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About the trains

FarFromHome
Valinor


Apr 7 2009, 10:54am


Views: 285
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About the trains [In reply to] Can't Post

Is this an “anachronism”???? I dare you to call it a “translation” and suggest what the original written phrase was that the translator chose to render in railroad terms, because the original was unsuitable for a modern audience to understand. Be specific.

I doubt you'll find any takers for your challenge. It's too obvious that the translator/narrator of The Hobbit is telling the story in his own words, not translating it directly from There and Back Again: A Hobbit's Tale.

In fact, I doubt whether anyone claims that either The Hobbit or LotR could be taken as direct, literal translations of work by Bilbo and Frodo. There's clearly a modern translator/narrator, even in LotR - a kind of semi-fictionalized Tolkien - who fills us in on the background in the Prologue to LotR in a pseudo-scholarly way. He takes a chapter or two to back out and let the story tell itself, during which he manages to come up with another train simile in A Long-Expected Party. After this, he certainly keeps himself out of the limelight in LotR, but he's one of the many layers in the storytelling that makes it very difficult to pin down the "right" answer to the many ambiguities that, for me, make the story so compelling. The narrator claims to be telling a story that he has stumbled upon, a story originally written by its protagonists, and for the most part he makes that stick, by only telling us things that he could have taken straight from protagonists' own account - in The Hobbit, for example, we know pretty much only what Bilbo knows. We don't follow Gandalf, we don't see into the dwarves' minds. This is Bilbo's story, filtered through a modern translator/narrator. So is LotR, I find, although the filtering is much more subtle. But in neither case does it make sense to invoke a word-for-word, literal "translation". It's all about adaptation.

As for why the translator/narrator finds himself using train imagery, I think it's because trains in the age of steam were so magical and romantic in themselves. Of course, if you think of them objectively - about coal, and cast iron, and manufacturing technology - then they clearly don't fit in Middle-earth. But if you think of them as the magical agents they seemed in rural England in the 19th century, puffing steam and spouting fire, taking you, or someone you knew, to faraway places, then they have a certain dragon-like magic about them. Tolkien's use of train imagery always reminds me of the Robert Louis Stephenson children's poem called From a Railway Carriage that begins, "Faster than fairies, faster than witches..." English children, and many English adults, loved the romance of the steam train, and that's why I think train images fit the tone of The Hobbit, and the start of LotR, even though no logical, literal-minded adult could allow them into Middle-earth itself.

Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Bilbo's Last Song


Subject User Time
**An Unexpected Party** - 6. “Tell me what you want done, and I will try it, if I have to fight the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert.” squire Send a private message to squire Mar 27 2009, 11:53pm
    Anachronism Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins Mar 28 2009, 12:06am
        John Rateliff concurs. dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Mar 28 2009, 2:34pm
            Although the narrator in The Hobbit Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 28 2009, 3:13pm
                "Narratorphiles"! dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Mar 28 2009, 5:34pm
                    Actually, I borrowed that idea Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 29 2009, 9:04am
                        Ah, that post! dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Mar 29 2009, 5:46pm
        Going sideways again, or backwards sevilodorf Send a private message to sevilodorf Mar 28 2009, 5:10pm
            Hmmm, well-spotted! Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins Mar 28 2009, 5:43pm
                chinaberries are so much more elegant sevilodorf Send a private message to sevilodorf Mar 28 2009, 5:53pm
                    What a great find! Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins Mar 28 2009, 5:56pm
                In this article, it's categorized as a musical instrument: Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins Mar 28 2009, 6:10pm
                    etymology of the word sevilodorf Send a private message to sevilodorf Mar 28 2009, 6:15pm
                        *scurries to basement to check OED* Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins Mar 28 2009, 6:25pm
            pop-guns?!?! batik Send a private message to batik Mar 28 2009, 5:56pm
    My thoughts Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Mar 28 2009, 1:01am
    A few observations... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Mar 28 2009, 2:55am
        D'oh! Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Mar 28 2009, 4:38am
        Thanks for that McAdoo quote! :-D // Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins Mar 28 2009, 2:03pm
        "Sometimes these meandering words would actually capture a straggling thought..." squire Send a private message to squire Mar 29 2009, 2:24am
            Tolkien wasn't thinking of McAdoo and Harding... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Mar 29 2009, 11:21am
                'He speaks to me as if I were a public meeting' squire Send a private message to squire Mar 29 2009, 6:30pm
    Thoughts. Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 28 2009, 12:06pm
        I love it! Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins Mar 28 2009, 2:02pm
            Mmm. Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 28 2009, 2:10pm
        Disparate comments Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Mar 28 2009, 4:39pm
            Bilbo's dark psyche. Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 29 2009, 8:57am
                You said it better than I. Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Mar 30 2009, 4:28pm
                I remember that! White Gull Send a private message to White Gull Apr 1 2009, 7:14pm
                    I remember you! Curious Send a private message to Curious Apr 1 2009, 8:04pm
                        Actually, I deserve that. White Gull Send a private message to White Gull Apr 2 2009, 5:00pm
                            Well, it's good to have you back now! Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Apr 2 2009, 5:04pm
                                Thanks! :)// White Gull Send a private message to White Gull Apr 2 2009, 5:53pm
                            Look for the cookies. Curious Send a private message to Curious Apr 2 2009, 5:48pm
                                Good tip! White Gull Send a private message to White Gull Apr 2 2009, 5:56pm
                                Darkstone started it. Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Apr 2 2009, 10:50pm
                                    Right. I should have looked it up. But Aunt Dora Curious Send a private message to Curious Apr 2 2009, 11:39pm
                                        Gingersnaps for Aunt Dora! // Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Apr 2 2009, 11:59pm
        Brilliant! brilliant! squire Send a private message to squire Mar 29 2009, 2:18am
            Ah, but Tolkien always does that! Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Mar 29 2009, 2:57am
                Good points!// Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 30 2009, 6:09am
            Thanks! Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 29 2009, 10:15am
    *takes the dare* dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Mar 28 2009, 2:48pm
        Cookies for you! Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins Mar 28 2009, 3:53pm
            Mmm...thanks! // dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Mar 28 2009, 5:36pm
        I thought of this one. squire Send a private message to squire Mar 28 2009, 4:15pm
            Okay, then. Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Mar 28 2009, 4:51pm
    Some thoughts .... Elven Send a private message to Elven Mar 28 2009, 3:32pm
        Uncle Baggins wants to know more about those steam trains. Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins Mar 30 2009, 4:59pm
    any connection between 'golf' and "Fingolfin"... batik Send a private message to batik Mar 28 2009, 4:40pm
        As a matter of fact...yes! dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Mar 28 2009, 5:50pm
            That figures...and it's fascinating... batik Send a private message to batik Mar 28 2009, 6:35pm
                Dogged determination! dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Mar 28 2009, 7:04pm
                *choke!* *snork!* *snicker!* // Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Mar 29 2009, 1:14am
    A few answers, some to the point sador Send a private message to sador Mar 29 2009, 9:18am
    "I am Bilbo! And Bilbo means....er...." Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Mar 30 2009, 5:50pm
    What's a Wild Were-Worm? Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Apr 1 2009, 7:21pm
        It was originally dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Apr 1 2009, 8:46pm
    About the trains FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Apr 7 2009, 10:54am

 
 
 

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