Posted in Lost In Translation

Lost In Translation: A Look at Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in Danish

“The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive.”

First line in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

Hello, you lovely people. It’s time for another post where I take a closer look at the (sometimes odd) translation choices made when Harry Potter was translated into my native language, Danish. Naturally, I grew up reading them in Danish so the translations have had a great impact on my first impression of this series I love so dearly.

In these posts, I take a closer look at the specific “Harry Potter words” and determine how much meaning was lost or changed in the translation. It’s all for fun since I greatly admire the work of translators and recognize that the task of translating a fantasy book requires some serious skill. I’m just a blogger who loves languages and Harry Potter and found a way to combine them. If you missed any of the previous posts, you can find them here. But let’s get started because this is a long one. As usual, here’s the Danish cover for the first hardback edition:

⚡ The symbolism!! I love how the only part of Harry we see is his head, which is such a brilliant way to illustrate how much this book is about Harry’s mind. Then we have the Thestrals behind him with their demon-like look haunting him. My own interpretation is that they represent the trauma Harry suffers from, from having witnessed Cedric’s murder and everything else that happened in that graveyard. We know he’s able to see them now because of Cedric’s death.

⚡ I’m not sure what that thing in the background is, but my guess is that it’s an attempt at the archway that Sirius falls through. If it is, it could represent that second death-trauma that will hit Harry by the end of the book.

⚡ I know I bashed the Goblet of Fire cover for being too dark, but I don’t have that problem here. Order of the Phoenix needs to have the darkest cover.

And now for the translations.
‘Original English = ‘Danish translation’

Scourgify = Skureogrense

We’re starting with one of the non-Latin spells, which means it gets a translation. It’s a simple cleaning charm, and it’s isn’t so much that the translation is inherently wrong more so than it’s a funny solution. The translator realized that it’s challenging to make Danish words sound like a spell. The language is not epic or mysterious enough, so what did they do? They mushed several words together to make it sound like something made-up. ‘Skureogrense’ is actually ‘Skure og rense’ which translates to scrub and clean.

Dudley Demented = Dudleys Første Kys

This is the title of the first chapter and is clearly meant to refer to Dudley’s first encounter with a Dementor. It’s not completely obvious, though, when you read it for the first time because ‘demented’ could mean a variety of different things. It could mean that Dudley was insane/mad (likely) or suffering from dementia (unlikely). In Danish, the chapter title, however, means Dudley’s First Kiss, which makes you want to stop reading immediately because why would you want to witness that? The translation does succeeding in subtly hinting at the Dementor attack, even though the “trick meaning” is different. Also, he isn’t technically kissed by the Dementor, but I still want to applaud the translation for being creative. You could have translated ‘demented’ into the Danish ‘dementere’, but it’s a highly uncommon word (that also doesn’t mean the same), so I think it would have been too obvious that we were going to see some Dementor-action if that word was used.

Dolores Umbridge = Dolora Nidkjær

I have a lot to say about this horrible woman’s name. Her first name is only made Danish-sounding and not changed completely, but maybe it should have been. If you read my post for Goblet of Fire, you know that the Danish translation changed the torture curse from cruciatus to the Spanish (and Latin) doloroso, which means painful. So her first name means pain, but in Danish that connection to pain is made so much more obvious by the cruciatus-translation. I’m not sure what to make of that other than it’s an interesting choice.

Moving on to her last name which in English is similar to the word ‘umbrage’ meaning ‘to take offense’. The Danish translation ‘Nidkjær’ comes from the word ‘nidkær’, which means zealous. It really refers to her pedantic obsession with rules and Ministry guidelines, and although the meaning isn’t the same, I actually think I prefer the Danish meaning. It’s so fitting for her character. I also really liked how the translator added that ‘j’ in the name because it makes it sound like a typical Danish last name. ‘Kjær’ is very common in our names.

O.W.L. = U.G.L.

As you probably know, O.W.L. stands for Ordinary Wizarding Level but is referred to as ‘Owls’. So how did the Danish translator solve this nightmare? Let’s go through the letters.

U = Udmærkelse (English: distinction/award/education)

G = Genialitet (English: geniusness(?)/ingenuity)

L = Lærevillighed (English: willingness to learn)

I’m sorry, none of those words liked being translated directly into English. Basically, U.G.L. stands for ‘education in ingenuity and willingness to learn’, which is so far from the original name, but not entirely wrong either. I think the biggest problem is that there’s nothing magical about it. It could be an education for Muggles.
I can tell there was an attempt at recreating the ‘owls’ reference, and therefore the words had to be changed. The only problem, however, is that they didn’t succeed in spelling out the Danish word for owl. That word is ‘ugle’ so they’re missing an ‘e’. Ugl doesn’t mean anything. I also specifically remember reading it as letters when I was younger and not as one word. I didn’t make the owl-connection until I read the English versions.

Wilbert Slinkhard = Wilbert Skræddersjæl

This is the author of the book Defensive Magical Theory, which the students read in Defence Against the Dark Arts. His original last name contains the word ‘slink’, which means to walk away from somewhere quietly to avoid notice. Bearing in mind that his book only handles magical theory and not the use of spells, I think it’s safe to say that his name means that he runs away from any confrontation instead of staying and fighting.

The Danish translation is not that far off, and I’m actually quite impressed with it. The literal meaning of ‘Skræddersjæl’ is tailor soul. I know, that doesn’t make any sense, but the word is also a very old metaphor for coward. So old, though, that I’ve never heard it used before, but you don’t need to know what it means. It’s just a fun little joke for those who do.

Lachlan the Lanky = Lachlan Lemmedasker

We’ve reached the point where random statues get new names, and I decided to include this one because it made me laugh. His Danish last name ‘Lemmedasker’ means… Limb Slapper. It’s especially unfortunate because the word ‘lem’ in Danish could just as easily refer to a very specific limb on the male body. Don’t know how that relates to being lanky, so I really hope they were referring to slapping arms or something like that. And it’s not as if we don’t have a word for lanky. It doesn’t start with an ‘L’, but other similar translations have proven that it doesn’t have to.

The Hog’s Head = Det Glade Vildsvin

It’s our favorite creepy tavern whose name had to be changed. The Danish version ‘Det Glade Vildsvin’ means The Happy Boar. It first and foremost means that the translation added quite a bit of irony to the name because that place is not happy. It also changed the animal, although not by much. But why change anything at all? Well, even though ‘hog’s head’ is easy to translate, it doesn’t mean that it works as a name for a place. In my opinion, a direct translation would have given the tavern a very clunky name, whereas ‘Det Glade Vildsvin’ just rolls off the tongue.

Dumbledore’s Army = Dumbledores Armé

If you had to read that twice to notice the difference, I don’t blame you. I was unsure whether to include this one because it isn’t technically wrong. ‘Armé’ means army if that wasn’t obvious from their similar look. The problem is that ‘armé’ isn’t used in daily speech at all. It’s one of those words I only know the meaning of because of its English equivalent. Our standard word for army is ‘hær’, which would have been the more correct direct translation. However, it’s clear that the translator prioritized keeping the DA abbreviation, and when it’s a possibility in this way, I’m not sure if I can blame them. The way the characters talk about it makes its meaning clear, even though younger readers might not be familiar with the word.

Willy Widdershins = Bernard Bagvend

A very minor character, but he’s the one who’s been doing pranks on Muggles (Mr. Weasley complains about him), and he’s also the one who overhears the DA meeting in The Hog’s Head and tells Umbridge. His original last name, Widdershins, is another word for going counter-clockwise. Danish doesn’t have a single word for that so that the translator went with ‘Bagvend’ which is very close to our word for backwards. Quite clever, right? Now to the fun part. His name is mentioned four times throughout the book, but ‘Bagvend’ is only his name the first time. The other three times his name is ‘Bagrend’, which doesn’t really mean anything. I can understand one typo but three? I’m confused.

Witch Weekly = Alt for Heksene

This popular witch-magazine is translated in a way that draws parallels to a well-known magazine in our real world. ‘Alt for Heksene’ means everything for the witches and is a reference to the Danish women’s magazine ‘Alt for Damerne’ meaning everything for the ladies. Because the Danish reader knows about that famous magazine, they immediately know all they need to about this fictional one.


This section is mainly for those of you who have been reading my previous posts in the series because there are some changes in the translations from those posts. I mean, why would something be translated the same way across 7 books? I don’t know what you expected.

⚡ First, the wand issue. There have previously been some doubts about whether the core of Harry’s wand contained a chimera horn, a phoenix feather, or both. When Harry gets his wand checked upon his arrival at the Ministry, the security wizard tells us that the core only consists of a phoenix feather. And he seems pretty thorough in his examination of it as he can even tell how many years Harry has been using it. You would think that if there was even a trace of chimera horn in there, he would say it. He didn’t, so does that mean that that horn has been completely purged from the Danish translations? Maybe, but I don’t trust anything, so I’ll still be keeping an eye out.

⚡ Now brace yourself because I’m going to tell you about the most mind-blowing thing in this book… The words ‘West’ and ‘Ham’ appeared in succession! 😱 That’s right, the football team West Ham wasn’t translated. Third time is the charm, apparently. However, it also means that we now have three different translations of that team across the series, the first two being Liverpool and Super-Skankefodboldholdet. I mean, no wonder that child-me never really caught on to Dean’s team affiliation.

We’ve sadly reached the end, but I hope you feel entertained and enlightened. I personally think the quality of the translations improved with this book compared to the first four, as there weren’t really any that didn’t make sense. I was even quite impressed with a few of them. But let me know what you think! And in case you’ve read these books in another language, please feel free to share any weird translations you’ve noticed.

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.


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!

Posted in 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.

Posted in Lost In Translation

Lost In Translation: A Look at Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Danish

“Not for the first time, an argument had broken out over breakfast at number four, Privet Drive.”

First line in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling

Hi, guys. It’s time for the second entry in my Lost in Translation series of posts where I compare the Danish versions of the Harry Potter books to the originals to see how much meaning is lost in the translations process. Check out the first one if you missed it. I grew up reading the books in Danish, but switched to the English ones when I was old enough to understand them.

As I mentioned in my post about the first book, I took a few translation classes when I studied at university, so I know a little bit about the thoughts that go into a translation. These posts are really just for fun and an excuse for me to combine my love for Harry Potter and languages.

First, let’s take a look at the Danish cover for the first hardback edition:

  • Aesthetically, I really like this cover. Lots of green colours that goes with the Slytherin theme of the book, but Harry still pops out with his orange/red colours.
  • Love that it is in the air which adds to the giantness of the snake.
  • Don’t know why Quidditch is put so front and center as it isn’t that big of a plot element in this book compared to others. But it looks pretty.
  • We spend most of the book wondering what’s inside the Chamber of Secrets… and you decide to put it on the front cover? Right. Also, I looked at some images of basilisks and this one actually looks more like a King Cobra. It’s small things like this that annoy me a little.

Now, let’s get into the translation part. Just like in the previous post, you don’t need to know a single word of Danish to understand this.

*Be aware that this will contain SPOILERS for the entire series*

‘Original English’ = ‘Danish translation’

The Burrow = Vindelhuset

Harry’s second favorite place in the world, the Weasley home. Looking up the word burrow, it told me that it’s basically a hole or a tunnel in the ground. So naming a house, The Burrow, gives connotations of it being homey and safe, maybe even secluded, but also tells you that it’s not exactly a mansion.

The Danish word for the house is ‘Vindelhuset’ which means The Winding House (like a winding staircase). This name tells you more about the look of the house than its feel. It’s still a very fitting name for the house in my opinion because it indicates its very odd look.

Celestina Warbeck = Celestina Himmelflugt

A name-change for a pretty unsignificant character. In case you don’t remember, this is the singer Molly Weasley loves dearly and listens to every Christmas. Her original last name doesn’t really have a meaning but in Danish it actually does. The literal meaning of ‘Himmelflugt’ is heaven escape, while it’s more often used to describe a quick and major rise or surge in something such as prices. In this case, it might be a reference to Celestina’s voice though.

Floo Powder = Susepulver

It’s really only the first part of this uncomfortable travel method that’s interesting as ‘powder’ translate directly to ‘pulver’. ‘Floo’ is a made-up word but still somehow just fits. In Danish, we have the word ‘suse’ which means ‘to whizz’, which is completely accurate. Whizz Powder. Am I the only one seeing a missed opportunity there?

Knockturn Alley = Tusmørkegyden

This is one of the funny ones. ‘Knockturn’ doesn’t mean anything in English, but when you follow it up with ‘alley’ and say it fast enough it becomes ‘nocturnally’, meaning something that happens at night. This play on words is very difficult to translate exactly, and so the Danish translator just tried to translate the meaning behind it. It came out as ‘Tusmørkegyden’ which means Twilight Alley.

It’s just not possible that there aren’t vampires down there. Thank god, Hagrid found Harry before he ran into Cedric.

The Voldemort Anagram

I’ve always imagined that anagrams must be a translator’s worst nightmare. And this one is quite important. In the original we have:

Tom Marvolo Riddle = I am Lord Voldemort

In Danish that is turned into:

Romeo G. Detlev Jr. = Jeg er Voldemort

So much to unpack here, but first let it sink in that Voldemort’s actual name is Romeo… No wonder he wanted to change it. No one would have taken him seriously as Lord Romeo.

Next up is that G. It’s not revealed in the second book here, but it actually stands for ‘Gåde’ which means riddle. This isn’t revealed until the name pops up again in book 4 though, which made the first chapter of that book a little bit more mysterious. We hadn’t been introduced to that name’s connection to Voldemort. I’m still impressed with the translator’s ability to get that ‘Riddle’ into the name and the anagram.

Then there is ‘Detlev’ which really has no meaning and is just there to make the anagram work. It’s actually more of a German name and not really used in Denmark, at least not anymore. It’s also more a first name as far as I’m aware, so it’s a little weird use of it.

I think it was very clever to add the Jr. (junior) because it’s so often mentioned that it’s his father’s name, and that Jr. is a constant reminder for him. Another reason why he was so adamant about changing it.

Lastly, his title of Lord is left out because they ran out of letters. All other times, he’s still referred to as Lord Voldemort so it’s not a permanent delete. I’m thinking that it was the sacrifice they had to make to get the ‘Riddle’ part in there, and the only other solution would have been to add another name and make it even more complicated. I think it’s fair.

That last one made my head hurt a little, but we managed to get through. I have way too much fun writing these posts so I really hope you guys just find it slightly informative. Let me know if there were any of these translation you found particularly interesting.

Posted in Lost In Translation

Lost in Translation: A Look at Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Danish

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

First line in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Hi, guys. So back in April I reread Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but I read it in my first langauge, Danish, for the purpose of this post right here. I grew up reading the Danish versions of the books but switched to English when I was old enough to understand them. So I had this idea that I wanted to compare the translated version to the original to see how much meaning is actually lost in the translation process.

I’m not doing a word for word comparision of the entire book because nobody wants that. I’m focusing more on the Harry Potter specific terms/names because those are the hardest to translate and therefore more fun to analyze. I do have a little bit of a background when it comes to translating. When I went to university to study International Business Communication, I took a few classes on the topic so I know a little bit without being an expert. All of this is really just for fun and a way for me to combine my two favorite things: Harry Potter and languages.

First, however, I wanted to show off the Danish cover for the first edition hardback which is the edition I own. And do a little commentary on it. Hope you enjoy!

  • Now, first I have a question: WHAT IS THAT HAT?!? Down by Harry’s feet? The book specified that their pointed hats needed to be black. You might be able to convince me that Dumblefore would wear a hat like that, but that kind of hat is never described in the book so what is it doing there?
  • Is Harry able to create lightning? In year 1? And why is he reaching for it? Is he actually suicidal in this one? I mean I wouldn’t be surprised with the Dursleys and all but damn that’s dark.
  • No more jokes. I actually really like the colour scheme of it and that sort of rock thing around the edge. I imagine that I as a reader broke through a wall to get to read about Harry Potter and Hogwarts.

Now, let’s get into the translation part of the post. I’ve tried to make it as easy for non-Danish speakers to understand as possible. So don’t worry, you don’t need to know a single word of Danish to understand this post.

*Be aware that this contains SPOILERS for the entire series*

‘Original English’ = ‘Danish translation’

The Philsopher’s Stone = De Vises Sten

We’re starting with the infamous title that not even English-speaking countries can agree on. It’s pretty straight forward actually because “philosopher’s stone” isn’t a Harry Potter expression and has existed as a term for several hundred years. So the Danish title is therefore just the Danish version of it.

The direct translation of “De Vises Sten” would be “The Stone of the Wise (Ones)”. So the philosopher is changed into a wise one which is not that big of a stretch. The meaning doesn’t change. However, the translation also changes the number of people involved. In English there’s only one philosopher, but in Danish it’s plural. So I looked into that. Turns out that English has of form of the concept that’s also plural (The Philosophers’ Stone) so both options would work when in Danish, it only existed as this plural form.

Gamekeeper = Godsforvalter

Gamekeeper is one of Hagrid’s titles and that basically means that it is his job to “manage” The Forbidden Forest and all its creatures. The Danish version gives him several other duties, however, by giving him the title of “Godsforvalter”. The most direct translation would be “manager of the estate”, as in a very large estate. Like it’s Hagrid job to make sure that everything runs smoothly at Hogwarts. I imagine his tasks would be something like hiring house-elves for the kitchen and ordering supplies and decorations for festivities. For some reason, I can’t picture Hagrid doing that.

So the meaning changed in the translation but of course not something that changes the entire story. I just remember always being kind of confused about Hagrid’s job at Hogwarts, but it all made sense when I read the English version. The word “godsforvalter” is also a very old Danish word. The title still exists but there are very few of them left so 10-year-old me did not know what it entailed.

Chocolate Frogs = Platugler

This one truly baffles me. The direct translation of “platugler” is… “stupid/lame owls”. OWLS?!? Where did that come from? That’s not even close to the original animal.
Although, “platugler” can have another meaning because it’s also an idiom. It can also refer to someone who cheats/cons, but that makes even less sense in this context.

In my research of why this translation was chosen, I came up with very little. My own guess would be based on the fact that we in Denmark already had something called chocolate frogs. A very popular type of candy actually from a big company. So my guess is that the translator wanted a name that was uniquely related to Harry Potter and not a big brand name.

Still weird to watch the movie when the “owls” turned out to be frogs.

West Ham = Liverpool

This is something you would think didn’t need a translation but here we are. In the English version, Dean Thomas is a supporter of the football team West Ham. In Danish he’s a fan of Liverpool.

As someone who watches football and the English Premier League, I simply needed to address this. West Ham is NOT Liverpool! They aren’t even based in the same city as West Ham is a London club.

The explanation? The only reason I can come up with, is that Liverpool is a more well-known club in Denmark. The Premier League has a lot of supporters around the world, and in Denmark the two clubs with the biggest following (at that time at least) were Liverpool and Manchester United. So maybe the translator just picked one of those so the team would be more recognizable. I still think it’s unnecessary because it’s a book for children so why does it matter? It’s also something that’s mentioned so off-handedly in the book. It’s really not that important.

Fang = Trofast

Here we have the first character-name-change, and it’s Hagrid’s dog Fang. In Danish, he’s called “Trofast” which means loyal or faithful. Now, it’s been difficult for me to know how much meaning the name Fang has but to me it has always been kind of ironic. It sounds like a name for a dangerous dog. One you shouldn’t mess with. It’s ironic because the only thing we really know about Fang is that he’s a huge coward.

That irony isn’t transferred to the Danish edition where his name is much more fitting in my opinion. “Trofast” is the kind of name a dog would have if he was big and lazy. It’s often the name of the dog in old movies here when an old man lives alone and has a dog. 9 out of 10 times that dog’s name will be “Trofast”.

Another thing is that Hagrid probably named him. As “Trofast” is a name for a calm and easy animal, I can only imagine Hagrid giving that name to some vicious and highly dangerous animal. I mean, he named a three-headed dog Fluffy, and so this translation isn’t exactly in character for Hagrid.

The Mirror of Erised = Drømmespejlet

That is one tricky mirror. “Drømmespejlet” can be translated into the mirror of dreams which is actually something that makes sense, unlike ‘erised’. The Danish translation succeeds in describing the workings of the mirror in its name, but should it do that when the original doesn’t? At least not if you haven’t figured out that backwards thing. You don’t get that puzzle in Danish.

The even more interesting part about The Mirror of Erised, however, is it’s inscription: Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi. This was just copy-pasted into the Danish version which is a problem because it only has a meaning in English. Backwards it says: I show not your face but your heart’s desire.

I can only assume that the translator wasn’t aware of its meaning, and thought it to be gibberish. It’s not explained anywhere in the book, but is just left there for the reader to figure out on their own. Imagine how mindblown I was when I, years later, saw someone talking about this online because I had no freaking idea that it meant something. It’s a code that’s easy enough to translate so my guess is that the translator didn’t know it needed to be translated.

Phoenix Feather = Kimærehorn

The most “oh no you didn’t”-translation of this book is the fact that it changes the core of Harry’s wand. Instead of a phoenix feather, Harry’s wand contains a horn from a chimera.

It kept the dual core thing by still explaining that Voldemort’s wand was made from a horn from the same chimera. You’re just still going to run into a problem in book 4 when it’s revealed that the “chimera horn” came from Fawkes…
Now, I don’t actually remember this being a problem as a child and only noticed that change in my recent reread. I have an inkling that when the wand’s core is mentioned in book 4, it’s going to be a phoenix feather. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for that.

As to why this change was made, I have absolutely no clue. It sort of broke my brain when I noticed because I can’t think of a reason why it needed to change to a different mythological creature. But it’s all just really unlucky. The translator had really no way of knowing that the core was going to be that important later on. That’s just J. K. Rowling and her amazing plotting for you.

I think this is the longest post I’ve ever done so thank you if you made it all the way through. I hope it was somewhat interesting. I know I had a lot of fun writing it and looking out for these little things while reading. A few of these I hadn’t actually noticed before.

I want to make it clear that I think translations of books are really important to make books as accessible as possible. No translation is perfect, however, and I find it interesting to ponder the different ways there are to translate a word.
I’ll be doing a post like this for the rest of the books as well whenever I get around to rereading them. Did any of these translations mystify you as much as they did me?