Margrethe Stuttaford - Presenter Profile

The Powerful Voice of the Silent Details in the British, Danish, and German Translations of Pippi Longstocking A Translational Stylistics Analysis

In this article, Margrethe Stuttaford asks is your Pippi the same as my Pippi? and how can you be so sure?

About My Research

My research in the field of translation studies uses a children’s book and its translations to illustrate linguistic adjustments in accordance with social convention.

I closely compare the first Danish, German and English translations of a Swedish children’s book called Pippi Longstocking, written in 1945 by Astrid Lindgren, with the original.

This allows me to identify translational patterns, which help me to answer the question: Is your Pippi the same as my Pippi?

Pippi was written towards the end of the Second World War at a time in which Sweden was feeling increasing tension of Hitler’s Nazi Germany on the one side, and Stalin’s Red Army on the other. In the midst of this dark time Lindgren created Pippi: an exuberant girl, anti-authoritarian, larger than life, happier than happy, the strongest girl in the world – able to lift her horse. She lives in an old villa with her horse and monkey in a small and very ordinary Swedish town.

The trilogy has been translated into 96 different languages.

Through a thorough and analytical approach I will be comparing the three foreign languages (Danish, German, and English) to the Swedish source text word for word. I will note down any difference, be that a different choice of vocabulary, sentence structure, punctuation, addition or omission of text. This method is called Translational Stylistics. It has allowed me to see patterns forming and through these patterns I have been able to see specific linguistic adjustments taking place to suit specific cultures at specific times. We see for example in the English translation that any reference to God or his angels has been omitted, whereas in the former East German translation from 1975, any reference to Africa has changed. In addition, there are many punctuation variations between the English translation and the Swedish source text. It would seem these have been implemented as a means of making the English version more child-friendly. Certain omissions in the various translations have had a major impact on the humour portrayed in the original work. Finally, additions in the former East German version have been incorporated as a means of educating the young and influential reader.

Initial Findings and Future Work

My research is based on the Swedish children’s book Pippi Longstocking and its translations into Danish, English, and German.

The aim of my research is to discover what has been changed in the four different translations and why these changes have been deemed necessary.

The first Pippi book was published in Sweden in 1945. Pippi was soon to be translated into Danish (1946), German (1949) and finally into English (1956). The trilogy has since been translated into as many as 96 different languages.

When comparing the German and former East German translations carefully to the Swedish source text, it became clear that there are significant differences between them all. Patterns began to form that, among others, showed a preference for a certain type of sentence structure, word choice and humour. Some translational choices suggest a deliberate wish to indoctrinate the younger reader.

These findings are crucial to our understanding of norms and acceptability. They raise many important questions about our understanding of our societies:

  1. How do we know that the Pippi we were introduced to in our language, is the Pippi Lindgren wanted us to meet, when we cannot read the Swedish text? We are fully reliant on the translator getting it right.
  2. How easy is it even for the bilingual reader to notice the minor differences in translations and to understand the impact these may have?

In my research I will cast light on the almost invisible differences to highlight their significance: Lindgren’s Pippi is neither your Pippi, nor is she mine. In translation she becomes a product of specific times and cultures: Everyone’s Pippi, safe to let into our societies. A work for children shows the transformative nature of translations especially clearly, and reminds us of the power of language to influence all of us.

About Margrethe Stuttaford

Margrethe Stuttaford is a PhD Student at the University of Leicester (2015)Margrethe Stuttaford is a research student working towards completion of her doctoral degree in the School of Modern Languages. Margrethe is supervised by Professor Kirsten Malmkjær and Dr Nicole Fayard.

Margrethe will present her work at the Festival of Postgraduate Research 6 July 2015 - see Margrethe's Festival poster.

The Festival is open to all members of the University community and the public - book your place here.

Contact Margrethe

School of Modern Languages

University of Leicester

University Road

LEICESTER

LE1 7RH

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