Names in Translation: Astrid Lindgren Edition

Mar 3rd 2011

 

Continuing the discussion of translating the names of literary characters into other languages.

Last time, I discussed the challenges names pose to literary translators. For a case study, let's look at the works of Sweden's Astrid Lindgren. Ms. Lindgren wrote dozens of popular children's novels, and was a name inventor of great style and influence. I've mentioned before that Ronia, a name she created for the novel Ronia the Robber's Daughter, has become a contemporary Scandinavian classic. The name is almost always preserved in translations, with only spelling changes to reflect local pronunciation (Ronja/Ronia/Ronya).

Almost always. An early English translation inexplicably turned Ronia into...Kirsty. There's no excuse for rendering the unique and adventurous Robber's Daughter as an ordinary girl next door. Even more curiously, that same translator turned other character names into different but equally unfamiliar names, so Borka became Ranulf and Birk became Burl. Fortunately, a subsequent English translation returned all three characters to their original names.

Ronia may be best as Ronia, but you can see the value of good name translation in the English editions of Ms. Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking books. Pippi's full Swedish name is:

Pippilotta Viktualia Rullgardina Krusmynta Efraimsdotter Långstrump

We English speakers would have missed out on the fun if the translator hadn't rendered the name as:

Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim's Daughter Longstocking

That's a virtuoso composition, a perfect balance of literal and poetic translation for full comic effect. Pippi remains unmistakably, indelibly Pippi. In fact, her first name goes untouched around the world except in France, where they apparently worried it sounded rude. So French children enjoy...yes, Fifi Longstocking (or rather, Fifi Brindacier).

For a subtler challenge, consider another favorite Lindgren series: the "Madicken" books. The character Madicken is a young girl in Sweden during World War I. The author took the name from the nickname of a childhood friend, whose given name was Anne-Marie. When Lindgren created her literary Madicken, though, she made the name a pet form of Margareta.

If you were a literary translator, would you change the name Madicken for a foreign edition? The character is of a specific time and place, which might argue for keeping the Swedish original. But a foreign reader would miss that Madicken is a unique, made-up nickname, a fact which shapes your impression of the character. So most translators chose to reinterpret the name Madicken in their local languages. 

It's a fascinating process, translating something that has no literal meaning. A translated Madicken can't be a traditional nickname, but it should follow the conventions of nicknames. It should sound plausibly linked to Margaret, but not too close. Some translators' efforts:

Dutch: Madieke

Estonian: Madlike

Italian: Martina

German: Madita

Norwegian: Marikken

English: Mardie

While I don't speak all of those languages, from my knowledge of their name styles most seem like solid choices. The glaring exception is Italian, where the unique nickname Madicken turned into the common formal name Martina. (What does the Italian translator do with scenes where Madicken's parents call her Margaret?)

Looking closely at a single name decision like this, you start to realize how much subtle information every name carries. We can't possibly pick up on all the nuances of original names in a foreign novel or film. But we can at least stop to consider them, as the Madicken translators did, and try to grasp what the writers were trying to say with their name choices. Many of them speak volumes.

 

Comments

1
By Poutine (not verified)
March 3, 2011 2:09 PM

Correction: in French, Pippi is Fifi Brindacier, where Brindacier has nothing to do at all with stockings. Rather, it refers to her hair, as it literally means steel strand, steel wisp or steel ply (as in: strand of rope, wisp of straw or ply of wool, that is—the word brin has no direct translation in English).

2
March 3, 2011 2:31 PM

Poutine, thank you -- I should have made that clearer, obviously the French don't use the English translation of the Swedish surname! I'll fix the post.

3
By Yet Another Guest (not verified)
March 3, 2011 2:42 PM

I'm really enjoying these names in translation posts. An interesting spin on translations and naming. Love it.

4
March 3, 2011 2:45 PM

I have no idea whether this blog post was already in the works when I and others started mentioning Astrid Lindgren in the comments of the last post -- if not, I'm super excited to have inspired a post, and if not, it's a sign that we all have good taste in childrens' literature. :)

I've been surprised at how much less popular the Astrid Lindgren books are in the US. Everyone has heard of Pippi, and some of Ronia, especially aided by movie adaptations of both... but the other Lindgren classics don't seem to be read much, which is a shame, because they're excellent!

I learned something new with the Kirsty. WHAT?! I'm glad that subsequent translations fixed that!

I think translation of nicknames is different for me than translating the formal name. I think it's a good thing to help the reader "get" the nickname. If it doesn't happen, the nickname gets borrowed as a given name in other countries where the original language isn't spoken, like Lillebrors in Germany. (Lillebror = "little brother" is used in Sweden, too, but seems to be pretty exclusively as a subsequent/middle name, not the call-name.)

5
By hyz nli (not verified)
March 3, 2011 2:56 PM

lucubratrix, I looooved the Pippi books and movies as a kid, and I would've gobbled up any other Lindgren I found on the shelves, so I can tell you it just *wasn't there*, at least not in the bookstores available to me. Chicken or egg question, I'm sure, but I'd say that's part of why they're not read as much in the US. It's a shame, but thankfully my kids won't suffer the same lack, since Amazon, etc. will now deliver all these books to our door. :)

I'm surprised by Lillebror's success as a name in Germany--I'd have to think most Germans would be aware of the meaning, and it doesn't even really have a sound pattern similar to other German given names, I think. On the other hand, I kind of love it and think it's adorable. Do you know what (if any) NNs the German Lillebrors go by?

6
March 3, 2011 3:09 PM

lucubratrix wrote "I have no idea whether this blog post was already in the works when I and others started mentioning Astrid Lindgren in the comments of the last post"

In fact, it was already written! Don't y'all keep scooping me, now.
;-)

One thing I learned researching this post is that the relative popularity of the different Lindgren books varies from country to country. In the USA it's all about Pippi, but in some countries Karlsson on the Roof or Mio, My Son seem to be better known.

7
By Yet Another Guest (not verified)
March 3, 2011 3:14 PM

Laura, I wonder about American and Canadian classics translated into other languages, like Louisa May Alcott books, the Little House series, or Anne of Green Gables series. Have their names been translated into Russian, Japanese, Italian, etc? Or have they remained the same?

I have to admit that I didn't read much Pippi growing up. I'd like to introduce Lindgren's books to our boys, though. What age do you think would be good to start reading the books to them? (My boys are 3 and almost 5.)

8
By RB
March 3, 2011 5:12 PM

Another Nordic name popularized by a fictional character is My from Tove Jansson's Moominvalley series. This name has always totally mystified me, but I see on Wikipedia that it's pronounced "mu."

It's more common in Sweden, but has also been given to Swedish-speaking Finns (ethnic Swedes), according to the Finnish Population Register Centre, which keeps statistics on first names.

A couple hundred Ronjas and Peppis are born in Finland every year as well (mostly to ethnic Finns).

9
By Lydie (not verified)
March 3, 2011 6:14 PM

I named my daughter Annika because of the friend of Pippi in the books...!

10
March 3, 2011 6:14 PM

For those of us whose brain cells were damaged by childbirth, can someone please relate the reason Pippi had those long silly names? I did read the book quite a number of years ago and I'm sure it's been brought up before, however I can't remember why she had such a fanciful name.

One of my favorites growing up was Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. She was a little old grandmother type who watched over the children of the neighborhood after school. She always had what she called "potions and spells". Really she was just instructing the children on right from wrong in a fun learning environment so they didn't realize they were learning to behave properly. I wonder what her name would be translated to. She really had nothing to do with pigs or wiggling.

11
By Birgitte (not verified)
March 3, 2011 10:30 PM

Zoerhenne, I believe Pippi had all these names because of her eccentric father, a former sailor now turned king of a Pacific island.

Oh and about Anne of Green Gables, Anne is the same in Norwegian and Danish but Green Gables has been translated to (Grønne Gavle, literal translation) in Danish and for some reason, Bjørkely (Birch shelter) in Norwegian.

12
By Jane 6 (not verified)
March 3, 2011 10:46 PM

Ohhhh! I am now intensely curious to know how Anne of Green Gables and Little House characters' names are translated into other languages!

Also, how is Ronia pronounced? As a child, I always mentally pronounced it ROAN-ya. But I bet it is actually supposed to be RON-ya, which is not as pretty to me.

Birk is also a cool name. Is it also made up by Lindgren?

13
By Sikuriina (not verified)
March 3, 2011 11:41 PM

Birk is a old Nordic word meaning birch, and it has probably some history of being used as a name in Sweden and Denmark. It is currently in the top 100 in Norway!

Other nicknames that Astrid Lindgren used are e.g. from Brothers Lionheart. In the Swedish original, the little boy is named Karl, but nicknamed Skorpan, which means "rusk", a crisp dry roll - named so because his big brothers likes rusks so much.

Other names Lindgren used: Mio, Lotta, Emil, Rasmus, Pontus, Ylva-Li...

14
By Allegrazara (not verified)
March 4, 2011 1:22 AM

This is a very interesting discussion! I have an OT comment though relating to names. I have been helping at a school in my neighborhood and had to kill some time yesterday and started reading the names on lockers. I saw several very unique names, including one for a boy: Ars0n and one for a girl: Eleg@nce. I'm constantly amazed by the children's names, some are beautiful and very unique.

15
By marie_claire (not verified)
March 4, 2011 4:49 AM

I'm a big fan of Astrid Lindgren and particularly of the Bullerby Children books. I always liked the names of the children - Lisa, Lars, Pip, Anna, Britta, Olaf (Ollie) and Kirsten. This is from my British translation of the book - I do remember seeing an American translation online and as I remember it some of the names were different (which just wasn't the same to me!) I wonder whether the names that I know are the original Swedish names (they do sound nicely Scandinavian to me) or whether there's been some changes along the way?

16
By Marilyn (not verified)
March 4, 2011 1:04 PM

The favorites of my 3 boys right now (3, 5, and 8) are Lindgren's Emil books. Emil is the sweetest, funniest, most mischievous little boy---we all love him. I've never seen the books at the library, but my MIL lent them to us. The first is "Emil in the Soup Tureen" (he gets his head stuck inside it---the illustrations are delightful). I bet your boys would love them.

17
By Marilyn (not verified)
March 4, 2011 1:04 PM

that last comment was to "By Yet Another Guest", by the way, sorry.

18
By Yet Another Guest (not verified)
March 4, 2011 1:56 PM

Thanks, Marilyn! I will search for them. Just checked the library system and they don't have any of the Emils.

19
By Guest-2011 (not verified)
March 4, 2011 2:04 PM

A list of original Astrid Lindgren characters with some translations (the translations are by no means complete) can be found here:

http://www.nordicnames.de/wiki/Astrid_Lindgren_Characters

Enjoy!

20
By Anna S (not verified)
March 4, 2011 6:09 PM

Ronja is pronounced /run-yah/; it rhymes with Sonja.

21
March 4, 2011 8:27 PM

Here's a warning regarding those old dubbed Pippi TV shows. I checked them out from the library since I remembered them so fondly. One of them has a very offensive segment where Pippi pretends to be Asian by slanting her eyes and bucking her teeth. Since my kids are Asian, I immediately got uncomfortable. I kept thinking it would be over soon, but the schtick kept going on and on. I finally had to locate the remote and fast forward. I also had to tell my kids that, of course, Asian people don't look like that and, regardless, it is wrong to make fun of the way people look. It clearly didn't impact them as much as it impacted me since my 7 year old now wants to be Pippi for Halloween!

22
By hyz
March 5, 2011 12:30 AM

Tirzah, thanks for the heads up on that. I started to watch one of those DVDs awhile ago and forgot how many bad ideas it was filled with for a toddler (playing with guns, jumping from high places pretending to fly, etc.), so I shelved them for now. On the kids' exposure to the eye issue, I recently saw this blog post you may find interesting: http://www.sweetfineday.com/2011/03/scooters-and-a-lesson-in-race/#comments . I think it supports your conclusion that the gesture makes more impact on us than the kids.

23
March 5, 2011 2:09 PM

Hello Everyone,

I need some help with names. (Sorry I really don't mean to go off topic. I am truly enjoying this topic!)

I have a girl Ori@na and a boy @tticus and I'm expecting in June, I know I still have lots of time, but thats going to go by really quick. We don't know what we are having but on my girls list I have : Beatrice, Eloise, and Penelope. Not a bad list my DH seems ok with it, but I just think I can find more that 3 names I actually like.

As for boys I haven't even really thought about them yet (pretty sure its going to be a girl anyways.)Any help would be appreaciated!

:)

24
By Yet Another Guest (not verified)
March 5, 2011 6:22 PM

@Holix, Congratulations! I like your names and also have an @tticus. A few names that popped in my head were:
Clementine
Charlotte
Adelaide
Ivy
Sebastian
Theodore

But do you have any restrictions that might help generate a list? Can't begin or end with a certain letter? Only so many syllables?

25
March 5, 2011 8:33 PM

Holix-Lovely names already. I sense a unusual yet not unheard of, and not difficult to pronounce vibe from the names you have. I will second Clementine and Sebastien and also throw these out:
Alistair
Delilah
Celeste
Priscilla
Thaddeus
Quentin
Virgil
Orrin
Blaise

26
March 6, 2011 2:38 AM

For littler kids, I second the Emil books -- those are great and very, very funny. I am waiting for my son to get his head stuck in a soup tureen any day now, actually. :) It's still blowing my mind that they're the Emil books and not the Michel books. I really wish the translator hadn't translated the name. Emil is a perfectly reasonable name for German-speakers to deal with!

I also want to add Tomte Tummetot - these were my favorites when I was a little kid. They're very peaceful books about a little gnome (troll?) who watches over a farmhouse and all its inhabitants. In English, the first is called The Tomten and the second is called The Tomten and the Fox, wherein the watchkeeping Tomte dissuades a fox from eating the chickens and shares his porridge instead. Really sweet, very tranquil, excellent for winding children down for bedtime, and also providing a great deal of reassurance that nighttime is not scary and that even when kids and parents are asleep there is still an order to the world. My son (one and a half) is really into these now, though he doesn't have patience for the text and we just talk through the beautiful illustrations and make the appropriate animal noises.

Oooh, and when I was in the 3-5 range I also looooved the Lotta picture books, about a stubborn little girl who is very sure she can do things (e.g. ride a bike) for herself. There's a bunch of these, and I can only remember that I adored them all because Lotta was very much like me at that age.

27
March 6, 2011 6:30 PM

@Holix,

I think Beatrix, Eloise and Penelope all work well with your other kids names. Eloise and Penelope are also favourites of mine. I also like many of the suggestions by Yet Another Guest and zoerhenne.

For a girl, how about:
Eden
Xanthe
Anneke
Aster
Zinnia
Arwen

For boys:
Beckett
Sterling
Blaine
Dashiell
Brogan
Apollo
Solomon
Bastiaan
Roarke

28
By JM (not verified)
March 6, 2011 11:49 PM

Holix--To come up with other options not already suggested, I'm probably thinking WAY outside of the box:

Girls: Adair, Amalia, Helena, Aude, Heloise, Althea

Boys: Sander, Julian, Ulysses, Jules, Clement, Liam, Xaviar, Lucian

29
By Bue
March 7, 2011 8:05 AM

marie_claire, the Bullerby books are my favourite Lindgren books too, especially the picture book Christmas at Bullerby. As a little girl I desperately wanted to be named Britta after the character! (I also wanted to be named Brigitta after one of the daughters in The Sound of Music... see the pattern?) :)

30
March 7, 2011 10:48 AM

Like hyz I LOVED the Pippi books as a kid, and would've been excited to find any other Lindgren books on the shelf, but didn't.

After reading all your comments about all the other books she wrote, I'm going to have to hunt them down to read to my daughter!

31
March 7, 2011 10:49 AM

And slightly off topic but Astrid always reminds me of the hilarious Astrid byplay on Fringe.

(For those who don't watch the show, the absentminded prof type character Walter can never remember the name of his assistant Astrid, and is always calling her Astro, Asterisk, etc). Makes me laugh every time, such a funny small touch.

32
By alitalia nli (not verified)
March 7, 2011 11:45 AM

I have Anne of Green Gables in French and Italian. The French title of the book is Anne... La Maison aux pignons verts (Anne, the house with the green gables). The Italian title is Anna dai capelli rossi (Anne with red hair). In French her name is still Anne and she insists on being called "Anne-avec-un-e". In Italian she is Anna, and she insists upon being called "Anna" and not "Anne." Instead of saying that "Anne" looks better than "Ann" she says that "Anna" sounds better than "Anne." It loses some of the essence of what makes Anne *Anne* imho. Via a quick wikipedia search I see that she is Ana in Spanish, Ania in Polish, and Anne in most other languages

33
March 7, 2011 2:50 PM

Thanks for your help everyone!

Zoerhenne and Yet Another Guest I LOVE Clemintine its been on every baby name list I've made, but its always a big no from DH. Everytime I suggest Sebastian DH starts singing " Under the sea......"

JM- I have Ulysses and DH didn't say no exactly, I'm still holding out hope for that one.

Chimu - I love Sterling, Beckett and Eden! Sterling might take some convincing for DH but I think he'll like the other two.

Thanks everyone! you've definetly given me some more names to think about!!!

:)

34
March 7, 2011 3:05 PM

Thanks Hyz for the link. I was thinking the other day how we've inadvertantly taught our daughter to say "I'm half Chinese and half Japanese." I think we need to retrain her to say "I'm Chinese and Japanese." The "half" portion makes it sounds like she's not fully one or the other. All of these issues to think about!

35
By Beth the original (not verified)
March 8, 2011 12:00 AM

The link has the most lovely, underused name -- Claudine. I love all those fusty French -ine names, Claudine, Justine, Nadine, Pauline (not so much Christine, which was overused in the 1970s). I would even like Clementine better if it were pronounced Clemen-teen (as it is I can never get "Oh my darlin', oh my darlin'" out of my head).

Too many great comments while I was on an internet-free vacation. Oh well! But someone mentioned Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and the characters in that book have great Dickensian, vocabulary-building names, like Pergola Wingsproggle. Those books were my naming inspiration when I got new stuffed animals or wrote a new story; I think I've mentioned Gladiolus Hollyhocks here before. For an adult version of the same pleasure, check out Henry James (Henrietta Stackpole or Verena Tarrant, anyone?).

36
By Eleni (not signed in) (not verified)
March 8, 2011 12:44 AM

Beth the Original, I'm with you! My favorites are Fanny Assingham from The Golden Bowl and Casper Goodwood in Portrait of a Lady. Henry James is my favorite.

37
March 8, 2011 9:12 AM

Beth, that was I whom mentioned Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. I had forgotten how colorful the children's names were as well. I guess I need to go reread them :)

38
By kasey (not verified)
March 8, 2011 12:11 PM

Had I known about the name Ronia before I had my daughter instead of stumbling upon it while browsing Amazon for new books to read to her, I would have considered it as a plausible name choice. My daughter could have been Ronia.

Interesting what a pp said... I read it aloud to my daughter and pronounced it ROAN-ya. I agree that Ron-ya isn't quite as pretty somehow, but I think it could grow on me. It's close enough to Rhonda which is familiar enough...if a bit dated. ROAN-ya is closer to Sonya in spelling which I have heard pronounced both SOAN-ya and SON-ya. Wonder which one is traditional (or maybe both are)?

Birk is too close to Bork which is too close to Bork Bork and the Swedish chef. But I guess they are Swedish names, so that's not a big shock. But I still couldn't use it. :-p

39
By EVie
March 8, 2011 3:52 PM

Beth, how funny that you should mention Henry James—I'm in the middle of The Wings of the Dove, which is my first attempt at James (and probably a poor choice for a first attempt, I'm realizing now...), and I've actually been finding some of his name choices very awkward. I'm thinking particularly of Mildred Theale and Merton Densher. Some of it is probably just that Mildred and Merton are so far from the current style that I find them difficult to identify with—Milly as a nickname suits her well, but I'm afraid that Mildred is a name that I will never warm up to (Millicent, to me, would have been a much more euphonious choice). And I'm having a hard time seeing a Merton as an attractive person... though it sounds nicer in an English accent than my American one. But it's really the last names that just seem kind of odd to me, like James just threw together a bunch of random letters and said, "that's a name!" (I know that he based Milly off of his dead relative Minny Temple, hence the initials... but Theale? Maybe I'm missing something.)

I don't have a problem with the names of the other characters—Kate Croy, Maud Manningham Lowder, Susan Shepherd Stringham, Luke Strett. I actually quite like Kate's sister Marian Condrip—the "drip" in her married name suggests something of her personality and current social status. I've been a bit confused by Lord Mark, though—is that his first name, or his title? I assume title, because I don't think lords are properly referred to by their first names like that (knights and baronets, yes, but not lords). Ok, that's enough of my rambling now.

40
By kjl (not verified)
March 8, 2011 7:02 PM

Just wanted to chime in with the German translation of the names of the "Little Women" (in Germany inexplicably called "Betty and her sisters") - Margaret (Meg), Betty (Beth), Jo (same), Amelie (Amy).
What always irked me was that they haven't changed the names to a level of "sameness", i.e. why they kept the, for Germans, complicated Margaret instead of Meg or changing it to the German spelling Margret, or called her Margarethe/Margareta etc. And the French Amelie instead of Amy?

I'd also like to point out that both Ronja and Madita have become quite popular first names in Germany! This is probably also due to a general liking of Germans for Scandinavian names!
Oh, and contrary to one of the above posts, I have yet to hear of a German boy named Lillebror!

Another interesting tidbit: in Germany, Emil is called Michel, because the publishers were afraid it would get mixed up with a already beloved long-time German classic: Emil and the Detectives.

One last bit of info as I'm talking about Kästner: in the orginal version, the twins aren't called Lisa and Lottie, but Luise and Lotte, after their mother Luiselotte, which even around that time was one of the stranger compound names!

Off my soapbox now! Am tremendously enjoying this post and the comments!

41
By Yet Another Guest (not verified)
March 8, 2011 9:43 PM

@kjl - Interesting about Little Women! Can you remember what Laurie was called in the German translation?

@alitalita - Do you know what Gilbert was translated into? It doesn't seem as ubiquitous as Anne/a.

@Holix - I must be completely clueless! I have no idea what that reference is regarding the song and Sebastian. Clementine was also on both short lists when my boys were born. Love that name. :)

42
By Anya (not verified)
March 8, 2011 9:47 PM

In Russian Anne of Green gables is translated as "Энн с зеленых Крыш" (Anne of Green Roofs), and the name is pronounced Энн (Ann), although I'd have expected "Anna" or "Anya", which is the traditional Russian name (my name:)). It's kind of difficult to relate the pronunciation because of the different alphabets...
By the way, I hadn't heard of Anne of Green gables until my Mom watched the movie a couple of months ago and told me about it. It just never made it to Russia when I was a kid. So I'm not surprised Astrid Lindgren is not very popular in the US. In Russia you just grow up reading and watching Karlsson. I expected "Mio, my Mio" (or my son?) to be more popular here in the US, since it has little Christian Bale and Christopher Lee in it.

43
By Beth the original (not verified)
March 9, 2011 12:10 AM

Oh, EVie, yes, *Wings* is a tough one to start with. The appetizers are *Daisy Miller,* *Portrait of a Lady,* *The Bostonians*, *The Turn of the Screw,* and the stories.

44
March 9, 2011 9:05 AM

Yet Another Guest-The reference to the song is from Disney's Little Mermaid. The little fish is named Sebastian and sings a song called Under The Sea.

Speaking of movies for a moment, there is a new movie about an alien coming out. They've named him Paul. This echoes the previous thread rather than this one, but how many think Paul is a good alien name? Is it one of those down to earth kind of names that would provide an interesting twist to the fact that he's an alien? I'm not sure it is the only name he could have had but it seems a good choice.

45
By Mom 2 (not verified)
March 9, 2011 7:28 PM

The name 'Madicken' is similar to the German 'Mädchen' which means 'young girl'. Perhaps the author was using a name she heard as a young girl.

46
By alitalia nli (not verified)
March 10, 2011 7:29 PM

@Yet Another Guest
Gilbert is still Gilbert Blythe in both French and Italian, and in all of the other languages I checked on Wikipedia...

47
By Polly D. (not verified)
March 10, 2011 8:04 PM

Actually, in the Hebrew version, Pippi's name is changed to Bilbi. The full name is Bilbi Batgarev. Batgarev means "stocking's daughter"

48
By leslei (not verified)
March 10, 2011 11:49 PM

Re: Little Women. I remember when I was first studying in Germany in 1995 and I saw the cinema marquis for Bettie und ihre Schwestern. I was quite taken aback when the poster made it obvious which movie it was. I actually have only ever watched that movie in German. I found it unsettling that Winona Ryder had a high voice in the dubbing.

49
By Charly (not verified)
March 11, 2011 8:52 AM

In French, "Little Women" is called "Dr. March's four daughters (Les quatres filles du Docteur March). The names:

Margaret/Meg
Joséphine/Jo
Elisabeth/Beth
Amy

The title has the same literal translation in Romanian. Italian, on the other hand, translates the title literally, and keeps the English names (I had forgotten about Demijohn!).

Italian also honors the title and English names of "Pride and Prejudice," as does German.

The German "Twilight" characters seem to be the same, though the alleged title confuses me: "Bis(s) zum Morgengrauen."

For one thing, morgengrauen is, quite logically, dawn: morning-gray. For another... what's up with the parentheses?

"Very Good Jeeves" is called "Jeeves is in a class of his own" in German.

The English version of "Sans Famille" is variously translated as "Nobody's Boy" and "Alone in the World." (It literally means "Without a family" or "Relatives-less." Rémi becomes Remi' and Joli-Cœur confusingle DOESN'T become "Sweetheart" or some such name. The latter is a monkey. I recommend this book for schoolkids if you haven't heard of it.

The French "Beauty and the Beast" Disney movie has the problem of all the characters speaking French, so what to do with Lumière? He very much exaggerates his Rs and nasal vowels--a cultural equivalent might be a cowboy's accent if you're American, or the Queen if you're British. It was funny, and the très français-ité of it all was even obvious to me.

Name changes in the film include Cogsworth to Big Ben (bleh...would've preferred Pendulaire or Horlo or something slightly clever), Philippe to the apparently more horsey name of Philibert, Mrs. Potts to Mme Samovar (no Russian accent), and Chip to Zip (adieu, wordplay). The song titles are worth checking out on Frikipedia, as I call it, for those interested.

Speedair-mahn trois (hahaha, still cracks me up four years later) approached this problem by making the ridiculous French waiter Italian. Anyone who knows about localization in translation knows names are only the beginning! :D

Hope this compendium helps.

50
March 12, 2011 1:43 AM

I think the parentheses in the German title for Twilight are a pun. Bis is until, and Biss is a bite. So it's either about being together until dawn or a bite at dawn. :)

Also, while grauen is the verb for dawning, as a noun it means dread or horror. I think that explains the switch from twilight to dawn.

Greatly enjoyed all the info about translation of names in this last comment! Thanks!