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Introductory Notes. Imagery in Translation

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Imagery in Translation




British folk tales. Translating a British folk tale we should not forget that recording of the tales usually gives only a pale shadow of the original narration. Beyond the recorded text are the voices, tone modulations, mimics and gestures of a storyteller, as well as the reaction of the audience: we should not forget that a folk tale is a rich performance based on an ages-old tradition; besides, the story was usually accompanied by music. In addition, it should be taken into consideration that most such stories, recorded in English, were originally narrated in one of the Celtic languages, and in a colloquial variant at that, as they were mostly told among the rural popu­lation.

The great bulk of village dwellers could neither read nor write, yet their memories were very keen and their imagina­tions vivid, and when they heard a story they often remem­bered it almost word for word to be reproduced for the rest of their lives. Those with an especial gift of memory could keep and perform hundreds of such folk tales in the old days. They were true storytellers. In this way folk tales were passed down for hundreds of years, the main points of the tale remaining unaltered, though some colourful details might migrate from tale to tale and even be borrowed from other traditions.

The world of folk tales is rich and vivid. They may be sad and jolly, fearsome and funny, full of supernatural beings and absolutely true to life. Alongside fairies, goblins and bog­garts, peasants, soldiers, fishermen, hunters, kings and shep-


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herds live and act. The other world that appears in the folk tale, however fantastic, bears some resemblance to the land­scape, climate and mood of the country that produced it by vir­tue of folk imagination and humour. This national flavour is one of the most important features of the folk tale.

To translate a folk tale not only into another language but also into another culture, sometimes, as, in our case, very far from the source one, requires some additional knowledge about the very idea of a folk or fairy tale. The roots of a fairy tale are very deep; some of its contents and personages may go back to a myth, but unlike myth, a fairy tale is pure fiction, poetic or humorous, it usually retains some very ancient con­tent structures, types of plots, relationships and world view. Most of historians date the heyday of the folk tale to medieval times when ritual features and sacred images of gods, spirits and ancestors were slowly changed into stories where people became the main heroes, be they kings or shepherds.

The British tradition of folk tales is very rich and com­plicated as consisting of many sub-traditions, Scottish, Welsh, English, Irish and many others. Of the two tales included here one comes from the North of England, the other from Wales. The northern story {Tops or Butts?) is typical for many Euro­pean traditions; we may find its counterpart in the Russian tale Мужик и медведь. In a way, it is easier to translate than the other, though we should always keep in mind that the story belongs to a different tradition, and the very name Boggard is less definite in its imagery than Медведь. When dealing with English folklore tradition, we must bear in mind that this tra­dition is closely connected with various kinds of apparitions, phantoms, ghosts and bogies, that is, with figures alien to the mortal world. Thus, a boggard, or goblin is closer to the Rus­sian idea of нежить, нелюдь, which means that in a translat­ed English story we should not replace a boggard by a bear but by something like a Russian леший, боровой, полевик,

степовой. ___

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