I am having a hard time translating analogies and descriptions in a fairy tale written a century ago. My fear is today's children will not understand the analogy at all or misunderstand it, and as such it will not have the desired affect. At the same time the author of the story deliberately and consistently used a specific visual language, and changing that would make it a different story.
Some examples: There is a giant with a 'head as big as a barrel, with a beard like a shock of corn'
- A head as 'large as a barrel', may give the wrong impression. Any barrel I can think of is about the size of a chair and certainly smaller the I would imagine the head of a giant that is described as looking over a 1000 year old forest and carrying a group of children in the palm of his hand.
- 'A shock of corn' is an excellent analogy for a giant's beard: corn straw is pretty hard, prickly, more tangled then regular straw and makes a rustling sound when you brush up against it. But I fear a contemporary child has no idea what 'shock of corn' looks and feels like, corn straw is not tried standing up anymore anyway.
Other descriptions and analogies place the story in time, for example the length unit 'sežanj' is used. The time of writing coincides with the slow acceptance of the metric system but I have not been able to ascertain if the metric system was already in use (and the writer used older units to denote the past) or if 'sežanj' was still an actual unit of length. A final example: a swing moves as quietly as the galley of the Doge. Again, neither term will mean anything to children.
I see several options:
- Choose a term intended readers (listeners) are familiar with: The giants beard is like a shrub, his head as large as a windmill.
- Use a description: Instead of a steps measuring 10 sežanj, just say: huge steps. Say: the swing moved slowly, quietly and with ease.
- Translate ancient measurement units to ancient measurement units in the target language.
- Throw the readers in the deep end: if they didn't know a barrel can be huge and corn straw is bushy, they will learn from the analogy of a giants head and beard. It's okay they don't know what a Doge is, I certainly didn't when I was a kid. They probably don't know what a galley is either. Books are meant to expand your horizons.
The English translator translated the analogies directly to English, I think their translation is excellent but it was written for an audience long ago. The unit 'sežanj' was translated to the old english measurement 'fathom'.