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Stories For Children, Histories of Childhood. Volume II

Rosie Findlay
Sébastien Salbayre

Eternal Life and Everlasting Youth: English translations of Romanian fairy tales

Adriana Serban


Eternal Life and Everlasting Youth: English translations of Romanian fairy tales
The present study investigates two English translations of the fairy tale “Tinereţe fără bătrăneţe şi viaţă fără de moarte” (“Youth Everlasting and Life without End” and “Eternal Life and Everlasting Youth”) collected from the Romanian folklore by the nineteenth century folk tale collector Petre Ispirescu, the Romanian counterpart of the Grimm brothers. This story is, in many ways, an unusual one, as it explores in a rather explicit way the purpose of life, and flouts a number of expectations about the genre of fairy tales.
Combined evidence from context and textual analysis enables us to conclude that the translators were influenced in very different ways by their assumptions about the purpose of their task, and the two translations are a good example of the impact of audience design on translation. The study also points to the role of translation in the migration of books from one type of audience to another.

Texte intégral


1Translation is an issue which is rarely discussed in relation to children’s literature, with the exception of specific research within the discipline of Translation Studies. This is a situation which parallels that of literary translation in general, as it is common both for scholars and the general public to overlook the fact that many of the books that they read or study have come to them via a complex process of inter-linguistic and cross-cultural mediation or, in other words, in translation. There seems to be a tendency to assume that translation is or should be a neutral and transparent activity, so transparent that it is virtually invisible with the exception of those cases when perceived problems with the text make the readers wonder whether there could be something wrong with the translation. In particular, any departures from a fluent translation strategy are viewed with suspicion (Venuti 1995); this means that translated texts need to sound natural, as though they were originally written in the language into which they are translated, thus effectively concealing their status as translations. According to Venuti (1995), fluency as a supreme criterion of the quality of a translation into English is linked to domestication (turning a cultural “other” into “the same”, masking difference, hiding the existence of alternative discourses) and to unequal power relations.

2Yet translation is far from a neutral activity. On the contrary, the very process of selection of texts to be translated and published in translation, as well as the translation strategies which are adopted, are embedded in particular historical, social, cultural and even political contexts which influence everything from patterns of cultural interaction, the migration of themes and literary genres, and the formation of literary canons, to publishing agendas, public taste, and the emergence of certain ideas about acceptability and appropriateness. Translation has been linked to deliberate or nondeliberate manipulation and has been shown to be a site for ideological clashes (see for example Mason 1994 and Calzada-Perez 2003) - ideology defined not in the commonly used sense of political doctrine but rather as a set of ideas, beliefs, values and codes of behaviour which govern a community at a given time or inform the world view of an individual or institution and assist their interpretation of events or states of affairs.

3In his analysis of ideology in translation, Mason (1994) links deliberate or non-deliberate manipulation to the constraints which govern the production and reception of texts as well as to the rhetorical conventions of the cultural communities of the source and target languages (Mason 1994: 26). This leads him to considerations of genre, discourse and text, viewed as “semiotic systems within which the expression of ideology occurs” (Mason 1994: 26) and which are culture-specific, given that different cultural communities have their own conventions governing what constitutes a given genre, discourse or text. A comparison of a source text in Spanish and its English translation for the UNESCO Courier reveals a number of differences between the world views or ideologies which inform the two texts; in particular, the subtle shift of emphasis, in translation, from indigenous documentation to records produced by the Spanish Conquistadors of what is now Mexico is unexpected in a translation carried out within an institutional framework (the UNESCO) which aims to promote indigenous cultures. According to Mason (1994: 33), it is not possible in this case to attribute the divergent discourse of the target text to a deliberate intention on the part of the translator; translation is mediation and any process of mediation involves feeding one’s current beliefs and goals into the processing of a text (Beaugrande and Dressier 1981: 182).

4There are, however, cases when translational choices “are motivated by sets of principles or beliefs which a translator could articulate fairly precisely if asked” (Malmkjaer 2004: 144), principles and beliefs which are not necessarily shared by everyone else. In such situations, Malmkjaer (2004: 143) argues, we are justified in speaking about manipulation on the part of the translator.


5English is the most translated language worldwide, but it is notorious for being little translated into, a situation which applies to literature in general and to children’s literature. According to O’Sullivan (1998: 5), 3% of the books for children published in Britain and the United States are translations, but the percentage is substantially higher in other countries: Finland 70% (or even 80% in some years, according to Oittinen 2000: xiii), Netherlands 50%, Italy 50% and Germany 33.5%. In one of the recent issues of the Irish Guide to Children’s Books, almost half the titles were translations (Cronin 2003: 152); the source language of the majority of these books is English, but the reverse trend, i. e. translations of children’s books from Irish into English, is negligible. There are very few translations of Romanian books.

6Authors such as the Grimm brothers, Hans-Christian Andersen, Charles Perrault, L. Frank Baum or Roald Dahl are known to audiences abroad thanks to translation and have become famous worldwide, but the process by which the work of some of them has reached readers has at times been less than straightforward. Every culture exercises some form of control over literature for children, even though this may take different forms. The considerations involved are wide-ranging and frequently hinge on prevalent ideas about what exactly children’s literature should be and do, as well as on the nature of the target audience itself (i.e. the child reader). Translation is often a site where diverging ideas, norms, and expectations come into contact and sometimes clash, and it can give us interesting insights into the stakes involved in producing literature for children at a given time in a given socio-cultural (and political) context.

7In a paper on literature and translation for children in the former German Democratic Republic, Thompson-Wohlgemuth (2003) shows that literature and translation were considered to be a weapon in the class struggle, and that literary policy actually demanded that literature be partisan and instil certain values and patterns of behaviour which conformed to the demands of a socialist society while at the same time presenting an idealised vision of the future communist society. This involved careful scrutiny and censorship of the books which were to be published in original or in translation, and concerned both literature for adults and literature for children; the latter was given particular attention due to the fact that children’s minds were deemed to be more impressionable and consequently any influence was believed to be stronger and longer lasting.

8Stolze’s (2003) analysis of German translations of Collodi’s Pinocchio points to the fact that the moralizing tone which was considered acceptable and even desirable in the nineteenth century (the book was written with a clear didactic view, i.e. to show the dangers involved in not listening to parents) is no longer the norm. This is reflected in recent German translations of Pinocchio, which increasingly emphasise the value of being curious, self-confident, and of learning by experience.

9Studies of English translations of fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen (e.g. Knowles and Malmkjaer 1989 and 1992; Malmkjaer 2003 and 2004) suggest that translations produced during the Victorian period prettify the stories to various extents. Not only are references to sexuality and procreation avoided in some of the translations, but also references to excretions (‘doormat’ instead of ‘spittoon’, cf. Malmkjaer 2003: 41) and improper sentiments such as vengeful thoughts. At the same time, there seems to have been a concern to avoid giving an impression of excessive familiarity between human beings and the sphere of the divine, or to associate Christian practices with beliefs in fairies and other such supernatural beings.

10It appears that control on children’s literature and on translation hinges on considerations of acceptability and appropriateness, which in turn go back to the aims of this type of literature (e.g. to entertain, to socialize and educate children) and to prevailing ideas about childhood; all of these are culture-bound and context-dependent. The irreverence towards parents displayed in many of Roald Dahl’s books would not have been acceptable at a time when it was customary for parents to be portrayed as loving care-givers who always do what is best for the child, and may still be unacceptable in certain contexts.

11According to Shavit (1981), translators of children’s books take more liberties with the texts than translators of other types of literature; in her opinion, this is due to the peripheral position children’s literature occupies in the literary polysystem. She argues that translators for children are allowed to manipulate the text in more ways than one (e.g. by making it conform to models which already exist in the target culture; one such case is Gulliver’s Travels which was originally meant to be a satire read by adults and subsequently became popular as a book for children in translations which emphasize its dimension as book of adventures), as long as a few principles are observed. These are: adjusting the text to make it appropriate and useful to the child, and adjusting the plot, characterization and language to what is believed to be the child’s level of comprehension and/or reading abilities (Shavit 1981: 171-172). To a large extent, then, translations for children are adaptations.

12While she agrees that adaptation is a key issue in children’s literature and translation, Oittinen (2000) suggests re-evaluating negative views of adaptation which is frequently defined in terms of how it deviates from the original, while translation has traditionally been supposed to be equivalent to the source text. In a view of translation as communicative mediation, the distinction between the two is less than clear-cut, as any translation needs to take into account considerations of function, purpose (skopos), and audience. In other words, translations or adaptations for children need not always be described as manipulations; adaptation (whether we believe it to be an operation which falls within the remit of translation or not) can also be a seen as a positive action in view of a certain innocuous goal (e.g. to produce a book for reading aloud to pre-school children; reading aloud is a type of performance and requires a text which is different in a number of ways from those which are meant to be read silently). Undeniably, however, the criteria which are used are ideologically motivated in the sense that they are based on a set of assumptions which are not universally accepted and which are very likely to change or evolve.


13Fairy tales are narratives which tell of miraculous and fantastic happenings. There is a confrontation between the forces of good and evil, each represented by certain characters in the story, and there is usually a happy ending which often involves marriage and/or social advancement for the protagonist.

14Many fairy tales are collected from the folklore, but others are written by known authors who are frequently influenced by oral traditions. The Grimm brothers are an example of the former (although the process by which the stories came to be written down and published is less straightforward than it might seem) and Petre Ispirescu in Romania. In their oral form, the tales were not meant for an audience of children, and the Grimm brothers saw their work as a scholarly contribution to folklore and envisaged an audience of scholars interested in folk traditions, as well as the fact that the stories would be read by all the members of a household not only children. Hans Christian Andersen wrote his own fairy tales, and so did the nineteenth-century Romanian writer Ion Creangă.

15Writing down fairy tales collected from folklore or, in other words, re-creating (written) texts on the basis of pre-existing (oral) texts involves a process of re-writing and mediation which is, arguably, not dissimilar to that involved in translation. The oral tale functions as a kind of source text, and writing it down presupposes a trans-lation (translatio) from one context to another, from one type of audience to another and, last but not least, from orality to writing. The collector, just as the translator, does not work in a vacuum; on the contrary, they are anchored in a certain historical and sociocultural context which is bound to influence the decisions they take.

16Issues of ideology and manipulation are not specific to translation only; on the contrary, they are present at the various stages of the production of “the original text” itself. Zipes (1983) develops a social history of the fairy tale and shows that educated writers and collectors purposefully appropriated the oral folk tale in the eighteenth century and made it into a discourse about mores, values, and manners. In her investigation of translations from the stories of the Grimm brothers, Dollerup (1999 and 2003) points to the fact that the source texts themselves were re-arranged in a number of interesting ways. For example, in the first German editions of the story “Hansel and Gretel”, it is the children’s mother who comes up with the idea of abandoning them in the forest, and it is Snow White’s own mother who seeks to kill her while her father saves her; subsequent editions refer to a stepmother in both cases, and the prince replaces the father in “Snow White”.

17Romanian folklore is particularly rich in legends and tales which, in their written form, have come to be considered to belong to the genre of children’s literature and are read to or by child audiences. Some of the most widely known tales collected from the folklore are those of Petre Ispirescu, the Romanian counterpart of the brothers Grimm. However, unlike the stories of the Grimm brothers, which have been widely translated and made known to audiences abroad, Ispirescu’s fairy tales and Romanian folklore in general are largely unknown outside their home country, a situation which parallels that of Romanian literature as a whole.

18Some translations do exist, however. As early as 1881 a certain Mrs. Ε. B. Mawr published in London a small collection of folk tales and historical legends translated from Romanian. She dedicated the translation to Queen Elisabeth of Romania, a writer and folklorist herself, who put into literary form many of the legends current among the Romanian peasantry. In her preface, Mrs. Ε. B. Mawr writes that her effort was motivated by the fact that Romanian literature was very little known in England. The situation had not changed substantially by the time when, more than a century later (in 1987), Ispirescu’s fairy tale “Porcul fermecat” was published in English translation in Edinburgh under the title “The Enchanted Hog”. It seems that this translation was not done directly from the Romanian text, but from a German translation. A small number of English and French translations of Romanian fairy tales were published in Romania in 1979 by the Ion Creangă and Minerva publishing houses, and in 2000 the Romanian Cultural Foundation published a special issue of its journal Plural. Culture & Civilisation, dedicated to stories and tales collected from, or inspired by, Romanian folklore. Two of the stories included in the volume are by Petre Ispirescu, “Tinereţe fără bătrâneţe şi viaţă fără moarte” and “Sarea-n bucate”. Finally, an American, Marguerite L. M. Wolf, has recently created a website with a small collection of traditional Romanian fairy tales retold and illustrated by herself. In France, the translator Mariana Cojan Negulescu has published several translations of Romanian folk tales at the Harmattan publishing house, and there have been translations into Hungarian (an entire volume of tales by Petre Ispirescu was published in 2002 under the title A hegyek tündére), Italian (the volume Fiabbe et leggende romene, published in 1986, includes several tales by Ispirescu) and several other languages.

19The Romanian folk tale collector Petre Ispirescu lived in the nineteenth century, which makes him a contemporary of Andersen and a near contemporary of the brothers Grimm. He was from a modest family and could not complete his education because he had to start working in order to earn his living. He worked as a type-setter and eventually became director of a printing house. His interest in fairy tales, stories and legends was probably inherited from his mother, who was an excellent story teller. In 1862 Ispirescu published a collection of six fairy tales collected from the folklore, among which Tinereţe fără bătrâneţe şi viaţă fără moarte. Ten years later, he published a second volume of folk tales; in order to prevent their loss and to provide scholars material enabling them to study the history and traditions of the Romanian people. Even though this brought him a measure of recognition for his writing skills and extensive knowledge of folklore, he remained extremely unassuming. It was in 1882 that he published his most important work, Legende sau basmele românilor (Legends and Tales of the Romanians), which received excellent reviews and went through numerous reprints. This book is still standard reading for those interested in Romanian folk tales and at the same time a classic for children; individual stories are sometimes published in larger format for younger children, in beautifully illustrated editions.

20The fairy tale “Tinereţe fără bătrâneţe şi viaţă fără moarte” is unusual among the other stories collected by Ispirescu and indeed most other Romanian fairy tales in that it does not conform to genre expectations (e.g. it does not have a happy ending, quite the contrary), disrupts the neat distinction between the forces of good and of evil which is often made in fairy tales, and leaves the reader puzzled as to what exactly the message of the story is. “Tinerete fără bătrăneţe şi viaţă fără de moarte” is the first fairy tale of the volume Legende sau basmele românilor, a position which highlights its importance and its difference.

21The story starts, as fairy tales often do, with a couple (an emperor and an empress, in this case) who cannot have children. They are finally given remedies to enable them to conceive, but they are warned that they will have only one child and that this child will bring them no joy. When the time comes for the prince to be born, he cries and refuses to allow himself to be brought into the world. His father promises him all the wonders in the world, but this is of no avail; in the end, the emperor promises him youth without old age and life without death, and the child stops crying and is born. When Prince Charming grows up, he asks his father to fulfil his promise, but the emperor can do nothing but admit that he made this promise only because he wanted his son to stop crying; against his parents’ wishes, the prince decides to leave on a quest to find youth without old age and life without death. After a long and perilous journey, the prince and his enchanted horse arrive at a castle where there is youth without old age and life without death. The castle is surrounded by a thick forest and is guarded by savage beasts, but luckily one of the three fairies who live there saves the prince. Having found youth without old age and life without death, Prince Charming marries one of the fairies and stays at the castle for centuries, not realizing it has been so long since he arrived. One day, he crosses a forbidden boundary, his memory returns, and he remembers his parents and starts missing them. Ignoring the warning of the fairies the prince returns home only to find his parents’palace in ruins and his own death hiding among them. As soon as death sees him, it slaps him, and Prince Charming dies and immediately turns into dust.

22There are at least two different English translations of this fairy tale. The first one was published in 1979 in Romania as a standalone story under the title “Youth Everlasting and Life without End”. The large-size format of the book and the illustrations suggest that the book was targeted at a child audience. The translator, Ana Cartianu, has translated extensively from Romanian literature into English, although most of her translations were published at Romanian publishing houses rather than in English-speaking countries. More than twenty years later (in 2000), the Romanian Cultural Foundation in Bucharest devoted a special issue of its English language journal Plural to representative stories and fairy tales inspired by, or collected from, Romanian folklore. The volume is illustrated by artist Ecaterina Vrana and each story is accompanied by a brief scholarly introduction. Two stories by Petre Ispirescu are included in this volume, one of them being “Tinereţe fără bătrâneţe şi viaţa fără de moarte”, translated by Adrian Solomon under the title “Eternal Life and Everlasting Youth”.

23The Romanian Cultural Foundation was established in 1990 with the aim of making Romanian culture better known in the world and of fostering cultural links with the Romanians living broad and helping them preserve their identity through language and tradition. Following the restructuring of the foundation and of its publishing house, the Romanian Cultural Institute was established in 2003. It continues the work previously carried on by the Romanian Cultural Foundation and publishes fundamental works of the Romanian and world culture as well as translations into several languages of abstracts of books written in Romanian, in order to facilitate access to Romanian culture. In order to further the aim of promoting Romanian literature and of enhancing the visibility of Romanian authors on the international book market, a translation and publication support programme was set up.

24In view of the contextual evidence outlined above, it is plausible to expect that a comparative analysis of the two translations will reveal a number of differences in terms of the translation strategy which is adopted. For example, we may venture to guess that references to procreation will be deleted or made less explicit and that the episode of the prince’s death will be prettified or even deleted altogether in Cartianu’s translation, as seems to be the norm in translations for younger children (the format and illustrations of Cartianu’s translation point to a child audience). Other aspects may, however, be less obvious than that, and it is the role of textual analysis to unearth some of them and to give us more insights into the ways in which differences of context of translation and publication, as well as of expected audience, influence the translators (an analysis of Cartianu’s translation, from the perspective of the representation of cause and effect relations, will be published in Şerban, in press).


25We now turn to an analysis of a number of extracts from the Romanian source text (ST) and the two translations or target texts (TT1 is Cartianu’s 1979 translation, and TT2 is Solomon’s 2000 re-translation of the fairy tale). Interesting issues for discussion are highlighted in bold, and a fairly literal translation of the Romanian text is given in the Gloss.

26Extracts 1-3 below are taken from the first part of the fairy tale and refer to the emperor and the empress’attempts to have a child.

27Extract 1

28ST [...] amândoi tineri şi frumoşi, şi, voind să aibă copii, a facut de mai multe ori tot ce trebuia să facă pentru aceasta; a îmblat pe la vraci şi filozofi, ca să caute la stele şi sà le ghicească dacă or să facă copii.

29Gloss [...] both of them young and handsome and, wanting to have children, did several times everything they had to do for this; they went to witch doctors and philosophers so that they should read the stars and predict whether they would have children.

30TT1 They were both young and handsome and longed for children to succeed them. All the doctors and fortune-tellers in the land cast spells, made signs on the ground, but no one knew the answer.

31TT2 [...] and both were young and fair; and as they craved to have children, they often did what they had to do therefore; they went to seek advice from witch doctors and philosophers, to read the stars and find out if they would have children; yet it was all in vain.

32While the deletion, in Cartianu’s translation, of the reference to sexual activity does not come as a surprise, what is interesting here is that she takes precautions a step further. Even though no special reason is needed, in the original text, for the emperor and empress’ wish to have children, the translator feels it necessary to add “children to succeed them”, thus effectively shifting the emphasis from parenting to state business, i. e. the need to produce an heir. Moreover, “voind să aibă copii” (“wanting to have children”) is translated as “longing for children”, and “predict whether they would have children” is rendered via the rather vague “no one knew the answer”.

33The same concern for preventing the readers’ minds from wondering about the subject of procreation is obvious in Cartianu’s translation reproduced in extracts 2 and 3. In extract 2 the emperor orders in a rather haughty way an equally stubborn witch doctor to give him a remedy which will enable him and his wife to have a child. This does not seem to be an issue in Solomon’s translation; in exchange, the use of a question in TT2 instead of an order as is the case in the source text presents an emperor which is less authoritarian. ‘Beget’ is an instance of archaising translation, and so is “big with child”.

34Extract 2

35ST [...] dacă ai ceva leacuri care să ne facă să avem copii, să-mi dai.

36Gloss [...] if you have remedies that will enable us to have children, give me.

37TT1 [...] my wife and I long for children, but none can tell us if we shall be so blessed.

38TT2 Have you a remedy that will enable us to beget?

39Extract 3

40ST Luând împăratul şi împărăteasa leacurile, s-au întors veseli la palat şi peste câteva zile împărăteasa s-a simţit însărcinată.

41Gloss Taking the emperor and empress the remedies, they returned happily to the palace and after a few days the empress felt she was pregnant.

42TT1 The emperor and empress were so happy to hear they would have a son. They paid no heed to the rest of the news and returned home amid great rejoicing.

43TT2 The king and his queen took the medicine, returned happily to the palace, and a few days later the queen felt big with child.

44Extracts 1-3 confirm our hypothesis that Cartianu’s translation, published in a format for younger children, will systematically eliminate references to procreation, which are preserved in Solomon’s translation.

45The excerpt reproduced below narrates the events at the prince’s birth, and the emperor’s promise to give him youth without old age and life without death.

46Extract 4

47ST Mai înainte de a veni ceasul naşterii, copilul se puse pe un plâns, de n-a putut nici un vraci să-l împace. Atunci împăratul a început să-i făgăduiască toate bunurile din lume, dar nici aşa n-a fost cu putinţă să-l facă să tacă. [...] în sfârşit, dacă văzu şi văzu că nu tace, îi mai zise: taci, fătul meu, câ ţi-oi da Tinereţe fără bătrâneţe şi viaţă fără de moarte.

48Gloss Before the hour of the birth came, the child started crying heavily, so that no witch doctor could soothe him. Then the emperor started promising him all the wonders of the world, but not even this way could he make him stop. In the end, seeing that it wouldn’t stop crying, he added: be quiet, my son, for I shall give you Youth without old age and life without death.

49TT1 Just before the baby was bom, it could be heard sobbing and none could soothe it. At last, distressed by the crying, the emperor promised the child all the wonders of the world, but still it sobbed [...] The emperor could stand no more. “Very well,” he said, “you shall have youth everlasting and life without end”.

50TT2 Just before birth time, the baby burst into such bitter tears that no doctor was able to soothe. The king promised him the moon and the stars, but neither could he pacify the baby [...] At long last, seeing the baby would not stop crying, he added, “Be quiet, my son, and I’ll give you eternal life and everlasting youth.”

51The causality linking the emperor’s extravagant promises and the fact that the baby was crying is easily inferred in the source text, and the presence of the temporal adverb ‘atunci’ (‘then’) helps reinforce the relation. Cartianu, however, adds the explanations “distressed by the crying” and “could stand no more”. In addition to making more explicit the cause for the emperor’s unreasonable behaviour, the translator also seems to go some length towards excusing it (i.e. the emperor promises the child something he cannot deliver because he was upset the child was crying). The choice of ‘distressed’ instead of, for instance, ‘impatient’, is relevant in this respect, and it is clear is that a significant amount of interpretation in translation has taken place. On the other hand, Cartianu’s emperor seems to make a solemn promise (“Very well”, he said, “you shall have […]”), whereas the Romanian text and Solomon’s translation suggest that the promise was made as an afterthought. The extravagant (and unasked for) promise made by the emperor at the birth of Prince Charming presents a father who does not do the right thing (he resorts to misleading). This justifies in a sense the prince’s stubbornness later on when, against everyone’s wishes and in spite of warnings that he will lose his life, he sets out on a quest which concerns strictly his own person and not the welfare of family and kingdom as is the case in other fairy tales which tell of a Prince Charming who fights dragons in order to save other people.

52Extract 5 presents the preparations for the journey, and the crucial choice of a horse. The prince goes to the royal stables and, in order to test the strength of the horses, he grabs them by the tail. All of them fall to the ground except one, which used to belong to the prince’s father. Instead of putting his hand on the horse’s tail Cartianu’s prince takes it by the mane, an action which seems more compatible with what we might expect Prince Charming to do; even Solomon’s translation replaces “puse mâna pe coada lui” (“put his hand on its tail”) with “grabbed his tail”, which requires more strength.

53Extract 5

54ST [...] zărind într-un colţ un cal răpciugos şi bubos şi slab, se duce şi la dânsul; iar când puse mâna pe coada lui, el îşi întoarse capul şi zise [...].

55Gloss [...] seeing in a corner a horse glanderous and full of sores and thin, he went to it too, and when he put his hand on its tail, it turned its head and said [...].

56TT1 It was very thin, full of sores and looked a mere bag of bones, but, when he took it by the mane, the horse turned his heard and said [...].

57TT2 [...] in a corner he saw a jaded, glanderous horse full of swellings; he went to check that horse too, and when he grabbed his tail, the horse turned his head and said [...].

58The excerpt reproduced below presents the prince’s departure in search of youth without old age and life without death.

59Extract 6

60ST A treia zi de dimineaţă, toată curtea şi toată împărăţia era plină de jale. Făt-Frumos, îmbrăcat ca un viteaz, cu paloşul în mână, călare pe calul ce-şi alesese, îşi luă ziua bună de la împăratul, de la împărăteasa, de la toţi boierii cei mari şi cei mici, de la ostaşi şi de la toţi slujitorii curţii, care, cu lacrămile în ochi, îl rugau să se lase de a face călătoria aceasta, ca nu care cumva să meargă la pieirea capului său; dar el, dând pinteni calului, ieşi pe poartă ca vântul, şi după dânsul carăle cu merinde, cu bani şi vreo două sute de ostaşi, pe carei orânduise împăratul ca să-1 însoţească.

61Gloss On the third day in the morning, the entire court and the entire kingdom was in mourning. Prince Handsome, dressed like a warrior, with the sword in his hand, mounting the horse he had chosen, said farewell to the emperor, the empress, to all the courtiers big and small, to the soldiers and to all the servants of the court who, tears in their eyes, were asking him not to leave on this journey, lest he should meet his end; but spurring his horse, he galloped off like the wind, and behind him the carts of food, money and two hundred soldiers the emperor had sent to accompany him.

62TT1 On the morning of the third day all the court gathered to say farewell to the brave young prince. Like a warrior, Prince Handsome sat on his shining horse, sword in hand, and he waved farewell to his parents and all the courtiers who had come to bid him a safe journey. Spurring his horse, he galloped off down the dusty road and was soon out of sight. Behind him, lumbering slowly, followed carts of food, money and clothes and some soldiers the emperor had sent to guard him.

63TT2 Three mornings later, the court and the whole kingdom were mourning. Prince Charming, dressed like a warrior, his sword in hand, riding his chosen horse, bade farewell to the king and the queen, to all the nobles of higher or lower rank, to the soldiers and courtiers who, with tears in their eyes, were begging him to renounce his trip, lest he should lose his life; but the prince, spurring his horse, rode through the gate as quick as the wind, followed by the food and money carts and ten scores of soldiers assigned by the king to escort him.

64Prince Charming is an egotistical young man who does not care that his parents and everyone in the kingdom are distressed that he is leaving, and is not put off by the fact that the mood is one of mourning. He spurs his horse and dashes off, clearly not making much of an effort to hide that he can hardly wait to leave. In Cartianu’s translation the courtiers do not appear to be in mourning; on the contrary, everyone gathers because they want to say farewell to the “brave young prince” and to “bid him a safe journey”, rather than because they are hoping to dissuade him from undertaking a quest which they find absurd. It would then appear that, in addition to eliminating references to procreation, another element of Cartianu’s translation strategy is that of normalizing the image of Prince Charming, making it conform to stereotypical genre expectations. Extracts 7-9 bring further evidence of this process of normalization in translation.

65Extract 7

66ST Se grăbiră de se lăsară în jos; şi de nu era doamna palatului afară, dând demâncare puilor ei (căci aşa numea ea lighioanele din pădure), îi răpădea negreşit.

67Gloss [...] and if the lady of the palace hadn’t been outside, feeding her darlings (for that is how she called the beasts from the forest), they would have undoubtedly been killed.

68TT1 Quickly the two travellers landed in the courtyard where the lady of the castle was feeding her chickens. Seeing them, she sent the beasts back to the forest and welcomed the visitors.

69TT2 They hurried down, and indeed they would have met with their death, hadn’t the lady of the palace been in the yard, feeding her cubs - for that was what she called the wild beasts in the wood.

70The prince and his enchanted horse survive because the fairy saves them from the beasts which would otherwise have torn him to pieces. While it is true that, in fairy tales, a number of characters assist the protagonist in his or her quest, help usually comes in the form of useful advice or warning, or in the form of a magical object (Propp 1970: 96-7); direct intervention in a life-or-death situation is less frequent. Cartianu’s translation merely states that the lady of the castle sends the beasts back into the forest and welcomes the prince, which makes him appear less vulnerable than he actually is (“feeding her chickens” is probably a mistranslation). Moreover, the Romanian text goes on to explain that the fairy saves the prince merely because she is lonely and is glad that someone – Prince Charming or not – has finally come to keep her company. Significantly, this is altogether left out in Cartianu’s translation.

71Extract 8

72ST Mai mult de bucurie că au venit, îi scăpă ea; căci nu mai văzuse până atunci suflet de om pe la dânsa.

73Gloss More than for any other reason it was because of joy at their arrival that she saved them; because she had not seen before a human being in those parts.


75TT2 It was rather her joy of seeing them that rescued the intruders, for no human soul had ever stopped by her place before.

76When the prince crosses the boundary into the Vale of Tears and remembers his parents, he decides that he wants to return home to see them one more time and then return to the castle of the fairies and never depart again (he does not mention the possibility of bringing his parents with him so that they can also enjoy life without death, and Cartianu eliminates the reference to seeing his parents “just once more”). The horse, however, refuses to take him back unless the prince accepts a certain condition which is presented as non-negotiable in the source text and in Solomon’s translation, and as a question in Cartianu’s translation. In other words, the prince is still the master, and the enchanted horse needs to ask permission rather than simply state his terms.

77Extract 9

78ST Cum vom ajunge la palatul tatălui tău, să te las jos şi eu să mă întorc, de vei voi să rămâi măcar un ceas.

79Gloss As soon as we reach your father’s palace I shall leave you and return, if you wish to stay even for an hour.

80TT1 As soon as we reach your father’s palace, I shall put you down. May I be free to return, should you wish to stay there, if only for an hour?

81TT2 As soon as we get to your father’s palace, I shall lay you down, and if you mean to linger as little as one hour, I’m gone.

82We now reach the last example of our analysis. Excerpt 10 presents the death of the prince who, on his journey back to his parents’ palace, has grown into a very old man.

83Extract 10

84ST Căutând într-o parte şi în alta, cu barba albă până la genuchi, ridicându-şi pleoapele ochilor cu mâinile şi abia umblând, nu găsi decât un tron odorogit; îl deschise, dară în el nimic nu găsi: ridică capacul chichiţei, şi un glas slăbănogit îi zise:

85-Bine ai venit, că de mai întârziai, şi eu mă prăpădeam.

86O palmă îi trase Moartea lui, care se uscase de se făcuse cârlig în chichiţă, çi căzu mort, şi îndată se şi făcu ţărână.

87Gloss Searching here and there, with the white beard down to his knees, lifting his eyelid with his hands and hardly walking, he only found a wrecked trunk; he opened it [...] and a hoarse voice told him:

88“Welcome, for if you had delayed, I also would have died. Only one slap from his Death, who had shriveled almost to a coil in the trunk, and he fell dead, and immediately turned into dust.

89TT1 At last he found a broken chest and opened it. It was empty, but a weak voice called, “Welcome, old man, for I have waited long enough for you.”

90Prince Handsome realized he was looking at death and that his time had come. Being tired of life now, he obeyed and so passed away from this world.

91TT2 Wobbling around, with his white beard down to his knees, and lifting his eyelids with his hand, all he found was a wrecked trunk. He opened its lid, and he heard a faint voice coming from inside:

92"Glad to see you! Had it taken you longer, I would have died myself."

93One slap from Death, who had shrivelled almost into a coil in the trunk, was enough to take his life and turn him into dust at once.

94There is nothing heroic about the death of the prince and, what is more, everything unfolds so quickly that he does not even have time to realize what is happening to him. A substantially different account is given in Cartianu’s translation. Admittedly, she does not go to the length of re-writing the ending to make it a happy one, but she gives some measure of dignity to his death. First of all, the prince ‘realizes’ he has met death, and that “his time has come”. What is more, he has a choice between dying and not dying but decides to obey death because he is “tired of life now”. In other words, he dies because he chooses to (and “passes away from this world” rather than “turning into dust immediately”), rather than because he has to.

95The key words ‘old age’ and ‘death’ which appear in the original title are absent from the titles of both Cartianu’s and Solomon’s translations (Youth Everlasting and Life without End and Eternal Life and Everlasting Youth). They are preserved, for example, in the title of the Italian translation of this fairy tale (Giovinezza senza vecchiaia e vita senza morte), but not in the Hungarian translation (Az örök iffúság és élet). Their absence shifts the attention towards the purpose to be achieved (youth and eternal life) and away from what is to be avoided (old age and death).


96Cartianu’s translation of the fairy tale systematically deletes references to procreation, prettifies the story and normalizes it in more ways than one (e. g. the ending, the image of Prince Charming and of other characters), making it more likely to meet traditional genre expectations. She uses shorter sentences and inserts dialogue, which makes the story more performable and suitable for reading aloud (due to considerations of space we were not able to deal with these issues within the scope of this paper). On the other hand, she uses a number of unusual words such as ‘boyar’ (from the Romanian ‘boier’), which Solomon domesticates into ‘baron’. Solomon also replaces “emperor and empress” with the more familiar “king and queen”, but is archaising in places (e.g. “big with child”, ‘beget’).

97The empress in Cartianu’s translation is portrayed as more submissive than in the original text (where she is hardly referred to); on the very few occasions when she appears in the translation she asks questions or beseeches. It is impossible, however, to make any claims about projected gender roles on the basis of such limited evidence, even though the fact that Prince Charming and his enchanted horse were saved from the wild beasts by the fairy (a woman) is not mentioned in Cartianu’s translation might support such a claim.

98None of the two translators is a native speaker of English, and this accounts for a number of less-than-fluent translational solutions, though of course these need to be carefully distinguished from deliberate attempts at preserving the foreignness of the text.

99Even though it is often difficult to know whether certain translational solutions are deliberate choices or the result of an unconscious process (non-deliberate does not mean non-motivated), combined textual and contextual evidence enables us to claim with a fair degree of certainty that at least some (if not all) of Cartianu’s interventions in the text which are outlined in section 4 of this paper are deliberate.

100The space of twenty years between the two translations cannot in itself account for the substantial differences between them. In order to begin to understand some of the processes involved we need to refer to considerations of function, purpose (skopos) and audience. In their oral form, many fairy tales are intended for an adult audience, and are meant to function in a different type of social occasion from the one which is assigned to them once they are written down. The migration of literature is a well documented phenomenon: books intended for adults for adults may start being seen as books for children (Gulliver’s Travels) and the other way round (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland). The shift can take place in translation, as “the functions of the original and its translation may be quite different” (Oittinen 2000: 63).

101Cartianu’s translation makes this transition from one type of audience to another obvious. A Romanian herself, and a woman, she may have felt that “Tinereţe fără bătrăneţe şi viaţă fără de moarte” is not entirely appropriate for younger children (to our knowledge no adaptation of this fairy tale has been made in Romanian for the use of young children, possibly due to issues linked to the prestige of the text), and uses the opportunity of translating it into English in order to make some of the changes she feels are necessary in view of the intended readership. Solomon, on the other hand, translates for a wider audience and in view of promoting Romanian literature abroad. The two translations are an excellent example of the impact, on translation, of the translator’s audience design.



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Université de Montpellier III
Lectures in Translation Studies in the English Department of the University of Montpellier III, France, and is deputy coordinator of the Master de Traductologie. Her main research interests are in the area of literary translation (including children’s literature), audiovisual translation, and the translation of sacred texts, in particular Eastern Orthodox writings. Some of her recent publications are “Archaizing versus modernizing in English translations of the Orthodox liturgy: St. John Chrysostomos in the 20th century” in Translation and Religion. Holy Untranslatable? (Multilingual Matters, 2005), “Audience Design in Translation: Theory and Practice” in On the Relationships between Translation Theory and Translation Practice (Peter Lang, 2005), “Presuppositions in literary translation: a corpus approach” (in Meta. Journal des Traducteurs, 2004) and “Deixis as an interactive feature in literary translations from Romanian into English” (with I. Mason, in Target. International Journal of Translation Studies, 2003). Adriana holds an MA in Translation Studies from the University of Warwick and a PhD from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. Before teaching in Montpellier she lectured in translation at the universities of Middlesex and of Leeds, United Kingdom.

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2007

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