Posted in Lost In Translation

Lost In Translation: A Look At Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in Danish

The villagers of Little Hangleton still called it “the Riddle House,” even though it had been many years since the Riddle family had lived there.

First line in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

We’ve made it to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in my series of posts where I take a closer look at the Danish translations of the Harry Potter series. It’s all just for fun, as I greatly admire the work translators do, especially when it comes to translating fantasy books.

In these posts, I draw attention to very specific Harry Potter-terms and names that lose a little bit of meaning in the translation process, and in that way, give the reader a different reading experience. I grew up reading the books in Danish, but then later switched to English when I was able to understand them. If you’ve missed the posts for the previous books, you can find them here.

Let’s take a look at the cover for the first hardback edition:

⚡ Gotta say I find this cover pretty boring. Not a lot going on and it’s primarily dark colors. Seems like they added that orange color on the inside of his robes just to make it a little bit exciting.

⚡ On the right we have a mermaid doing her version of the Thriller-dance. Harry is trying to copy but he’s doesn’t get the hands quite right.

I want to share another cover with you because I also own the third paperback edition of this book. That was the one I read when I was younger.

⚡ Is boring Goblet of Fire covers a thing?

⚡ In case you can’t tell, that green thing is the dark mark. I’m telling you this because child-me thought it was the Goblet of Fire for years!

Now we’re moving on to the translations!

‘Original English’ = ‘Danish translation’

Pigwidgeon/Pig = Grisligiano/Grisling

We’re not talking a giant name-change for this over-excited little owl. The first part of his name is actually a direct translation. So ‘Pig = Gris‘. ‘Widgeon’ is, apparently, some kind of duck species. Don’t know what to make of that. I haven’t been able to find a meaning for the latter part of the Danish translation, ‘ligiano’, other than it sounds Italian.
Its nickname in Danish is quite funny, though, because ‘Grisling’ is what we call Piglet from Winnie-the-Pooh. It’s very difficult for me to picture a tiny owl when I read that name.

Ludovic Bagman = Ludo Ludomand

‘Ludo’ comes from Latin and means to play or gamble, which makes you wonder what Ludo’s parents were thinking when they named him. But at least they were equally ridiculous in both languages. His English last name can have a few different meanings. In American slang, ‘Bagman’ refers to a person in the world of crime who handles bribes. A sort of go-between. In the UK, though, a bagman is slang for a traveling salesman. Both terms refer to people dealing with money.
Because it’s slang, you can’t translate it directly, and Danish doesn’t really have a similar slang word. So the translator went with ‘Ludomand’. If you remove that last ‘d’, you have the Danish word for ludomania. It’s like his name is Gamble Gambler. It’s just an unfortunate name.

Portkey = Transitnøgle

The meaning does not change a whole lot for this way of transportation. ‘Key’ is directly translated into ‘nøgle’ so let’s take a closer look at ‘port’. It’s is derived from the French word porter, which means to carry. In Danish that is changed to ‘transit’, which means the same as the English word ‘transit’. More specifically, it means ‘to move’ or ‘to cross’. So even though the word changes we’re very close to the same meaning, so the change was successful in the way that it only made it sound better in Danish.

Barty Crouch = Barty Ferm

Crouch is not an unusual surname as far as I’m aware, but it is not just that. It also means to bend down or to stoop low. Well, that’s not what ‘Ferm’ means in Danish. When you’re ‘ferm’ it means that you’re adept/very, very good at something. Which somehow seems a more fitting name for Barty (senior, at least). I’m unsure whether it was Rowling’s intention for the name to carry meaning or not, but it wouldn’t be the first time a Danish translation had bestowed hidden meanings to character names.

Death Eaters = Dødsgardister

I’ve always felt that Death Eaters was a weird name, and it doesn’t help that we never got an explanation as to why that was the chosen name. I read a theory about it, which suggests that it comes from Voldemort’s fascination with immortality. He wanted to be in control of Death and prey on it instead of Death preying on him. So he got himself a bunch of followers who would “eat Death”.
However, the Danish word for them is ‘Dødsgardister’ which means Death Guards. Do note, though, that it’s a very unusual word for ‘guard’. But can we interpret this as the Danish Voldemort taking a more defensive stance? He needs to be guarded from Death instead of ‘eating Death’. I’ll admit that I never thought about this when reading the books, so it’s debatable whether meaning is lost or not. It’s just a fun little change.

Rita Skeeter = Rita Rivejern

I’m guessing at meaning again in this case because Skeeter might just be a name. However, it’s also slang for mosquito. Which can imply several things. It could be a hint to her secret life as an insect (literally and figuratively). It can also refer to the fact that the word paparazzi is derived from the Italian word for mosquito. Nevertheless, it’s a perfect name for Rita.
We’re in slang-area again, which means that Rita gets a new surname in Danish. And her name ‘Rivejern’ simply means grater. Other than being a kitchen tool, ‘rivejern’ is also a metaphor for a loud, angry woman (some would say bitch). I still think it’s a fitting name, and it sounds absolutely brilliant.

Mad-Eye Moody = Skrækøje Dunder

Another name-change! Understanding Moody’s first name is quite essential to his character, so a translation was needed. In Danish, he’s called ‘Skrækøje’ which means fear/horror eye. It refers more to the feeling he invokes in others, whereas his original name is about what people think of him (that he’s crazy). I would still conclude that they’re similar enough that not a lot of meaning is lost. A direct translation of ‘mad’ would not sound good in Danish.

It gets a little bit more difficult to decipher the meaning behind his surname in Danish, though. ‘Dunder’ isn’t a very common word, so I actually had to do research to find out what it means. It’s part of the expression ‘dunder speech’, which basically means an aggressive scolding. I can’t decide whether that’s fitting for Moody or not, but I can say that that’s not what ‘Moody’ means. That name refers more to his quick changes in mood. However, we’re again at that “a direct translation will sound stupid”-reasoning.

West Ham = Super-Skankefodboldholdet

I have checked and re-checked this translation 10 times and come to the conclusion that I will simply never understand.
We’ve come across a translation of the football team West Ham before in book 1, and back then, it was translated to Liverpool. I was incredibly distraught when I discovered that, but that was because I didn’t know how much worse it could get.
Just to be clear, ‘Super-Skankefodboldholdet’ isn’t a thing! It doesn’t exist. Anywhere! The last part, ‘fodboldholdet’, simply means football team. The rest of it, ‘Super-Skanke’, most of all appears to be what you get if you ask Google Translate what West Ham means. Which you shouldn’t because it’s a team name. I dread coming across West Ham again in the next books.

Triwizard Tournament = Turnering i Magisk Trekamp

The translation here is quite similar to the original, but there is still a change in meaning. The tournament in Danish is called ‘Turnering i Magisk Trekamp’ which roughly means Tournament in Magical Three-Fights. That ‘three-fights’ can also be translated as an alternative triathlon.
The ‘wizard’-part is completely removed in the translation process, which is why I think the ‘magical’ was added. Otherwise, it would just sound like your standard triathlon. The translation also changes what trio is referred to. The original name focuses on the trio of wizards (or witches) who will participate in the tournament. The translated name focuses on the three tasks the tournament consists of.

Cruciatus Curse = Dolorosoforbandelse

This one breaks a bit of a pattern in terms of spells in the Danish translations. So far, spells with Latin names have been kept as they are, but this one is translated. Not into Danish, though. ‘Doloroso’ is Spanish because why not? It means painful, so it checks out. But still, why change it from one thing a Dane wouldn’t understand to another thing a Dane wouldn’t understand? (Also, these posts are hard enough, juggling two languages. No need to add a third!).
I don’t know much Spanish, but I guess you could also argue that it should ‘Dolorosa‘ since the Spanish word for curse, maldición, is feminine.

S.P.E.W. = F.A.R.

If you thought S.P.E.W. was an unfortunate name, you didn’t know about the Danish name for Hermione’s organization. Because F.A.R. means… dad. So yeah, Hermione spent most of Goblet of Fire talking about her daddy issues. The thing with this translation that bothered me most when I was younger is that there are so many obvious jokes about it that aren’t being made in the book. Like, how would Ron not say something about Hermione’s “daddy issues”?

There’s also a small difference in what the letters stand for, as you might have noticed that the translation is missing a letter.

S.P.E.W. = Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare

F.A.R. = Foreningen for Alfers Rettigheder (The Association for Elfish Rights)

The ‘promotion’-part is left out, and ‘welfare’ is changed to ‘rights’, but I would say that the gist of it is the same. Some sacrifices had to be made to create a word that made sense and was also funny.

Professor Grubbly-Plank = Professor Makkeret

I feel like I need to give a short summary of the etymology behind this professor’s original name. ‘Grubbly’ most likely is a version of ‘grubble’ which means to feel or grope around in the dark. I think anyone who has ever been a substitute teacher would find that name too accurate. ‘Plank’ can mean a piece of wood you cling to for support. Which is what she was for the students while Hagrid was gone.

Her Danish name is ‘Makkeret’ which I can only assume is a contraction of the expression ‘makke ret’. It means to obey. Which is nothing like her original name. It’s also a very stern way of demanding obedience. There are some negative connotations involved, I would say. I don’t find her stern enough to have earned such a name that claims she demands obedience. So in the translation, she’s changed from a helpful witch, trying to do her best to an even sterner version of McGonagall. Which is a feat.

Bonus

This is just a little thing I wanted to add about the core of Harry’s wand. In book 1, his core was changed from a phoenix feather to a chimera horn, which broke my brain, so I wanted to update you. In Goblet of Fire, his wand is now mentioned to contain BOTH a chimera horn, and a phoenix feather. Didn’t know wands could have dual cores but okay. In The Weighing of Wands chapter, it is also stated that Voldemort’s wand contains not only a feather from the same phoenix but also a horn from the same chimera. The funny thing is, though, that when talking about Priori Incantatem, Dumbledore only mentions the phoenix feather as the reason why it’s happening. So what is the truth? Will that chimera horn stay a part of Harry’s wand all the way to book 7 or will it quietly disappear at some point? The mystery continues!

Did we really make it all the way to the end? Thank you if you read all of that! For some reason, I expected these posts to be shorter the further along in the series I got, but new stuff is introduced all the time in these books! And since the books are longer, I’m finding more translations to talk about. I’m kind of dreading Order of the Phoenix now 😅. But hope you enjoyed, and see you next time. Happy reading!

7 thoughts on “Lost In Translation: A Look At Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in Danish

  1. This was the best study break I ever could have asked for, obviously 🤗 I enjoyed every minute! I don’t even know what to comment on because my comment might end up as long as this entire post 😅 But I’ll do my best to keep it (comparatively) brief!

    I actually don’t think the merpeople cover is that boring – Harry’s dance moves make me feel better about mine, at least 😉 But then again, why pick them when you could also go for the dragon? Or maybe the sphinx? Or the ship in the lake?

    The dark mark cover though – not a fan 🙈 Though I do think it’s hilarious that you thought it was the goblet 😁

    I also lost it at Hermione’s daddy issues! That is too funny!

    I do wonder why they decided to change the cruciatus curse, though. I thought the weird spell name changes were a German thing! I really don’t see the point 🙈 Like you said, it just exchanges one foreign word for another; and I actually really like how spells have such a deep connection to Latin! It makes me think that Ancient Rome and maybe Greece must have been very important in the development of magic. Maybe the same great philosophers who came up with so much wonderful math also came up with lots of magic? I’d love to think there’s a connection 😊

    The best part has got to be the wand cores, though 😂😂😂 What a cheap way to try and cover up that you messed up with the first translation… I can’t wait to see how they deal with it in later books! And that West Ham bit, of course 🙄 Maybe the translator just had an intense hatred for that particular team?

    And don’t dread Order of the Phoenix! I am all here for a super long post concerning my favorite book of all time!!! 😊💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So happy you liked it! 😀

      I also think the merpeople cover is a wasted opportunity. We know the cover could be worse, but there were so many more exciting and colorful scenes they could have chosen instead. I feel like most other covers I’ve seen go for the dragon, but why wouldn’t you?

      And Hermione’s dad-thing was so awkward to read about when I was younger 😂

      Why they didn’t stick with the Latin name for the cruciatus curse is really weird. Maybe they thought it was English as it’s similar to ‘excruciating’ (which comes from the Latin word), but why change it to Spanish? Is that supposed to be easier for us to understand? 😂 And that connection to Ancient Rome sounds like something that must be true. Most spells have Latin names so it would make sense that most spells were invented back then and are sort of the foundation. And spells invented later didn’t necessarily use Latin such as Stupify.

      Yes, the wand cores *sigh*. I would probably just have thrown that chimera horn out when I realized the mistake. I mean, what are the changes that people are going to remember? You’re just digging yourself into a deeper hole by keeping it in.
      I’m also convinced that the translator had a huge grudge against West Ham and refused to put those words in the book 😂.

      I hope I can deliver an extremely long post about your favorite book then 😄

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such an interesting post! I’m especially fascinated by the name changes because in the greek translations they left them intact. Grisligiano does sound like Pig’s long lost cousin from Naples.

    I’m losing my mind at the translation of West Ham, it’s so funny. I don’t know why they did that but I’m going to refer to West Ham as Super-Skankefodboldholdet from now on. I’d take that over book 1’s Liverpool any day if I were associated with West Ham.

    Also, you’re right, the translation of the Cruciatus Curse makes zero sense. I really want to know what the translators were thinking bringing Spanish into it, it’s not like the languages have anything in common. But, it’s more creative than what the Greek translators did with the spells when they simply translated the words into Greek and added -us at the end to make them sound more Latin, I’ll give them that.

    As for S.P.E.W., I was under the impression that all translators had gone with something mildly disgusting (in greek it spelled “Μ.Υ.Ξ.Α”, aka nasal mucus), I didn’t expect to read about Hermione’s daddy issues. I can imagine how weird it must have been reading this as a child, as an adult I find it hilarious.

    This was such a fun post to read even if I’m not a fan of the books. I’ll definitely check out the previous posts in the series when I have time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very happy to hear you like it! 😀

      It’s weird about the names because most are actually kept as they are, but I’ve yet to figure out what makes a name worth a translation. It seems random. Most main characters’ names are the same as the original which I appreciate. It was less confusing to switch from Danish to English versions.

      I also think I’d be even more upset about the West Ham thing if it was my team, especially that they’d turn it into Liverpool 😱 Not sure other people will understand what you mean by Super-Skankefodboldholdet but I say go for it 😂

      And yeah, translating something from Latin into Spanish in a Danish book is so baffling to me. That Greek way of translating spells made me laugh, though. As long as it sounds like Latin, it must be Latin 😂

      It was very weird to read about “S.P.E.W.” as a child! But yeah, today it’s funny. So is nasal mucus. Eww.

      Liked by 1 person

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