As you probably know by now, I recently read the Potter books one through seven for the first time in years and it’s been a ride — even more so than normal because this time I’ve done it in French. I’ve loved sharing my favourite translations on Fictitiously Hilary and I’m sad to say that this is the last blog I’ll be adding to the collection. Catch up with the others by clicking here:
Here are my final favourite French Harry Potter translations, taken from across the seven books.
The title of everyone’s favourite wizarding sport remains the same in French, but the same can’t be said for the rest of the game’s elements. The players’ roles are directly translated as chasers become “poursuiveurs,” beaters become “batteurs” and the seeker becomes “l’attrapeur.” I can’t for the life of me figure out the logic behind the Quaffle translation, which becomes “Souafle” – I guess both words are kind of onomatopoeic in their respective languages? Bludgers become “Cognards,” which comes from the French verb cogner, meaning to bang, knock or strike — figures. The Golden Snitch, rather magically, becomes “le Vif d’or” – or meaning gold, while vif is an adjective that can mean anything from vivacious, keen, sharp, quick, strong or bright – I’d say the Snitch is all those things…
Transplanage & Désartibulement
Apparating and splinching become more relevant in the final two Potter books and I was interested to see how they’d be translated. Translator Jean-François Ménard goes for are “transplanage” (noun) and “transplaner” (verb) for apparating, and “désartibulement” for splinching. Transplanage presumably makes sense in terms of the word “transplant” but I really can’t put my finger on the translation of splinching. It obviously doesn’t mean too much in English, which doesn’t help me understand the translation. It’s really bugging me, so any French readers, please let me know if/why it makes sense!
“Un hibou huhula…”
In part two, I talked about how much fun I think it is to discover onomatopoeias in other languages, and in Deathly Hallows (or les reliques de la mort in French) I found another corker. As Harry and Hermione are recovering in the Forest of Dean, Harry hears an owl, except in French, it’s “un hibou hulula.” “Hululer,” I then confirmed is the French for to hoot, but since you pronounce it “hoo-hoo-ler” (but with the almost non-existent French ‘h’) you literally have to make the “hoo-hoo” sound owls make. Magic! Much better than our old “twit-twoo!”
Sang-de-Bourbe & Moldus
Onto a slightly more unpleasant translation now, one that became more and more present in the final books — Mudblood. In French, this derogatory slang for a Muggle-born wizard becomes “Sang-de-Bourbe” — which reads more as “Sludgeblood,” but it certainly does the job. Come to think of it, I never talked about the translation of Muggles, I think it’s slightly nastier in French, it’s “Moldus.” My English mind immediately goes to mouldy, but in French “molle” means soft, weak or floppy, so it’s nicer than it sounds, just.
Le plus grand bien
The deep philosophical “greater good” issues in Harry Potter have always been ruined for me because I immediately think of Hot Fuzz, but I was interested to see how it would be translated. Turns out, very, very literally! I thought French grammar might overcomplicate it, but it is simply translated to “le plus grand bien” — word-for-word that’s “the more big good” – that’ll do it!
Thank you so much for reading these blogs! They’re not exactly examples of hard-hitting journalism but they’ve been so much fun to write. And that’s on top of the fact that reading the books in French has been incredibly rewarding and a great way to keep my French up since graduation. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I’ve loved writing them.
Merci beaucoup, onto the next French/magic/literary adventure!