘medicinal’ tonic with the quaint name ‘Pleegzuster Bloedwijn’ (‘Nurse Blood Wine’, believe it or not). As you may have guessed, the ‘zuster’ part just means ‘sister’; the ‘pleeg’ part carries the ‘nursing’ sense. Well, ‘sister’ is also a word for ‘head-nurse’… The word ‘plaag’ (related to Eng. ‘plague’) from the verb ‘plagen’ often means ‘vexing’. The ‘wyrd sisters’ from MacB— sorry, the Scottish play are certainly into that. However, combined with the ‘sister’ part (as the Germans, we are great in combining many words into a single one), it carries suggestions of a big sister bullying a younger brother etc.
Estonian: Õed Nõiduses, SISTERS IN SORCERY
Finnish: WITCH SISTERS
French, Japanese, Portuguese: THREE WITCHES
Hebrew: THE SISTERS OF FATE which is the term that was used for the three witches in [Hebrew translations of] Macbeth.)
Hungarian: WEIRD WITCHES or THUNDERSTORM HAGS
Italian: SISTERHOOD OF SORCERY
Polish: THREE WITCHES. ‘Trzy wiedzmy. I decided against ‘siostry’ (sisters) because in the most popular Polish translation of Macbeth those three are called wiedzmy (witches or hags). So, the quotation forced my hand.’
Russian: a quote from the Russian translation of Shakespeare
Serbian/Yugoslav: Sestre po metli, trs. Dejan Papi*, Laguna, SISTERS IN BROOMSTICKS [like Brothers in Arms]
Swedish: WITCHES’ TRICKS/ART/SKILLS
7. Pyramids (The Book of Going Forth)
Dutch: Pyramyds. Obviously a literal translation, but not quite. Officially the Dutch word should be spelled ‘Piramides’, but throughout the book (and in others of the series) the 1950’s form with a ‘y’ is used. The impression is not only a bit old-fashioned, but also somewhat hypercorrect, implying we are not talking about ‘any’ pyramids.
Italian: CURSED PYRAMIDS
Swedish: PYRAMID FEVER
8. Guards! Guards!
Dutch: Wacht! Wacht! Guard! Guard! or Wait! Wait! The collective ‘guard’, for a (para)military body burdened with guarding something/one, translates into ‘wacht’ (related to German ‘Wache’ and English ‘wake’). I chose the collective (instead of the plural noun ‘wachters’), because someone screaming ‘Wacht!’ is traditionally mistakenly understood as shouting ‘Wait!’, for this is spelled and pronounced identically in Dutch. It is my considered opinion that the real author, when writing in Dutch, never would have fumbled such an ‘open goal’ opportunity.
Finnish: Vartijat Hoi!, GUARDS AHOY!
French: ON THE LOOK-OUT! or ON THE WATCH!
Swedish: IN THE NAME OF THE LAW
Dutch: Only the spelling of ‘Eric’ has been changed into ‘Erik’, incidentally the first name of a famous (well, in the Netherlands) Dutch comic strip hero ‘Erik de Noorman’ (‘Eric the Viking’).
10. Moving Pictures
Dutch: Rollende Prenten, Rolling Prints or Moving Pictures. An old name for a motion picture in Dutch is ‘rolprent’, literally ‘rolling print’. Hence the title, an overexplained (like ‘moving’ is to ‘motion’) form of the plural.
French: Les Zinzins d’Olive-Oued,
German trade pbk: FULLY IN THE PICTURE or GET THE PICTURE
Hebrew: The title name in Hebrew is the old term that was used for movies. In that sense, it is the same as the title in English: a somewhat outdated, if not obsolete, term for movies . Literally it means SIGHT (or MIRROR) MOVING.
Spanish: IMAGES IN ACTION
11. Reaper Man
Dutch: Maaierstijd. Reapers Time or Mowjesty. The Repo Man cult film pun could never be saved in Dutch. If taken at face value, the Dutch title just means ‘reaper’s time’ or ‘reapers time’. However, the word we use to address or identify the monarch (‘Majesteit’) is pronounced almost exactly the same, while at the same time it is much more common (pun intended) than my unusual titleword.
French, Polish: THE REAPER
German: EVERYTHING SCYTHED
Russian: GRIM REAPER
Spanish: THE HARVESTER or THE REAPER
Swedish: DEATH LIES LOW/KEEPS A LOW PROFILE (idiomatic/slang)
12. Witches Abroad
Dutch: Heksen in de Lucht, Witches in the Air. In English it is possible to say that something is ‘in the air’ when one senses the presence or imminence of something. The very frequently used Dutch expression ‘in de lucht’ has exactly the same meaning. ‘Heksen’ of course means ‘witches’. In a previous translation (6. Wyrd Sisters = De Plaagzusters) I had prepared the ground for this serendipitous glossing over of the fact that the Dutch language lacks a proper word on which I could map the term ‘abroad’, with all its ramifications.
Finnish: Noitia Maisemissa, WITCHES ON THE HORIZON
French: MISCALCULATIONS OF FAIRIES
German: COMPLETELY BEWITCHED
Hebrew: the same as in English, but without the pun
Polish: WITCHES’ EXPEDITION = Wyprawa czarownic. This is something like Witches’ Expedition – Polish standard titles for such memoirs of journeys, travels and voyages suggest something like this
Serbian/Yugoslav: trs. Dejan Papi*, Laguna/ReVision in their Octarin series, ?2001
Spanish: Brujas de Viaje, trs. Cristina Macía, WITCHES ON A TRIP
Swedish: WITCHES AHEAD/WITCHES APPROACHING (idiomatic)
13. Small Gods
Dutch: Kleingoderij. Small Godbusiness or Small Idolatry. In the previous books I had translated the famous ‘Small Gods’ Eve’ into the single word ‘Kleingodenavond’, quite similar to many Dutch words for similar traditional occasions. The ‘Small Gods’ themselves I have often translated into ‘Kleingoden’, a single word too, not quite the same as ‘Kleine Goden’ — which would perhaps be more like ‘Little Gods’. In the same vein English ‘small trade’ is related to our ‘kleinhandel’, not ‘kleine handel’. The English word Idolatry, for the adoration of idols, is equivalent to the Dutch term ‘afgoderij’, where an ‘afgod’ is something like a ‘false god’. The formation of Dutch words with the suffix ‘-erij’ (cf. 1.) is obsolescent but certainly not extinct, and may convey suggestions of illicit mysteries and other delights.
German trade pbk: SIMPLY DIVINE
Japanese: INQUISITION OF HERETICS or HERETICAL INTERROGATION
14. Lords & Ladies
Dutch: Edele heren en dames, Noble Gentlemen & Ladies. The term Lord is very difficult to translate into our language. The Dutch abolished the political role of any remnants of nobility at the time of the Batavian Republic, ca 1895. In fact, the region where I live has no feudal history at all, lucky us. Anyway, the division nobles (or gentry) versus peasants does not ring any real bells any more in our minds. Like ‘lady’, used as the polite word for any woman (and which translates into Dutch ‘dame’), our word ‘heer’ just means ‘gentleman’ without any blue blood associations. The noble aspect has to be added in the form of the adjective ‘edel’, meaning ‘noble’, but this still only rather weakly adds the ‘peerage’ flavour.
French: Nobliaux et Sorcières, trs. Patrick Couton, L’Atalante, ??? AND WITCHES
Swedish: GENTLEFOLK AND WITCHES
15. Men at Arms
Dutch: Te Wapen, To Arms or Too Much Weapon. The ‘to arms’ part of the English expression ‘called to arms’ can be translated as ‘te wapen’, where our ‘wapen’ is obviously related to English ‘weapon’. But ‘te wapen’ might also be taken as ‘too much of a weapon’ as our ‘te’ stands for both ‘to’ and ‘too’.
French: THE LOOK-OUT OF THE GOLDSMITHS
German: pun on HALBERDS (German title is Helle Barden)
Swedish: A MAN ON DUTY or BEING ON ONE’S GUARD, KEEPING A LOOK OUT
16. Soul Music
Czech: Těžké Melodično, HEAVY MUSIC
Dutch: Zieltonen, Soul Tunes or Songs at Death’s Door. The title is a neologism of my own, which might be understood as either ‘Soul tunes’ or ‘Soul tones’, but also has a weird resemblance to the Dutch verb ‘zieltogen’ meaning ‘being at death’s door’ (yes, we can be terse if we want to).
German: ROLLING STONE
17. Interesting Times
Dutch: The title is identical, as it derives from the same mistranslation from the Chinese… (I didn’t translate this one — cf. next — but my working title was the same.)
French: THE TRIBULATIONS OF A WIZARD IN THE AURIENT [ORIENT]
German: REALLY MAGICAL or TRULY MAGICAL
Dutch: MASQUERADE. This book nor the title were translated by me; it was published during a severe attack of insanity on the side of the then publishers’. The title looks like a literal translation, but isn’t. The spelling is the normal Dutch way of writing ‘masquerade’, so the emphasis on masks is lost. (Originally I was meant to translate this Discworld adventure, and my working title was ‘Maskeradel’, which might be read as ‘Masked Nobility’, as our word ‘adel’ stands for ‘Nobility’ or ‘Peerage’.)
19. Feet of Clay
Dutch: Feet of Clay or Loam Feet. The Dutch title Lemen Voeten refers to the same fossilised biblical expression as Feet of Clay. Where King James preferred clay, the state commission of philologists which produced the original Dutch Staten Bible apparently preferred ‘loam’, possibly because ‘leem’ (pronounce ‘laim’) sounds a bit more exotic to our ears than ‘klei’, our word for ‘clay’. ‘Lemen’ is an adjective (‘leem’ plus ‘en’), where the suffix -en is the same as in English ‘wooden’. Of course, ‘voeten’ is just the plural of voet = foot.
German: HOLLOW HEAD
Dutch: Berevaar, Boarfather. In Berevaar, the ‘Bere’ part means ‘Hog’ (or rather ‘Boar’) and ‘vaar’ is a contracted form of our ‘vader’ meaning ‘father’. The contracted form is found in many ancient Dutch words, as in ‘Bestevaar’, the old nickname for the 17th century admiral Michiel de Ruyter. A ‘stork’ (i.e. the bird that delivers the babies) we call an ‘ooievaar’, which possibly should be translated as ‘father of ewes’… Of course, my translation lacks the Scottish connotations (although my Scots is actually better than my Sassenach). I thought it better to compensate any loss by the means above, as British regional puns generally don’t translate well into Dutch
Finnish: Valkoparta Karjupukki, SANTA HOGG
German: PIG’S GALLOP
Dutch: Houzee!, Keep Sea! or Jingo! The slogan ‘houzee’ is 16th century and might be read as ‘keep sea’, an ellipsis for ‘keep the sea free’, possibly with additions like ‘…of the Spanish’ or ‘…of the English’. In modern Dutch it has been worn down to ‘hoezee’, a traditional expression of joy, used at children’s birthdays etc. Although obsolete, many Dutch easily recognise the older form, as it was reanimated by the Dutch NSB party in the thirties. This party was really very much tainted by jingoism, as its name translates as ‘National Socialist League’… (Luckily, they never won more than about 10% of the vote.) In the book, characters saying ‘Jingo’ say ‘Houzee’ in the translation, of course.
German trade pbk: Fliegende Fetzen, FLYING SHREDS OF PAPE
22. The Last Continent
Dutch: Het Jongste Werelddeel, THE YOUNGEST Continent. For ‘continent’ we have the choice of ‘continent’ or ‘werelddeel’. The first we only use in the strict geological sense (the drifting kind) or, like you, for mainland Europe. So I thought it wise to choose ‘werelddeel’ (literally something like ‘world part’). The pun in the English title on The Lost Continent was, like many puns, untranslatable as such. I chose ‘jongste’, meaning ‘youngest’, as in ‘youngest day’, an expression we share.
German: HOT HOPPERS
Spanish: THE LAND AT THE END OF THE WORLD
23. Carpe Jugulum
Bulgarian: GO FOR THE THROAT
Dutch: Pluk de Strot Pick the Jugular. A quite ‘literal’ translation of the original. In Dutch, we normally don’t use the Latin form ‘Carpe Diem’, but the vernacular ‘Pluk de Dag’ (= ‘pick the day’, with ‘pick’ as in picking apples or flowers). However, many people know it is derived from the Latin form. More’s the pity, we don’t have an almost-Latin word like English ‘jugular’; however, we do have ‘strot’, an aggressive term for ‘keel’, our normal word for ‘throat’ (‘going for the throat’ translates as ‘naar de strot vliegen’). To keep as close to TP’s text as possible, I kept the Latin motto on the crest of the vampire family’s coat of arms untranslated. In the relevant scene, where Nanny Ogg and Agnes discuss the motto, I simply made a tiny insertion so that everything falls into place.
German: CALM BLOOD or QUIET BLOOD
24. The Fifth Elephant
Dutch: Another literal translation again at last! And this time without any strings attached…
French: TROLL PLAY
25. The Truth
Dutch: De Waarheid The Truth’ or The Pravda. Not translated as yet. This working title means literally the same as the original English, but with an added bonus. The daily paper of our one-time Communist Party, which folded around 1990, was entitled De Waarheid, like its Russian equivalent Pravda.
German: THE WHOLE TRUTH or NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
The Sea and Little Fishes
Japanese: The Sea is filled with little fishes
26. Thief of Time
Dutch: Not translated as yet. The working title is literally the same, but its feel is a bit more dramatic, as normally we would expect a definite particle ‘de’ before ‘Tijd’.
27. The Last Hero
German: TRUE HEROES