Lost In Translation

Lost in Translation: A Look at Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Danish

“Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways.”

First line in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

Welcome to my third Lost in Translation post where we’ve made it to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This is the series of posts where I compare the Danish versions of Harry Potter to the originals, because I grew up reading them in Danish. If you missed the first two posts, you can find them here (book 1) and here (book 2).

Before we get into the translations, let’s take a look at the cover for the first hardback edition in Danish:

⚡ So here front and center we have… a hippogriff butt 🍑. It’s pretty, though. The hippogriff, that is.

⚡ It might be hard to see on this picture, but Hermione’s hair is actually kind of reddish. I don’t remember that being a thing in the books. I also didn’t think she was Hermione when I first saw the cover and hadn’t read the book yet. I assumed it would be some new character. And excuse me, but why is she sitting like that?

⚡ It’s a kind of pivotal scene they’ve chosen to spoil even though it does represent the book well with the hippogriff and the full moon in the background.

Moving on to the translation part. Just like in the previous posts, you don’t need to know a single word of Danish to understand this.

‘Original English’ = ‘Danish translation’

Stan Shunpike = Stan Stabejs

Names tend to have meaning in Harry Potter and this is no exception, even though Stan is a minor character. Shunpiking refers to the act of deliberately avoiding roads that require a payment of a fee or toll to travel on. Funny since the Knight Bus goes literally anywhere it fancies without paying any fees.
In Danish his last name is changed to ‘Stabejs’, because we don’t have a single word for shunpike. Stabejs actually means odd man. Yes, that seems appropriate. Do note, though, that it’s a very old word that isn’t used anymore so people nowadays would probably just read it as a little weird last name and nothing more.

Ernie Prang = Ernie Kabang

We’re staying on the Knight Bus, but move on to it’s driver who also got a new last name. His original name, Prang, means to damage a vehicle in an accident, which is what would happen to the Knight Bus if it wasn’t magical. This a very British term so it needed a translation. His Danish name, Kabang, I’m guessing is more of a reference to the loud noise the Knight Bus makes when it jumps from place to place. It doesn’t carry meaning on its own.

Knight Bus = Natbus

The actual bus also loses a tiny bit of meaning in the translation. ‘Natbus’ simply means night bus so you don’t get the play on words of ‘knight’, which implies that the bus comes to the rescue of those who need it.

Firebolt = Prestissimo

This is weird. The meaning of firebolt is something like ‘missile of fire’, and I’m guessing it’s also alluding to thunderbolts and being as fast as lightning. The “Danish” word for the broom is actually an Italian music expression meaning extremely fast. In that sense, no meaning is lost and it’s actually a very clever translation… if people knew that word. As mentioned, it’s a fancy music expression and isn’t used in any other connection. I had no idea what it meant when I read it at least and just figured that ‘Prestissimo’ was the original made-up English name.

Dervish and Banges = Bål og Brand

Dervish and Banges is a shop in Hogsmeade and my guess is that those are the names of the owners. Their names are changed to ‘bål’ and ‘brand’ which basically means fire and fire. The shop has nothing to do with fire, just to be clear. There is a slight difference in what kind of fire the words are referring to, though. ‘Bål’ is more of a bonfire while ‘brand’ refers to a out-of-control-fire in a building/forest. None of the two words function as last names though, meaning that I as a child thought this shop specialized in firefighter equipment. No, I don’t know why wizards would need that either.

Zonko’s Joke Shop = Zonkos Spøg og Skæmt

Another shop in Hogsmeade and we’re seeing a theme. Zonko’s Danish name, ‘Zonkos Spøg og Skæmt’ means… Zonko’s Jokes and Jokes. I don’t know why two ‘jokes’ were needed when the original only has one. The slight difference between the two words is that the latter, ‘skæmt’, implies a certain level of spookiness.
What I will praise the translation for, though, is its alliteration. It sounds really good when you say it. And it’s not as if meaning is directly lost. We know what it is.

Buckbeak = Stormvind

Our favorite hippogriff also gets a new name. I haven’t been able to find a definite meaning behind his original name other than it sounds like an appropriate name for a creature with a beak. His Danish name is ‘Stormvind’ which you might be able to translate on your own as it means storm wind. And that’s an appropriate name for a creature that can fly.
I actually think I might prefer the Danish name in this case. Just because it sounds better. I also believe that’s why the translator decided to avoid a beak-related name. It doesn’t work in Danish.

Butterbeer = Ingefærøl

This one is a little odd because the Danish version of butterbeer is ginger beer/ale. Which is an actual thing. It’s not just a wizard drink.
I’ve haven’t personally tasted either of the two drinks but from what I can gather, they are somewhat similar without being the exact same. That might explain why the translator went with that choice. However, the ‘butter’ in butterbeer comes from one of it’s ingredients, butterscotch, which Danish does have a word for that could just as easily have been used. Because it wasn’t, as a child I just assumed Brits had a weird love for ginger beer that I didn’t understand.

Moony = Hugtand

The nickname for our dear Lupin. In Danish he’s called ‘Hugtand’ which means Fang. And just to be clear: No, Lupin does not turn into Hagrid’s dog. As you might recall if you read my post for the first book, the dog has an entirely different name in Danish which left ‘Fang’ available for Lupin.
It does transfer the focus of his nickname from being related to the moon to being related to his transformation. It might also be considered less… subtle.
But what to do? You could probably come up with some moon-related nicknames in Danish, but I promise you that none of them will sound good. Which I guess is what the translator realized and went with ‘Hugtand’, and it still does the job of alluding to his werewolf state.

That was it for the third book in the series. The introduction of Hogsmeade provided me with a lot of content this time so I really hoped you enjoyed the post. Next up will be Goblet of Fire when I can find the time to reread it.

4 thoughts on “Lost in Translation: A Look at Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Danish

  1. This is even better than I’d hoped! 😊🤗 I seriously don’t know what it is with translators and changing names… Though I’ve actually been reading the French versions lately so that I wouldn’t completely forget all the language skills I learned at school, and they even translated the houses (Hufflepuff is Poufsouffle 🙈😂). So I’m feeling a bit more generous towards other languages who at least left those alone.
    And I think this Danish cover (despite the butt and Hermione’s weird posture and hair) is probably my favorite one so far… At least it doesn’t take any other weird liberties 😂 (*cough Finland cough*)
    Also, thank you for educating me on the meaning behind Shunpike and Prang! I didn’t know that! 😊❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you liked it! 😀
      Okay I might understand why they would change a house name like Ravenclaw because that actually means something but Hufflepuff? It’s just letters put together that we’re lucky enough to be able to pronounce. Poufsouffle sounds equally nonsensical but my French isn’t good enough to know if it actually means something 😂😂 Also, you reading them in French (impressive!!) to remember what you learned in school, makes me think I should probably read them in German at some point. Emphasis on ‘should’ because I most likely won’t 😅
      And yes, I also like the Danish covers in general (especially since *someone* showed me how lucky we are 😉 ). I just think it’s fun to roast them anyway. They are very typical old fantasy covers that doesn’t always do such a great job of depicting the actual story. But yeah, I adore the artwork.

      I had to educate myself on the meaning of Shunpike and Prang, because I definitely didn’t know that, but you’re welcome! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, my French isn’t good enough to know if that means anything, either. That’s actually one reason why I chose to read Harry Potter – since I already know the story so well, it’s a lot easier not to get lost… I basically never have to look things up in the dictionary thanks to my knowledge of the English version 😉 It still takes me forever to read one chapter though, which can be a little frustrating…
        And I’m all for the cover roasts! Seriously, I live for these posts of yours! I can’t wait for Goblet of Fire 🤗

        Liked by 1 person

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