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Translating Names in Harry Potter (3)

But place names are different. The books refer to place names in the real world, and so those are translated in accordance with well-established practice. London becomes Londón in Spanish, and Londres in French. But for the many place names, local in particular, in Harry’s world, translation must be done freely, so as to recreate the feel of the place for the benefit of the reader.

English French
Burrow (Weasley home) Terrier
Diagon Alley Chemin de Traverse
Hogsmeade (village near Hogwarts) Pré-au-lard
Knockturn Alley Allée des Embrunes

Here, the Spanish translators (there have been several) also took some liberties, to good effect. Rather than reproducing “Burrow,” they went with La Madriguera, which nicely catches the feeling of the English name for the Weasley’s home. Even the Japanese translator varied this one with “kakureana,” which though sounding a bit odd, does recreate the sense of the original English.

Finally, the world of Harry Potter is populated by unusual people doing magical things. This creates many new words, some coinages by Rowling herself, others derivations of words no longer used in modern English. Translation of these becomes an exercise in creativity, as seen below.

English French
apparating transplaner
boggart epouvantard
butterbeer Bièraubeurre
dementor détraqueur
floo powder poudre de cheminette
Howler Beuglante
muggle moldu
omnioculars multiplettes
Whomping Willow Saule cogneur

In each case above, the translator was faced with coming up with a translation that captured the intended meaning of the original, when the only example of the original was in the Harry Potter books. Obviously, creativity is the best solution, and here is where the art of translation, particularly literary translation, comes into play. Some translators simply have a better ear for this, and they are the ones whose translations bring international success to books.

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