My Favourite Potter en Français Translations PART 3

Coucou! I’m back with another round of Potter translations. Regardless of whether anyone reads them (which some people actually do!) I love writing these blogs so don’t expect them to relent just yet. I’ve now read Order of the Phoenix (ordre du phoenix) and Half-Blood Prince (prince du sang-mêlé), and I am holding off on Deathly Hallows because I DON’T WANT IT TO END. Where I’m at with the series now means that many of the characters and ideas have already been introduced, so the translations featured today are less likely to be exclusive to books five and six.

Delores, Doloris, Endoloris

Back when I was reading Goblet of Fire and Mad Eye Moody (Maugrey Fol Œil) introduced the unforgivable curses (les sortilèges Impardonnables) I was struck by the translation of one in particular because I thought it might clash with an upcoming character’s name. “Le sortilège Doloris” is the name given to the cruciatus curse. It makes sense because “douleur” is the French for pain and suffering. Just as the cruciatus curse becomes “crucio” when used, the doloris spell is cast with “endoloris”. When Delores Jane Umbridge arrived in Order of the Phoenix, I wondered whether there was going to be a nod to the similar words or a change to her name. It turns out the name Delores means sorrow anyway, but in the French books Umbridge’s name literally becomes Cruciatus Umbridge. What’s more, her surname is changed. Umbridge is changed to Ombrage, which can translate to anything from “shady” to “offence,” “resentment” to “make s.o feel small.” Delores Umbridge becomes Delores Ombrage, or Cruciatus Shady Belittler, an extra excruciating name for an especially despicable character – I love it!


I’ve reached the point in the books where academia is becoming more important because of the arrival of wizard GCSEs and A Levels, known in the books as O.W.Ls (Ordinary Wizarding Levels) and N.E.W.Ts (Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests). Like with S.P.E.W in my last blog, the translations into French needs to make some kind of sense in terms of being about difficult exams, but they also need to spell out the names of animals frequently mentioned in the wizarding world. The Jean-François Ménard translations call them B.U.S.E and A.S.P.I.C. B.U.S.E stands for Brevet Universel de Sorcellerie Élémentaire (a good magical twist on a French GCSE) but the word “buse” itself is a buzzard or a hawk. Parfait! A.S.P.I.C. stands for Accumulation de Sorcellerie Particulièrement Intensive et Contraignante which is a bit far fetched if you ask me, I’m not sure about the word “accumulation,” BUT it works because “aspic” is a type of viper. Magic!


Now despite the massive waste that is Dumbledore’s Army’s trip to the Department of Mysteries, we still learn from Dumbledore just bloody well telling Harry the prophecy afterwards (I’m not bitter about it at all), that Harry is in fact The Chosen One. When I started reading Half-Blood Prince in French I kept seeing these four little letter gathering near Harry’s name and I didn’t clock what it meant until I stopped reading and thought, “l’élu? The eleceted? Oooooooh!” It’s such a simple translation that uses the verb “to elect” in a way I’ve never seen outside of politics but it makes more sense than any way I can imagine directly translating “the chosen one”.

Je suis Voldemort 

I can’t believe I forgot to mention this when I wrote about Chamber of Secrets because it is just so bizarre. We all know the moment, in the film and book, when creepy teenage Voldemort reveals that his given name was Tom Riddle. He does this by creating an anagram out of his full name “Tom Marvalo Riddle” to spell “I am Lord Voldemort”. Riddle can’t drop an English “I am” into his speech in the French books, so his name had to be altered to find room for a “je suis.” His surname Riddle is also a hint at the fact his name is a riddle in itself so that’s something worth trying to convey in French too.

And oh my god, how Ménard does it still makes me cry with laughter every time it comes up. I can’t help but wonder whether Rowling had to sign off on it… Imagine you’re reading what is a really intense scene when suddenly Voldemort drops the bombshell that his middle name is ELVIS. His surname becomes Jedusor, which I think is a play on the French phrase for “pun” – “jeu de mots” (game of words), where “words” is replaced with “sort” meaning “spell” – so jedusor might mean “game of spells” – a pun in itself – I could be wrong there though. But anyway, back to the fact HIS MIDDLE NAME IS ELVIS. It does work as an anagram – “Tom Elvis Jedusor” spells out “je suis Voldemort” – but for me the tension was all gone because I was too busy laughing at the fact the Dark Lord’s middle name is Elvis.


In the same vein of thought, there is another aspect to Voldemort’s name that I’ve failed to mention. If you’ve ever studied French, one of the first things you’re taught is that there are two ways to say “you”. There’s the familiar “tu,” for friends, family, younger people and such, and there’s the more formal “vous” for elders, your superiors etc or a plural group. Remarkably, or perhaps unremarkably, this rule still applies when it comes to saying “You-Know-Who” in French. For example, when Harry first learns about Voldemort from Hagrid, Hagrid says “Tu-Sais-Qui” but when Harry replies he says “Vous-Savez-Qui” – demonstrating the linguistic power balance between Hagrid and Harry, adult and child. The more complicated “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” becomes the mouthful “Celui-Dont-On-Ne-Doit-Pas-Prononcer-Le-Nom” (the one whom we must not say the name of).

As we’ve established by now, I find these translations fascinating and I hope you do too! If you’ve enjoyed part three be sure to check out parts one and two, and please share them with any Francophiles or Potterphiles you think might be interested. 

In other news, you might have noticed that a little badge has appeared on the site – Feedspot have ranked Fictitiously Hilary 36 in its Top 50 Freelance Writing Blogs. Thank you all for reading, sharing and making exciting things like this possible, big love! 

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