The Titles of Magical Books in Harry Potter
Sonnets of a Sorceror
Wū-shī de shísì-háng-shī
的 de = connecting particle
十四 shí-sì = '14'.
行 háng = 'line (of writing)'.
诗 shī = 'poem'.
|14-line poems of a wizard|
Mófǎ-shī shísì-háng-shī chāo
十四 shí-sì = '14'.
行 háng = 'line (of writing)'
詩 shī = 'poem'.
抄 chāo = 'copy' (used in traditional book titles).
|14-line poems of a magician|
Mahō-zukai no sonetto (jūshi-gyō-shi)
mahō-zukai = 'magician'.
の no = connecting particle
ソネット sonetto = 'sonnet' (from English).
十四 jūshi = '14'.
行 gyō = 'line (of writing)'.
詩 shi = 'poem'.
|Sonnets (14-line poems) of a wizard|
|Vietnamese||Thơ Phủ thủy||thơ
phủ thủy = 'sorceror'.
|Poems of a sorceror|
This is above all a book of magical poetry. Rowling uses the word 'sonnet' because it goes well with 'sorceror'. If Harry Potter was a book about something else (e.g., pirates or monasteries), it could just as well have been named 'Ballads of a Buccaneer' or 'Alexandrines of an Acolyte'. But since this is a book about wizards, 'Sonnets of a Sorceror' it is.
The sonnet is familiar to anyone having a nodding acquaintance with European literature. It is one of the best known poetic forms with its beginnings in Renaissance Italy. The sonnet is virtually unknown, however, to Oriental literature, which has its own rich tradition of verse forms. Some of the better known forms in China were the shi, the ci, and the fu. Japan is famous for its 7-line tanka and 3-line haiku.
All but one of the translators feels compelled to spell out the word 'sonnets' in translating the title.
In translating the word 'sonnet', the Chinese and Taiwanese translators resort to the standard explanatory expression '14-line poem' (十四行詩 shísì-háng-shī).
The Japanese translator somewhat didactically uses the English word sonnet (or to be more accurate, ソネット sonetto) while putting an explanation in parentheses. This covers all bases but makes for a rather ungainly book title.
The Vietnamese translator takes the simplest approach of all, translating 'sonnet' as 'poem' without elaborating on the verse form. Since the main point of the title is that this is a book of poetry, this is arguably the most intelligent approach.