Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese & Mongolian Translation
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Description of the Basilisk (Book 2)

 

This site mainly deals with the translation of individual words rather than sentences or passages. That is because it is relatively straightforward to look at how individual words are translated whereas sentences and passages are much more complex.

But just as searching for the right word is essential to the process of writing, so is putting the ideas into a coherent order, whether in sentences or in complete passages.

The description of the Basilisk, which is found at Chapter 16 in the Chamber of Secrets, is a short passage using a limited range of constructions. It is thus well-suited for looking at how sentences are constructed in English and comparing how they have been transposed into other languages. I propose to look at the way this passage has been translated.

First I look at the way the relative clause construction is treated in the four translations. One of the translators consistently confuses the grammatical function of the relative clause with the way it is actually used in English prose. To find out who it is, see the Translation of Relative Clauses in the Description of the Basilisk in the Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese translations of Harry Potter.

The conjunction 'for' is another expression that has various uses and may be handled different ways in translation. For a treatment of the two examples of 'for' in the passage, see The Treatment of 'For' Clauses in the Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese Translations of the Description of the Basilisk in Harry Potter (Book 2).

The four passages themselves, plus Mongolian, can be seen below. A gloss of individual words can be called up by clicking the links.

English original:

Of the many fearsome beasts and monsters that roam our land, there is none more curious or more deadly than the Basilisk, known also as the King of Serpents. This snake, which may reach gigantic size, and live many hundreds of years, is born from a chicken's egg, hatched beneath a toad. Its methods of killing are most wondrous, for aside from its deadly and venomous fangs, the Basilisk has a murderous stare, and all who are fixed with the beam of its eye shall suffer instant death. Spiders flee before the Basilisk, for it is their mortal enemy, and the Basilisk flees only from the crowing of the rooster, which is fatal to it.

Translations

Chinese (Mainland):

在我们国家,游荡着许多可怕的野兽和怪物,其中最离奇、最具有杀伤力的莫过于蛇怪,又被称为蛇王。这种蛇的体积可以变得十分巨大,通常能活好几百年。它是从一只公鸡蛋里、由一只癞蛤蟆孵出的。它杀人的方式十分惊人,除了它致命的毒牙外,蛇怪的瞪视也能致人死亡,任何人只要被它的目光盯住,就会立刻丧命。蜘蛛看到蛇怪就会逃跑,因为蛇怪是蜘蛛的死敌,而蛇怪只有听见公鸡的叫声才会仓皇逃命,因为公鸡的叫声对它来说也是致命的。
Zài wǒmen guójiā, yóudàng-zhe xǔduō kěpà de yěshòu hé guàiwù, qízhōng zuì líqí, zuì jùyǒu shāshānglì de mòguòyú Shéguài, yòu bèi chēng wéi Shéwáng. Zhè zhǒng shé de tǐjī kěyǐ biàn de shífēn jùdà, tōngcháng néng huó hǎo jǐ bǎi nián. Tā shì cóng yīzhī gōngjīdàn lǐ, yóu yīzhī lái hámá fūchū de. Tā shā rén de fāngshì shífēn jīngrén, chúle tā zhìmìng de dúyá wài, Shéguài de dèngshì yě néng zhì rén sǐwáng, rènhé rén zhǐ yào bèi tā de mùguāng dīngzhù, jiù huì lìkè sàngmìng. Zhīzhū kàn dào Shéguài jiù hùi táopǎo, yīnwei Shéguài shì zhīzhū de sǐdí, ér Shéguài zhǐyǒu tīngjiàn gōngjī de jiàoshēng cái huì cānghuáng táomìng, yīnwei gōngjī de jiàoshēng duì tā lái shuō yě shì zhìmìng de.

A rough and fairly literal translation:

In our country are wandering many horrible beasts and monsters, of them the most bizarre, the most lethal do not exceed the Snake Monster, also known as the Snake King. The size of this kind of snake can become quite large, and [it] usually lives for hundreds of years. It is hatched from a rooster's egg by a toad. Its ways of killing are alarming, in addition to its deadly poisonous fangs, the Snake Monster's glare can cause death, if anyone is fixed in its gaze [they] will immediately die. When spiders see the Snake Monster, they will run away because the Snake Monster is the mortal enemy of spiders, and the Snake Monster will only panic if it hears the cry of the rooster because the cry of the rooster is also fatal to it.

Glossary of Chinese words (Mainland edition) -- opens in small window

又被称为蛇王 yòu bèi chēng wéi Shéwáng is influenced by the original English in its use of the passive marker 被 bèi, which is unnecessary in Chinese.

蜘蛛看到蛇怪就会逃跑 zhīzhū kàn dào Shéguài jiù hùi táopǎo means 'spiders escape when they see the Basilisk', a slight difference of nuance from 'spiders flee before the Basilisk'.

'Chicken's egg' is translated as 公鸡蛋 gōngjī-dàn. 公鸡 gōngjī is 'male chicken' = 'rooster'. 鸡蛋 jī-dàn is the normal word for a 'chicken's egg' (i.e., a hen's egg). The meaning is thus the egg of a rooster or cock.

What the Basilisk fears is the 公鸡的叫声 gōngjī de jiàoshēng 'calling of the rooster'.

 

Chinese (Taiwan):

在我們國土上漫遊的眾多可怕野獸與怪物裡面,其中最希罕,同時也是最危險的種類就是蛇妖,亦稱為萬蛇之王。此種可以成長到驚人尺寸,並擁有數百年壽命的蛇類,是由蟾蜍孵育雞蛋所生。牠最不可思議的特點是牠殺戮的方法,除了牠那致命的毒牙之外,蛇妖還擁有一種殺人的凝視,而所有與牠視線相接的人都會立刻死去。蜘蛛見到蛇妖就會落荒而逃,因為牠是牠們的天敵,但蛇妖唯一忌憚的卻是雄雞的啼叫,那對牠來說是奪命的魔音。
Zài wǒmen guótǔ-shàng mànyóu de zhòngduō kěpà yěshòu yǔ guàiwù lǐmiàn, qízhōng zuì xīhǎn, tóngshí yě shì zuì wēixiǎn de zhǒnglèi jiù shì Shéyāo, yì chēng wéi Wàn-shé-zhī-wáng. Cǐ zhǒng kěyǐ chéngzhǎng dào jīngrén chǐcùn, bìng yōngyǒu shùbǎi nián shòumìng de shélèi, shì yóu chánchú fūyù jīdàn suǒ shēng. Tā zuì bù kě sīyì de tèdiǎn shì tā shālù de fāngfǎ, chúle tā nà zhìmìng de dúyá zhī wài, Shéyāo hái yōngyǒu yìzhǒng shārén de níngshì, ér suǒyǒu yǔ tā shìxiàn xiāngjiē de rén dōu huì lìkè sǐqù. Zhīzhū jiàndào Shéyāo jiù huì luòhuāng ér tào, yīnwèi tā shì tāmen de tiāndí, dàn Shéyāo wéiyī jìdàn de què shì xióngjī de tíjiào, nà duì tā lái shuō shì duó mìng de móyīn.

A rough and fairly literal translation:

Among the horrendous beasts and monsters roaming our land, of these the most bizarre and at the same time most dangerous species is the Snake Demon, also known as the King of the Serpents. This kind of snake species, which can grow to alarming dimensions and has a life span of hundreds of years, is born from a hen's egg incubated by a toad. Its most incredible feature is its method of killing, in addition to its deadly poisonous fangs, the Snake Demon also has a murderous gaze, and all the people who meet with its line of sight die immediately. When they see the Snake Demon spiders will flee in confusion, because it is their natural enemy, but the only fear of the Snake Demon is the crowing of the rooster. This is a deadly magic sound for it.

Glossary of Chinese words (Taiwan edition) -- opens in small window

牠最不可思議的特點是牠殺戮的方法 Tā zuì bù kě sīyì de tèdiǎn shì tā shālù de fāngfǎ appears to be based on a misinterpretation of the English. In this case, 'most wondrous' does not mean 'the most wondrous', it is simply a way of saying 'extremely wondrous'. The translator here translates this as 'Its most curious feature is its method of killing', turning a 'most wondrous' method of killing into 'its most curious feature'.

The Taiwanese version translates the expression 'born from a chicken's egg, hatched beneath a toad' into a succinct Chinese expression: 由蟾蜍孵育雞蛋所生 yóu chánchú fūyù jīdàn suǒ shēng 'born from a hen's egg incubated by a toad'.

Like the Mainland version, which notes that 'spiders flee when they see the Basilisk', this translation says 蜘蛛見到蛇妖就會落荒而逃 zhīzhū jiàndào Shéyāo jiù huì luòhuāng ér tào 'When they see the Snake Demon spiders will flee in confusion'.

'Chicken's egg' is translated as 雞蛋 jī-dàn, the normal term for a 'chicken's egg' (i.e., hen's egg).

What the Basilisk fears is 雄雞的啼叫 xióngjī de tíjiào 'calling of the rooster'.

 

Japanese:

我らが世界を徘徊する多くの怪獣、怪物の中でも、最も珍しく、最も破壊的であるという点で、バジリスクの右に出るものはない。『毒蛇の王』とも呼ばれる。この蛇は巨大に成長することがあり、何百年も生き長らえることがある。鶏の卵から生まれ、ヒキガエルの腹の下で孵化される。殺しの方法は非常に珍しく、毒牙による殺傷とは別に、バジリスクの一にらみは致命的である。その眼からの光線に捕われた者は即死する。蜘蛛が逃げ出すのはバジリスクが来る前触れである。なぜならバジリスクは蜘蛛の宿命の天敵だからである。バジリスクにとって致命的なのは雄鶏が時をつくる声で、唯一それからは逃げ出す。
Warera ga sekai o haikai suru ōku no kaijū, kaibutsu no naka demo, mottomo mezurashiku, mottomo hakaiteki de aru to iu ten de, Bajirisuku no migi ni deru mono wa nai. "Dokuhebi no Ō" to mo yobareru. Kono hebi wa kyodai ni seichō suru koto ga ari, nanbyakunen mo ikinagaraeru koto ga aru. Niwatori no tamago kara umare, hikigaeru no hara no shita de fuka sareru. Koroshi no hōhō wa hijō ni mezurashiku, dokuga ni yoru sasshō to wa betsu ni, Bajirisuku no hitonirami wa chimeiteki de aru. Sono me kara no kōsen ni torawareta mono wa sokushi suru. Kumo ga nigedasu no wa Bajirisuku ga kuru maebure de aru. Naze nara Bajirisuku wa kumo no shukumei no tenteki da kara de aru. Bajirisuku ni totte chimeiteki na no wa ondori ga toki o tsukuru koe de, yui-itsu sore kara wa nigedasu.

A rough and fairly literal translation:

Among the many strange beasts and monsters that wander around the world, in terms of being the most unusual and most destructive, there is nothing to top the Basilisk. It is also called the "King of Venomous Snakes". This snake can grow to enormous [size] and can live for hundreds of years. It is born from a hen's egg, and hatched under the belly of a toad. Its methods of killing are very rare, apart from killing by poisonous fangs, one glance of the Basilisk is deadly. Those captured by the light from its eyes will die instantly. The fleeing of spiders is a harbinger of the coming of the Basilisk. That is because the Basilisk is the natural deadly enemy of spiders. What is fatal to the Basilisk is the cry of the rooster calling the hour, only from this does [it] escape.

Glossary of Japanese words -- opens in small window

The Japanese translates 'Spiders flee before the Basilisk' as 蜘蛛が逃げ出すのはバジリスクが来る前触れである Kumo ga nigedasu no wa Bajirisuku ga kuru maebure de aru 'The fleeing of the spiders is a harbinger of the coming of the Basilisk'.

'Chicken's egg' is translated as 鶏の卵 niwatori no tamago, literally the egg of a 'chicken' (barnyard fowl).

What the Basilisk fears is the 雄鶏が時をつくる声 ondori ga toki o tsukuru koe 'the voice of the rooster calling the time'.

 

Vietnamese:

Trong số những ác thú và quái vật đáng sợ đi lang thang trên mảnh đất của chúng ta, không có con nào lạ lùng hơn và nguy hiểm hơn Basilisk, còn được gọi là Tử Xà. Con rắn này có thể sống đến nhiều trăm năm, và đạt tới kích thước lớn kinh hồn. Nó được phôi thai trong một cái trứng gà, nhưng được một con cóc ấp nở ra. Phương cách giết người của nó thật kỳ lạ: ngoài những chiếc răng nanh có nọc độc chết người, Tử Xà còn có một cái nhìn giết người, tất cả những ai bắt gặp ánh mắt của Tử Xà, thì chỉ một cái nhìn cũng đủ chết ngay lập tức. Nhền nhện thường trốn chạy trước khi Tử Xà xuất hiện, bởi vì đó là kẻ tử thù của chúng. Và Tử Xà thì chỉ bỏ chạy khi nghe tiếng gáy của gà trống, tiếng gà trống gáy là tai họa chí tử đối với Tử Xà.

A rough and fairly literal translation:

Among the evil creatures and scary monsters roaming in our land, none is more strange and dangerous than the Basilisk, also known as the Death Snake. This snake can live for hundreds of years, and reaches great size. It was conceived in a hen's egg, but was hatched by a toad. The way of killing it is strange: in addition to deadly venomous fangs, the Death Snake also has a killer look, all those who meet the eyes of the Death Snake, just a look is enough to die immediately. Spiders usually flee before the Death Snake appears, because it is their deadly enemy. And the Death Snake just runs away when it hears the sound of the crowing of the rooster, the crowing of the rooster crow is fatal to the Death Snake.

Glossary of Vietnamese words -- opens in small window

Vietnamese translates 'spiders flee when they see the Basilisk' as Nhền nhện thường trốn chạy trước khi Tử Xà xuất hiện, meaning that they flee before the Basilisk appears.

'Chicken's egg' is translated as trứng gà 'chicken's egg', that is, a hen's egg.

What the Basilisk fears is tiếng gáy của gà trống 'crowing of the rooster' ('rooster'= gà trống).

 

Mongolian (1):

Энэ хорвоод тоо томшгүй олон мангас байдаг ч Басилиск шиг аймшигтай нь үгүй. Түүнийг Могойнуудын хаан гэдгээр мэднэ. Маш том биетэй болон өсдөг энэ могой олон зуун жил насладаг, тахианы өндөгнөөс төрөөд бах мэлхийгээр даруулж амилдаг байна. Түүний хүн амьтныг алах арга нь маш өвөрмөц. Аймшигтай хортой хоёр том соёоноос нь гадна түүний харц үхүүлэх хүчтэй бөгөөд нүднийх нь харцанд өртсөн хүн хормын төдийд үхдэг. Басилиск аалзнуудын заналт байсан тул тэд түүнээс зугтдаг, харин Басилиск өөрөө тахиа донгодох дуунаас л айдаг. Түүнд хор учруулж чадах цорын ганц зүйл энэ юм.
En khorvood too tomshgüi olon maŋgas baidag ch Basilisk shig aimshigtai n ügüi. Tüüniig Mogoinuudiiŋ khaaŋ gedgeer meden. Mash tom biyetei bolon ösdög en mogoi oloŋ zuuŋ jil nasladag, takhianii öndögnöös törööd bakh melkhiigeer daruulj am'ldag bain. Tüünii khüŋ am'tniig alakh arag n' mash övörmöts. Aimshigtai khortoi khoyor tom soyoonoos n gadan tüünii kharts ükhüülekh khüchtei bögööd nüdniikh n khartsand örtsön khüŋ khormiiŋ tödiid ükhdeg. Basilisk aalznuudiiŋ zanalt baisan tul ted tüünees zugtdag, khariŋ Basilisk ööröö takhia doŋgodokh duunaas l aidag. Tüünd khor uchruulj chadakh tsoriiŋ gants züil en yum.

A rough and fairly literal translation (tentative):

Although there are innumerable monsters in this world, none are as terrible as the Basilisk. It is known as the King of Snakes. This snake, which can grow to a huge body, lives for hundreds of years, it is born from a hen's egg and hatches from a toad's brooding. Its method of killing people and animals is very special. Apart from its two large frighteningly venomous fangs, its gaze has the power to kill and people who are caught by the eye all die in a moment. Because the Basilisk has been deeply hated, spiders fly from it, but the Basilisk is afraid only of the sound of the chicken calling. This is the only thing that can harm it.

Glossary of Mongolian words -- opens in small window

Mongolian translates 'Of the many fearsome beasts and monsters that roam our land' as Энэ хорвоод тоо томшгүй олон мангас байдаг, 'There are innumerable monsters in this world'. The translation fails to capture the intended menace conveyed by 'roaming our land'.

'Chicken's egg' is translated as тахианы өндөг takhianii öndög 'chicken's egg' (egg of a barnyard fowl), referring to a hen's egg.

What the Basilisk fears is тахиа донгодох дуу the sound of the chicken calling. The term тахиа takhia is not specific to the rooster (cock) or hen.

 

Mongolian (2):

«Манай дэлхий дээрх мангас чөтгөрүүдийн дунд Могойн хаан гэгддэг Василискаас илүү сонирхолтой, үхлийн аюултай амьтан үгүй билээ. Аварга том биетэй, олон зуун жилийн настай энэхүү могой бахын дарсан тахианы өндөгнөөс төржээ. Уг могой хүнийг үхлийн аюултай хорт соёогоороо хөнөөдгөөс гадна түүний харц ч мөн үхлийн аюултай. Өөрөөр хэлбэл, Василискийн нүдний харц туссан хүн агшин зуур зовж үхдэг байна. Аалзнууд Василискаас айдаг; учир нь энэ тэдний өшөөт байсан юм. Василиск зөвхөн тахианы донгодох дуунаас айдаг. Энэ дуу түүнд үхлийн аюултай.»
Manai delkhii deerkh maŋgas chötgörüüdiiŋ dund Mogoiŋ khaaŋ gegddeg Vasiliskaas ilüü sonirkholtoi, ükhliin ayuultai am'taŋ ügüi bilee. Avrag tom biyetei, oloŋ zuuŋ jiliiŋ nastai enkhüü mogoi bakhiiŋ darsaŋ takhianii öndögnöös törjee. Ug mogoi khüniig ükhliiŋ ayuultai khort soyoogooroo khönöödgöös gadan tüünii kharts ch möŋ ükhliiŋ ayuultai. Ööröör khelbel, Vasiliskiiŋ nüdnii kharts tussan khüŋ agshiŋ zuur zovj ükhdeg bain. Aalznuud Vasiliskaas aidag; uchir n en tednii öshööt baisaŋ yum. Vasilisk zövkhön takhianii doŋgodokh duunaas aidag. En duu tüünd ükhliiŋ ayuultai.

This translation uses Василиск vasilisk, which is used in the Russian translation.

A rough and fairly literal translation (tentative):

Among the monsters and demons (that are) in our world, there is no more curious or deadly creature than the Vasilisk, known as the Snake King. This snake, which has a huge body and has a lifespan of many hundreds of years, is born from a hen's egg hatched by a toad. Apart from killing people with deadly venomous fangs, the gaze of this snake is deadly. In other words, a person who strikes the gaze of the Basilisk's eyes suffers instant death. Spiders fear the Vasilisk; the reason is that this was their hated [one]. The Vasilisk is afraid only of the sound of the chicken crying. This sound is deadly to it.

The newer Mongolian version translates 'Of the many fearsome beasts and monsters that roam our land' as Манай дэлхийн дээрх мангас чөтгөрүүдийн дунд , 'among the monsters and ghosts in our world...'. This translation also fails to capture the sense conveyed by 'roaming our land'.

'Chicken's egg' is translated as тахианы өндөг takhianii öndög 'chicken's egg' (egg of a barnyard fowl), referring to a hen's egg.

What the Basilisk fears is тахиа донгодох дуу the sound of the chicken calling. The term тахиа takhia is not specific to the rooster (cock) or hen.

 

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