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Hobbit Translations

Hobbit Translations

If you’ve ever delved into the appendices of Lord of the Rings, there’s plenty to keep your inner translation nerd happy. This is of course one of many reasons that the works of JRR Tolkien hold a special place in our hearts at MTT.

You might have heard that Tolkien invented his fantasy languages (like Elvish) first and then created characters to speak them second, but did you know Tolkien treated all of his fantasy work as “translations”? His idea was that the books were written by the characters, and it was his job to translate them into English.

Some fun hard-core Lord of the Rings trivia that comes out of this is that the hobbits’ names have all been “translated”. Kali Brandagamba was translated to “Merry Brandybuck” because “Kali” means “jolly” in the Hobbits’ language Westron. (You can see examples of this in real-world translations like the Bible – “Peter”, for instance, was probably “Petros” in Greek.)

Tolkien does this as a way to always keep his protagonists’ perspectives in mind. Everything we see from Hobbits is “domesticated”, meaning strange names like “Kali” become “Merry” in “translation”. The other cultures are “foreignised”, so Elvish and Dwarvish characters like Legolas and Gimli still seem otherworldly and different to life in the Shire, where our Hobbits are from.

Tolkien is also incredibly specific with his register when characterising people in his work. The horse riding Rohirrim, for instance, speak in incredibly archaic English to represent that they are speaking Rohirric and how that would sound to our characters, who are Westron-speakers. (Apparently this meant that editing his work was an “at your peril” situation for his publishers!)

It's in all of these tiny details that Tolkien’s love for languages and cultures comes through in his work. And why not impress everyone with some fantasy translation once in a while? It’s not every day someone can tell you that Frodo Baggins’ real name “in the original Hobbit” is Maura Labingi!

If you’d like some real translations, contact our friendly team on +44 1562 748 778 or send us an email to enquiries@midlandtechnical.co.uk. (If you’d like translations into Sindarin, we may know a linguist or two 😉)

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