Esio Trot in translation

Posted by
The Roald Dahl Museum
Posted on
12:30pm, 20th January
Esio Trot, Museum
Foreign language editions of Esio Trot

Museum Archive Assistant, Annie, looks at how translators from around the world have tackled the challenges faced with translating Esio Trot.

Roald Dahl’s stories are loved worldwide and to date his books have been published in 58 languages, with Esio Trot alone being translated in 28 languages including Vietnamese, Korean, Turkish, Indonesian, Bulgarian, Estonian, Hebrew and Welsh. To celebrate the Museum’s new Esio Trot display in Solo gallery, we take a look at some of the unique challenges faced by the Esio Trot translators.

Challenge 1: The Title
The reversed spelling of the word tortoise lends itself well to translation in some languages, for example, in Portugese it becomes Agura Trat, in Welsh it becomes Crw Ban, and in Norwegian it becomes Eddap Liks.

In other languages, however, the spelling of the word tortoise cannot be so easily reversed. The German Schildkröte becomes Etörkdlihcs, which is difficult, if not impossible, to pronounce. The German translator resolved this problem by simply re-titling the book Otto’s Geheimnis (Otto’s Secret). Who is this Otto you might ask? Read on to find out!

Challenge 2: Character names
Occasionally character names have been translated in foreign editions of Esio Trot, either to ensure that they can be pronounced by readers, or to create a reversible name. Thus in the German edition, Alfie becomes Otto. Other versions of the titchy tortoise’s name in translation include: Alfred (French), Alfio (Italian), Rudi (Dutch) and Nalle (Danish).  

Translators have also come up with some particularly inventive names for Mr Hoppy, ranging from Gospod Skok (Slovenian) to Hr Hummelsen (Danish), to the fantastic Bey’in Zipzip (Turkish). The Finnish word for silver is hopea, so for the Finnish edition the character of Mrs Silver was quite easily translated as Rouva Hopia – yet this name sounds strikingly similar to Hoppy. Luckily the Finnish translator came up with an equally joyful-sounding name: Herra Hapuli.

Challenge 3: The Tortoise-Catcher
One could only imagine the fun a translator could have in finding an equivalent name in the target language for Mr Hoppy’s ingenious invention of the tortoise-catcher. The interpretations in foreign editions vary from tortoise-snatchers to tortoise-hunters to shell pincers!

Names for the foreign-counterparts of the tortoise-catcher include: sköldpaddsfångaren (Swedish), caça-tortgues (Catalan), kiplumbağa koleksiyonunun (Turkish), o pega-tartarugas (Brazillian Portugese), and schildnijptang (Dutch).

See original Esio Trot manuscripts and archive material in Solo gallery at the Museum from Tuesday 13 January and find out more Esio Trot archive secrets during the Museum’s Awesome Animals Day on Saturday 7 February.

Esio Trot in the shop

Roald Dahl in Translation