Translation of The Lord of the Rings into Swedish

The translation of The Lord of the Rings into Swedish has been the subject of controversy. The first version, by Åke Ohlmarks, was made in 1959–1961; it was the only one available in Swedish for forty years. Tolkien took issue with Ohlmarks' translation, identifying numerous errors and inconsistencies. In 1967, in response to Ohlmarks's Swedish and Max Schuchart's Dutch translations, Tolkien produced his "Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings"; it discusses how to translate The Lord of the Rings' personal names and place-names, giving multiple examples from Ohlmarks's Swedish of what not to do when translating. Ohlmarks rejected all criticism, stating that he had intentionally created an interpretation of Tolkien, not a straight translation. Swedish commentators took a wider range of positions on Ohlmarks' version; some admired it, while others thought it defective.

Ohlmarks's version was superseded in 2005 by Erik Andersson's more direct translation, with Tolkien's embedded poems translated by Lotta Olsson. Andersson followed Tolkien's instructions on translating names, retaining some such as Vidstige for Strider and Fylke for the Shire, on the grounds that these were well-established. The 2005 version attracted great interest in Sweden, and was on the whole well received.

Åke Ohlmarks 1959–1961 Edit

Åke Ohlmarks in 1938

Åke Ohlmarks (1911–1984) was a philologist and prolific translator, who during his career published Swedish versions of Shakespeare, Dante and the Qur'an.[1]

His translation of J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy The Lord of the Rings was the only one available in Swedish for forty years. He ignored complaints and calls for revision from readers,[2] stating in his 1978 book Tolkiens arv ("Tolkien's legacy") that his intention had been to create an interpretation of Tolkien, not a translation.[3][a]

After The Silmarillion was published in 1977, Tolkien's son and literary executor Christopher Tolkien consented to a Swedish translation only on the condition that Ohlmarks have nothing to do with it; the translation was made by Roland Adlerberth.[4] After a fire in his home in 1982, Ohlmarks incoherently charged Tolkien fans with arson. He subsequently published a book connecting Tolkien with "black magic" and Nazism, including fanciful constructions such as deriving the name Saruman from "SA man" with an interposed Ruhm "glory", and conspiracy theories surrounding the Tolkien Society.[5]

Tolkien's response Edit

The book's author, J. R. R. Tolkien, intensely disliked Ohlmarks' translation of The Lord of the Rings. He disliked it even more than Shuchart's 1956–57 Dutch translation, as is evident from a 1957 letter to his publisher Rayner Unwin:[6]

The enclosure that you brought from Almqvist &c. was both puzzling and irritating. A letter in Swedish from fil. dr. Åke Ohlmarks, and a huge list (9 pages foolscap) of names in the L.R. which he had altered. I hope that my inadequate knowledge of Swedish - no better than my kn. of Dutch, but I possess a v. much better Dutch dictionary! - tends to exaggerate the impression I received. The impression remains, nonetheless, that Dr. Ohlmarks is a conceited person, less competent than charming Max Schuchart, though he thinks much better of himself.[6]

Examples singled out by Tolkien in the same letter include:[6]

Tolkien's response to Ohlmarks's renderings of names[6]
Tolkien Swedish Literal translation Comments Notes on etymology
Ford of Bruinen Björnavad Bear Ford "!" A guess, using English "Bruin", a brown bear;[7]
Sindarin brui, "noisy"; nen, "water"[8]
Archet Gamleby Old Village "a mere guess, I suppose, from 'archaic'?" British *ar(e)cait, "near the woods";
compare Welsh argoed, "trees"[9][10]
Mountains of Lune
(Ered Luin)
Månbergen Moon Mountains ——— A guess, using Latin luna, moon
Ered Luin is Sindarin: "Blue Mountains"[11]
Gladden Fields Ljusa slätterna Bright Plains "(in spite of descr[iption] in [Book] I. 62)" Gladden = Yellow iris[12]

In his 1967 "Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings", produced in response to Ohlmarks's version,[13] Tolkien pointed out numerous other dubious translations. For example, Ohlmarks used Vattnadal "Water-dale" for Rivendell, apparently, Tolkien commented, by way of taking riven for river.[14] The Ent Quickbeam becomes Snabba solstrålen, "Swift Sunbeam", apparently taking beam in the sense of "beam of light" instead of "tree", ignoring the fact that all Ents have names connected with trees. Tolkien stated that the name was given because Quickbeam was a "hasty" Ent; he advises translating the name to give the sense "quick (lively) tree", noting that both "Quickbeam" and "Quicken" are actual English names for the Rowan tree.[15]

Ohlmarks sometimes offers multiple translations for names; for example, he renders Isengard variously as Isengard, Isengård, Isendor or Isendal. The "Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings" states that this name was meant to be so "archaic in form" that its etymology had been forgotten. Tolkien advises that it could be used either as it was or, for Germanic languages (like Swedish), "one or both elements in [the] name" could be translated using "related elements" in those languages, mentioning gård as an option.[16]

Reception in Sweden Edit

Some of the initial reception was warm; the author and translator Sven Stolpe wrote in Aftonbladet that "He has made a "swedification" (försvenskning) – he has found wonderful, magnificent, Swedish compound words, he has translated poem after poem with great inspiration, there is not a page in his magnum opus that does not read like original Swedish work by a brilliant poet".[17] Staffan Björck [sv], reviewing the book for Dagens Nyheter, listed some objections but wrote that "I only list these objections so that I can with greater emphasis praise the translation as a whole: it is magnificent."[18]

Later, the translation's reception became more hostile. In 2000, the author Leif Jacobsen [sv] of Lund University's Institute of Linguistics, noting among other things the confusion between Eowyn and Merry in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, wrote that "There can be no doubt that the Swedish translation is defective and in many ways a failure".[19] Jacobsen argued that where Tolkien was writing for adults, Ohlmarks translated for children. Further, in his view Ohlmarks seemed to be trying to make the text his own, supplanting Tolkien rather than directly translating him.[19] In 2004, Malte Persson wrote in Göteborgsposten that the translation was "so full of misunderstandings, misconceptions, inconsistencies, and arbitrary additions that it must mean that Ohlmark was either significantly worse at English than Icelandic, or that he had not taken the assignment seriously".[20] Also in 2004, Anders Stenström, known as Beregond, stated that the translation contains numerous factual errors, mistranslations of idiomatic expressions, and non-sequiturs.[21] Andreas Brunner commented in Sydsvenska Dagbladet that Ohlmark's prose is hyperbolic in style, where the original uses simple or even laconic language.[22]

Erik Andersson and Lotta Olsson, 2005 Edit

Approach Edit

Erik Andersson in 2012

Ohlmarks's translation was not superseded until 2005, when a new translation by the author and translator of novels by Nick Hornby and Zadie Smith, Erik Andersson [sv],[2] with poems interpreted by Lotta Olsson [sv] appeared. This translation is by intention much closer to the original, and abides by Tolkien's instructions. In the translation process, Andersson had access to a team of Tolkien fans as advisors. In 2007 Andersson published a book called Översättarens anmärkningar ("The Translator's Notes") based on his diary during the project.[23]

Andersson retained some features of Ohlmarks' version, such as Vidstige ("Wide-step", but also meaning "Great") for "Strider" (a name used in Bree for the hero Aragorn); Strömbom states that this was because it was a well-known name, along with Midgård for Middle-earth and Fylke for the Shire.[2] Stefan Spjut, reviewing the new translation in Svenska Dagbladet, commented that Ohlmarks' version had its merits, and that Vidstige "even outdoes the original's Strider", but that people would probably get used to the new version.[24]

Reception Edit

The 2005 translation project attracted great interest from Swedish Tolkien fans and the Swedish media. Henrik Williams, reviewing the new translation for Dagens Nyheter, wrote: "Let me say that Andersson & Olsson have prepared a readable, even and in large part correct translation, a test of a very robust piece of work that deserves deep respect, but also a careful review".[25] Malte Persson wrote in Göteborgsposten that "the new translation follows the original's fluent prose very closely, and only a linguistic pedant could find anything to object to".[20]

Comparisons Edit

Titles Edit

Charlotte Strömbom notes that the Swedish titles chosen for the books immediately indicate differences between Andersson and Ohlmarks' approaches. Andersson's title for the novel is, she writes, plainly closer to Tolkien's in both meaning and form; Ohlmarks' title shifts attention to the Ring itself, unlike the original. Ohlmarks chose to omit mention of "Fellowship" for Volume I, giving what Strömbom suggests is a more epic feeling to the title, where Andersson's is more grounded in reality.[2]

Book Titles
Author Whole novel Volume I Volume II Volume III
J. R. R. Tolkien The Lord of the Rings The Fellowship of the Ring The Two Towers The Return of the King
Åke Ohlmarks Härskarringen
(The Ruling Ring)
Sagan om Ringen
(The Saga about the Ring)
Sagan om de två tornen
(The Saga about the Two Towers)
Sagan om konungens återkomst
(The Saga about the King's Return)
Erik Andersson [sv] Ringarnas herre
(The Rings' Lord)
Ringens brödraskap
(The Ring's Brotherhood / Fellowship)
De två tornen
(The Two Towers)
Konungens återkomst
(The King's Return)

Names Edit

Strömbom comments that Ohlmarks preferred to give names a desired form, where Andersson chooses to stay close to the original names' meanings. Thus Ohlmarks uses Lavskägge (Lichen-beard) for Treebeard and Vattnadal (Water-dale) for Rivendell, where Andersson chooses the more literal Trädskägge and Riftedal. She adds that sometimes Ohlmarks' choices come closer to the sound of Tolkien's names.[2]

A sample of names and their translations
J. R. R. Tolkien Åke Ohlmarks Erik Andersson [sv]
Baggins Bagger Secker
Bag End Baggershus Säcks ände
Barliman Butterbur Barliman Bytteson, Smörblomma Malte Smörblom
Gaffer [Gamgee] Gubbtjuven Gammelfar
Mount Doom Domedagsberget Domberget
The One Ring den enda ringen, härskarringen den stora ringen, den främsta ringen, den rätta, härskarringen
Rivendell Vattnadal Riftedal
Sackville-Baggins Säcksta-Bagger Kofferdi-Secker
Treebeard Lavskägge Trädskägge

Prose Edit

Commentators including Petter Lindgren in Aftonbladet have remarked on Ohlmarks' wordy text compared to Andersson's more laconic version.[26] A sample of the prose was translated as follows:

From "A Long Expected Party"
Author Version
J. R. R. Tolkien

Night slowly passed. The sun rose. The hobbits rose rather later.

Åke Ohlmarks

Natten svann långsamt mot gryning. Solen gick upp, men hoberna steg ju i allmänhet upp lite senare än så dags.

Erik Andersson [sv]

Natten förflöt sakta. Solen gick upp. Hobbitarna steg upp något senare.

Verse Edit

Aftonbladet wrote of the poetry that "Lotta Olsson has had the thankless task of translating the book's numerous verses which many readers skip, though she does it well and economically".[26] Olsson translated a sample of Tolkien's verse like this:

The Rhyme of the Rings
Author Version
J. R. R. Tolkien

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Åke Ohlmarks

En ring att sämja dem, en ring att främja dem,
en ring att djupt i mörkrets vida riken tämja dem
i Mordors land där skuggorna ruva.

Lotta Olsson

En ring att styra dem, en ring att se dem,
en ring att fånga dem och till mörkret ge dem,
i Mordor, i skuggornas land.

See also Edit

Notes Edit

  1. ^ Ohlmarks wrote: Nej, Ohlmarks strävar helt enkelt inte efter att vara Tolkien så trogen så möjligt; hans ideal måste vara ett annat. Ty genom att brodera ut Tolkiens text, att lägga till ord och ägna sig åt långa omskrivningar, att helt enkelt träget göra om det enkla språket till ett mer komplicerat och högtravande sådant, förändras inte bara meningsbyggnad och ordföljd; även stilen blir en annan.

    (No, Ohlmarks is simply not aiming to be as faithful to Tolkien as possible; his ideal has to be different. For by embroidering Tolkien's text, adding words and indulging in lengthy paraphrases, by quite frankly lazily turning the simple language into a more complicated and high-faluting one, not only are the structure of sentences and word order changed; the style too becomes different.)[3]

References Edit

  1. ^ Jarring, Gunnar (1992–1994). "Ohlmarks, Åke Joel". Svenskt Biografiskt Lexikon (in Swedish). pp. 111–117.
  2. ^ a b c d e Strömbom, Charlotte (29 January 2009). "God åkermark eller fet och fruktbar mylla? – Om Erik Anderssons och Åke Ohlmarks översättningar av J.R.R. Tolkiens The Lord of the Rings" [Good arable land or fertile and fruitful soil? – On Erik Andersson's and Åke Ohlmarks' translations of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings]. Vetsaga (in Swedish). ISSN 1654-0786.
  3. ^ a b Ohlmarks, Åke (1978). Tolkiens arv [Tolkien's Legacy] (in Swedish). Bokförlaget Plus. p. 6. ISBN 9174061224.
  4. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R.; Adlerberth, Roland (trans.) (1979). Silmarillion (in Swedish). AWE/Gebers. ISBN 9120059051. OCLC 43152257.
  5. ^ Ohlmarks, Åke (1982). Tolkien och den svarta magin [Tolkien and Black Magic] (in Swedish). Stockholm: Sjöstrand. ISBN 978-91-7574-053-9.
  6. ^ a b c d Carpenter 1981, #263 to Rayner Unwin, 1957
  7. ^ "Bruin (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 23 March 2023.
  8. ^ Wynne, Patrick H. (28 February 2006). "_Bruinen_ in VT48". Lambengolmor. Retrieved 23 March 2023.
  9. ^ Hammond & Scull 2005, p. 765.
  10. ^ Tolkien 1975, p. 178.
  11. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (2007). "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings". Parma Eldalamberon (17): 66.
  12. ^ Tolkien 1975, pp. 185–186.
  13. ^ Hammond & Scull 2005, pp. 760, 774.
  14. ^ Tolkien 1975, p. 190.
  15. ^ Tolkien 1975, p. 172.
  16. ^ Tolkien 1975, pp. 187–188.
  17. ^ Stolpe, Sven (2 October 1959). "Nutiden som saga". Aftonbladet. p. 3.
  18. ^ Björck, Staffan (11 December 1959). "Sagan om Ringen". Dagens Nyheter.
  19. ^ a b Jacobsen, Leif (2000). "Sagan om Ringen = The Lord of the Rings? En kritisk komparativ granskning av Åke Ohlmarks översättning av J.R.R. Tolkiens The Lord of the Rings" (PDF) (in Swedish). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 July 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  20. ^ a b Persson, Malte (27 September 2004). "Ring, ring, ring". Göteborgsposten. pp. 48–49.
  21. ^ Stenström, Anders (aka Beregond) (2004). "Tolkien in Swedish Translation: from Hompen to Ringarnas herre". In Honegger, Thomas M. (ed.). Translating Tolkien: Text and Film. Walking Tree Publishers. pp. 115–124. ISBN 978-3-9521-4249-3.
  22. ^ Brunner, Andreas (26 September 2004). "Andreas Brunner läser nyöversatt Tolkien" [Andreas Brunner reads newly-translated Tolkien]. Sydsvenska Dagbladet (in Swedish).
  23. ^ Andersson, Erik (2015). Översättarens anmärkningar: dagbok från arbetet med Ringarnas herre [Translator's Notes: diary of my work with The Lord of the Rings]. Stockholm: Norstedt. ISBN 978-9-1130-7108-4.
  24. ^ Spjut, Stefan (27 September 2004). "Ordrenovering i Fylke" [Word Renewal in the Shire]. Svenska Dagbladet (in Swedish). Retrieved 15 August 2023.
  25. ^ Williams, Henrik (27 September 2004). "En ring i Tolkiens anda" [A Ring in Tolkien's Spirit] (PDF). Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). pp. 4–5.
  26. ^ a b Lindgren, Petter (27 September 2004). "Hux flux - en ny Tolkien" [Abracadabra – a new Tolkien]. Aftonbladet (in Swedish). pp. 4–5.

Bibliography Edit

Ohlmarks' translation of The Lord of the Rings:

  • Sagan om ringen. Stockholm: Gebers. 1959. OCLC 43127536. (Volume 1)
  • Sagan om de två tornen. Stockholm: Gebers. 1960. OCLC 186811060. (Volume 2)
  • Sagan om konungens återkomst. Stockholm: Gebers. 1961. OCLC 43141566. (Volume 3)

Andersson and Olsson's translation of The Lord of the Rings:

  • Ringens brödraskap: första delen av Ringarnas herre. Stockholm: Norstedt. 2004. OCLC 186369912. (Volume 1)
  • De två tornen: andra delen av Ringarnas herre. Stockholm: Norstedt. 2005. OCLC 186594636. (Volume 2)
  • Konungens återkomst: tredje delen av Ringarnas herre. Stockholm: Norstedt. 2005. OCLC 186770341. (Volume 3)