Markéta Pilařová:

Translation Analysis of

Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazones



Part I - Introduction

Part II - Translation Analysis

Part III - List of Arthur’s Ransome Books Translated into Czech

Part IV - Arthur Ransome’s Bibliography

Part V - Footnotes


Part I - Introduction

The book Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome was published in 1930. It was the first part of the series about the Walkers and their adventures - altogether there are twelve books with these heroes (see Part Four). The story brought Ransome immediate success. It has been published many times, translated into several languages and there is a television version of the story, made in 1960s. All the books in the series have been very influential and have become classics of English children literature.

The story is set in England’s Lake District, where Arthur Ransome spent most of his life and was attached to the region all his life. He was born in Leeds and spent every summer of his childhood near Coniston Water, his father carried him to the Old Man Coniston (Kanchenjunga in his books) when he was only several months old.. When he started to study in Rugby, he found refuge in the Lake Country at least at weekends and during holidays. There he met the Collingwoods, writers and painters, who encouraged him to write; and who owned a dinghy called the Swallow.

In his twenties he moved to London and started to write for newspapers. In 1913 he was sent to Russia and covered the revolution at the first hand for Daily News. He travelled around Europe and to Asia before he settled with his wife (former Trotsky’s secretary) on Coniston Water.

In late 1920s he started to work on Swallows and Amazons. The book is dedicated to the children of his friends (Taqui, Susie, Titty, Roger and Bridgit), who spent summers with the Ransomes and whom he taught sailing (he bought them a dinghy Swallow II.). These children were the models for his fictional characters.

Although we can trace real places and real people in the stories, the books belong to the realm of fiction, full of symbolic meanings.1 Ransome changed the geography of the Lake District - the islands in Windermere and in Coniston water are merged into one as Wild Cat Island, the Bank Ground Farm (Holly Howe), Allen Tarn (Octopus Lagoon) and Silver Holme (Cormorant Island) are much closer in the book than in reality. According to literary critic Hugh Brogan, Arthur Ransome portrayed himself in the character of John (in his childhood) and in that of Captain Flint (in the time of writing). However, even without searching for symbolic meanings and dramas of author’s life2 , one must admit that Swallows and Amazons is a beautiful story, a fascinating narration and sets sail to the world of fantasy.

Part II - Translation Analysis


In the translation analysis I compare following books:

Ransome, Arthur: Swallows and Amazons, Random House Publishing, London, 1993, ISBN 0 09 996290 X

Ransome, Arthur: Boj o ostrov, nakl. Josef Hokr, Praha 1947, translated by B. Štěpánek, illustrations by A. Stehno

Ransome, Arthur: Boj o ostrov, Albatros, Praha, 1971, translated by Z. Wolfová, illustrations by Jan Černý


Text Analysis

Swallows and Amazons is a story for children, a narration full of dialogues and some descriptions. I think that the main function of the text is the vocative one (vocative in the sense of ‘calling upon’ the readership to act, think or feel1) since the purpose of the book is to show children that the world is a place where they can, employing their fantasy, experience many unusual adventures and encourages them to do so. However, other functions are, of course, present as well (informative - instructions how to sail, expressive - autobiographical features can be traced, hidden in the text).

The language of the book is quite elaborate, sentence structures are complex, participles are used abundantly and lexis is far from simple - there are many fixed phrases, idioms, slang expressions and special sailing terms. As for the stylistic features, the scale of formality ranges from informal to colloquial, the scale of generality from simple to popular, the emotional tone is warm.

The translations and their aims

The book Swallows and Amazons was translated into Czech twice. First in 1930s by B. Štěpánek (published in 1934 and 1947), then in late 1950s by Zora Wolfová (published in 1959, 1971 and 1982). These two variants differ in the time of their origin - the first one is almost a synchronic translation, the other appeared about thirty years later. They also differ in their approaches to the original and in their aims. However, the addressee is in both translations the same as in the original - children, although the age groups might differ slightly in each variant.

The approach to translation depends on the norms and the standards of a target language community and on an individual translator. Štěpánek’s translation should be read as a book written for Czech children. For this reason the translator naturalises and actualises (this intention is explained in the publisher’s note). Swallows and Amazons of 1930s seem to be almost culture-free, most proper names and culture-specific terms are translated or omitted when there is no adequate Czech word, dates are changed. The result is an universal story which could be set nearly anywhere. However, except for the culture-specific terms, he attempts to translate almost faithfully every word or phrase, abridging the text only in above mentioned cases.

Wolfová’s intentions are different. She tries to produce a vivid narration, which is read easily, a story which proceeds at a quick pace. The cultural setting of the story is transferred. This translation could be called communicative, because it attempts to render the exact contextual meaning of the original in such a way that both content and language are readily acceptable and comprehensible to the readership.2

Comparing the original and the translations - selected problems

Proper names and cultural terms

The basic distinction between proper names and cultural terms is that while both refer to persons, objects or processes peculiar to a single ethnic community, the former have singular references, while the latter refer to classes of entities.3

The following paragraphs will discuss translations of both proper names - people’s names, names of objects, names of historical figures, geographical terms - and cultural terms - weights and measures, food and allusions to historical events - in the two Czech variants of the Swallows and Amazons.

Because of the different approaches to the text and the different aims of each translator (discussed in the beginning of this chapter) the original is treated in different ways. Cultural background and realia were translated by B. Štěpánek, while Zora Wolfová tried to keep the text as ‘English’ as possible and transferred almost all culture-specific words.

Personal names

Normally, people’s first names and surnames are transferred, thus preserving their nationality (assuming that their names have no connotations in the text). In comedies, allegories, fairy-tales and some children’s stories, names are translated, unless, nationality is important.4

. Štěpánek translated half of the first names (O: John, Susan, Vicky, Nancy - T1: Jan, Zuzana, Věrka, Vlasta), the rest is transferred. In Wolfová’s variant all the names are transferred except Susan (T2: Zuzana). Because the two are almost identical, the Czech name in an English surrounding doesn’t seem to be disturbing. In both translations surnames were transferred.

Vicky’s real name is Bridget. She was nicknamed after Queen Victoria because she bears a close resemblance to the Queen. There are several allusions and hints to this fact, which had to be omitted in T1 (O: There was little Vicky, a fat baby, like the Queen Victoria in old age, p. 7 - T1: Byla tu malá Věrka, baculaté děcko, p. 11).

Štěpánek translated Nancy as Vlasta - although connotative meanings of both the Amazon and the name Vlasta share some common features - they were both figures from old fables, both were brave, with the sense of leadership, winning their wars - this Czech name, however, doesn’t fit into this particular text, especially in juxtaposition with the word Captain (T1: Kapitáne Vlasto...). Nancy is a nickname, Nancy’s real name is Ruth. Again, there’s an explanation for it - O: Her name is Ruth,... Amazons were ruthless and since we are Amazon pirates... we had to change her name, p.119 - T1: jmenuje se Cecílie, ale protože Amazonky neměly nikdy měkká jména a my jsme amazonští piráti... musily jsme její jméno změnit, p.74. T2: Jmenuje se Lilly, ale strýček říká, že Amazonky žádné lilie nebyly..., p.102. Štěpánek resigned on the nice play with words, moreover, the name Cecílie doesn’t sound very ’softly’ and the explanation is thus not very explanatory.

Geographical terms

There are several names of rivers, towns and mountains in the story of Swallows and Amazons. However, they are not toponyms as such, they don’t refer to the real landscape, but to the fictional one. They help to create the cultural scenery and to set the story in England’s Lake District. Keeping with his intention, Štěpánek tries to naturalise the text and to make it easier for children to read. Thus Holly Howe becomes Červený dvůr, which is quite common name for Czech farm-steads and manors (and holly berries are red), the promontory Darien became notoriously known Mys Dobré naděje (The name Darien is taken from a sonnet used as a motto of the first chapter and there is an allusion to it in the text, consequently, both the motto and the allusion are omitted.). Some geographical names are in T1 omitted altogether and they are substituted by a general word - O: They heard something in Bigland, p. 328 - T1: Zaslechli něco v kraji, p. 203 ; O: He learned that from his father long ago in Falmouth harbour, p.47 - T1: Jan se tomu naučil už dávno od svého otce, p.32.

Wolfová translated Holly Howe word for word as Cesmínový háj (introducing this plant into the world of seven and eight years old children). The rest of the ‘toponyms’ is in T2 transferred. The translation of The Amazon River differs in both variants (T1: Amazona, T2: Amazonka), this is due to the time of translating.

Names of historical figures

The Christian names of historical figures are usually translated - the names of sovereigns together with their title (Richard Lví srdce), ‘christian’ names referring to Biblical figures (names of all saints). Surnames have usually been preserved, with the exception of some Italian renaissance artists and classical writers, whose names are in most European languages naturalised (Tizián, Aristoteles).5 There are three historical figures in Swallows and Amazons. Wolfová translates them according to the above mentioned ‘rule’ ( T2: královna Alžběta, Filip Španělský, kapitán Drake). Štěpánek substitutes the concrete historical figure of Queen Elisabeth with more fairy-tale-like character, omitting or changing sentences where she is mentioned (O: “Come along (mother). You can be Queen Elisabeth going aboard the ships in Greenwich that were sailing to the Indies.” Mother laughed It doesn’t matter a bit about your not having red hair,” said Titty., p. 15 - T1: “Tedy pojď! Budeš jako indická královna, která se vrací lodí do Indie.!”, p. 15, T2: “Pojeď . Budeš třeba královna Alžběta, když nastupuje v Greenwichi na lodi, které plují na Západoindické soustroví.” Maminka se zasmála. “A vůbec nevadí, že nemáš zrzavé vlasy,” řekla Titty, p.19, O: Queen Elisabeth, p. 16-19 - T1: indická královna, p.16-17, T2: královna Alžběta, p. 20-23). In another case he omits the name and leaves only the rank (O: “Can I come aboard, Captain Drake?, p.19 - T1: Mohu vstoupit na palubu, kapitáne?, p. 17, T2: Smím vstoupit na palubu, kapitáne Draku?, p. 22)

Names of objects

In the beginning of the book, Roger, ranning across the field, pretends that he is a tea-clipper, the Cutty Sark, p.1. The Cutty Sark, now moored on the Thames at Greenwich, was in 1870s the fastest clipper in the world, bringing in wool from Australia and tea from China (in 1871 she beat the record and sailed from China to England in 107 days). It is something, the British are proud of, the symbol of wealth and ‘good times’ of the British Imperium. Both Czech translators dealt with this name in different ways. Štěpánek omitted the concrete name and used the general term only (T1: představoval námořní plachetnici, p. 7), Wolfová translated it as plachetnice, která veze náklad čaje a jmenuje se Pirátské triko, p. 7. The connotations we have with the word Pirátské triko are far from being the same as are those of the Cutty Sark for British readers.

Weights and measures

The translation of units of metric system and others depend on their setting and implied readership. In fiction , the decision whether to convert or transfer depends on the importance of retaining local colour.6 The older translation converts the measurements, the translation of 1960s transfers them. Both, however, translate approximate figures in SL with corresponding approximate figures in Czech. (O: about a mile, p. 6 - T1: as půldruhého kilometru, p. 11, T2: asi míli, p.12; O: Swallow was between thirteen and fourteen feet long, p.16 - T1: čtyři až pět metrů dlouhá, p.16, T2: asi tak čtyři yardy dlouhá, p. 21; O: dozen boxes, p. 28 - T1: deset krabiček, p. 21 T2: dvanáct krabiček, p.28; O: fourty yards from the island, p. 36 - T1: čtyřicet metrů, p. 26, T2: čtyřicet yardů, p. 35; O: he climbed seven feet up the trunk, p. 41 - T2: vyšplhal něco přes dva metry na kmen stromu, p. 30, T2: vyšplhal asi dva yardy po kmeni, p. 41; O: she has a keel about six inches deep, p. 125 - T1: má kýl asi patnáct centimetrů hluboký, p. 79, T2: má asi šest coulů hluboký kýl, p. 109; O: they couldn’t stir it a quarter of an inch, p. 367 - T1: nemohli jím pohnout ani o milimetr, p. 227, T2: nehnuli jím ani o coul, p. 307 ).

The Wolfová’s translation tends to be more free. She often substitutes concrete and specific data with more general ones or omits them completely (O: steamship... passed the Swallow a hundreds yards away, p. 34 - T1: ve vzdálenosti asi sta metrů, p. 25, T2: omitted, p.34; O: a tidal wave fourty feet high, p. 39 - T1: příliv s vlnami dvanáct metrů vysokými, p. 29, T2: přivalily by se vysoké vlny, p. 39; O: he had been within a yard or so from seeing it, p. 43 - T1: mohl je spatřit, kdyby se prodral o metr nebo dva dále, p. 31, T2: jen o krok nebo dva a byl by to místo zahlédl, p. 41; O: twenty yards in the water... a narrow rock seven or eight feet high, p. 44 - T1: dvacet metrů do vody... úzká skála přes dva metry vysoká, p.31, T2: na deset yardů... omitted, p. 43). On the other hand, Štěpánek is sometimes too literal (O: a quart of milk, p. 58 - T1: čtvrtku mléka, p.39, T2: litr mléka, p. 54).

Historical events

In the story there is an allusion to one event in the English history. It was translated into both Czech texts, in spite of the fact that Czech readers probably don’t know when and what actually happened. Štěpánek translated it word by word, which is, especially in his translation, deprived of the full cultural setting, confusing and out of context. Wolfová substituted the metaphor with more explanatory phrase and added the historical context. - O: if you want to know who singed your beard (see Philip of Spain), p. 315 - T1: chceš-li vědět, kdo ti připálil vousy (viz Filipa Španělského),p. 195, T2: jestli chceš vědět, kdo ti podpálil před nosem loď (viz Filip Španělský, anglická invaze), p. 264.


Food is for many the most sensitive and important expression of national culture; food terms are subject to the widest variety of translation procedures. In principle, one can recommend translation for words with recognised one-to-one equivalents and transference, plus a neutral term, for the rest.7

An average Czech reader (especially very young one) is not familiar with English cooking, therefore both translators in most cases translate and/or add an explanation or substitute. Sometimes, however, the translation is imprecise and confuses readers (O: a meat-pie, p. 58 - T1: paštika, p.39 – in the book it is eaten as a main meal, but without bread or potatoes, something quite extraordinary for Czechs T2: zapečené maso, p.54).

Both translators omitted the term pemmican, although it is often used in other books for children, especially in adventurous stories about Indians, cowboys and the West, which are quite popular among children (O: “You will soon get tired of living on corned beef.” “Pemmican,” said Titty. “Pemmican,” said the female native. “So if I were you...”, p. 58 - T1: ”Konservované maso se vám brzy zprotiví.” “To je námořnická strava,” řekla Titty. “Ovšem,” odvětila domorodka. “Ale přece, být...”, p.39, T2: “Konzervované maso se vám brzy přejí.” “Ale to jedí přece všichni námořníci,” řekla Titty. “Dobře,” řekla domorodá žena. “Ale být...”, p. 54).

The brand name of English cereals can’t be transferred, because this product hasn’t been sold here and for Czech readers doesn’t mean anything specific. Štěpánek substituted cereals with jam (having jam for breakfast is quite usual) - O: I’ve brought a box of Force for breakfast. Susan is going to have a busy time without having to cook porridge in the morning, p. 59 - T1: Tady jsem vám přinesla zavařeninu k snídani. Zuzana bude mít hodně co dělat i bez vaření ovesné kaše, p. 39, Wolfová replaced the brand name with a general name, unfortunately krabice vloček doesn’t mean only instant ones. In 1960s it wasn’t possible to buy instant porridge anyway and thus the two sentences are contradicting each other - T2: Pak jsem vám přivezla k snídani krabici vloček. Zuzana bude mít už tak dost práce, než aby se ještě ráno vařila s ovesnou kaší, p. 54.

Both translations are at places imprecise (I list the following two examples because they are interesting, not wrong) - O: gooseberry tart, p. 192 - T1: rybízový koláč, p. 118, T2: angreštový koláč, p. 16; O: tin of golden syrup, p.193 - T1: láhev žlutého syrupu,p.118, T2: plechovka zlatého sirupu. However, some imprecisions doesn’t sound natural - we don’t store jam in bottles (O: two pots of marmelade, p.193 - T1: dvě láhve marmelády, p.118, T2: dva hrnky marmelády, p.162) and Czech pudding bowls are much smaller than English ones (O: pudding-basin, p.192 - T1: velká mísa, p. 118, T2: velká pudinková mísa, p. 162).

Translation of songs

The English have many songs about voyages and sailors and singing while sailing or rowing is in Lake District quite popular. Two songs are inserted into the story - in the newer translation they were translated by the professional poets Konstantin Biebl and Soňa Nová. Štepánek omitted them, but he translated the lines that refer to the songs and that, without the lyrics, don’t have any meaning - O: “We ought to sing ‘Spanish Ladies’,” said Titty. So they sang. “Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies,

adieu and farewell to you, ladies of Spain,

For we’re under orders for to sail to old England,...

“Of course, really, we’re going the other way,” said Susan, “but it doesn’t matter.”, p. 29

T1: “Měli bychom zazpívat,” pravila Titty. Tedy zpívali, zatím co loď plula po jezeře. “Vzdyt jedeme opačne!” zvolala Zuzana. “Ale to nevadí!”, p. 22.


The book was published in 1930, the story takes place in 1929. Štěpánek changed the date and transferred the story into the year of 1947 (published in 1947) - O: Signed (a treaty)... at this place of Wild Cat Island in the month of August 1929, p. 123 - T1: Podepsáno... v měsíci srpnu 1947, p. 78. In fact Czech readers were put into the same position as were readers of the original. In the Wolfová’s translation the date is transferred.

Mistakes of quality and Interference

Translators are people and therefore they make mistakes. There are two types of mistakes - mistakes of quality (kvalitativní chyby) and mistakes of quantity (kvantitativní chyby). The former are made on all levels of language, they are most visible in morphology, lexis and grammar. The latter term means taking over phrases and collocations, which exist in target language, but their stylistic usage and the frequency with which they occur in TL texts is different. This interference between source and target languages is not a real mistake but stylistic clumsiness.8

Some mistakes of quality can be found in the Štěpánek’s translation. Sometimes he misunderstands contextual meaning of a word or a phrase

O: the news was so good it made them solemn, p. 8 - T1: zpráva byla tak dobrá, že byla slavná, p. 12

O: rugs - you sleep on haybacks... and roll yourself up in rugs and blankets, p. 15 - T1: hadry, p.15,

O: Also Captain John was taking no risks, p. 29 - T1: Kapitán Jan tedy neměl nebezpečí, p. 23

O: “Houseboat, ahoy!, p.32 - T1: “Hej, hausboat!”, p. 24

O: “And a saucepan... I’m best at buttered eggs,” said Mate Susan... “Most folk are best at boiled,” said Mrs. Jackson. “Oh, well, I don’t count boiled,” said Susan. p.21 - T1: “A pak pánev na smažení. Já hrozně ráda smažená vejce” řekla Zuzana... “Většina lidí má ráda vařená,” pravila paní Jacksonová.” “Ne, já vařená nechci,” řekla Zuzana. p. 19

O: spare rope, p. 49 - T1: zbytečný provaz, p. 34

O: these tins made two seats, p. 55 - T1: byly jich dvě vrstvy, p. 37

O: they took turns in steering Swallow, p. 75 - T1: řídili Vlaštovku všemi směry, p. 49

O: How did you do it?, p. 267 - T1: Jak jsi to mohla udělat?, p.162 (John is saying this to Titty, referring to her capturing the Amazon)

O: All right, Titty?, p. 270 - T1: Teď přímo kupředu, Titty, p. 164 (John is asking Titty if she feels fine, steering for the fist time)

or he simplifies and changes a sentence structure, the translation is too literal and doesn’t function in the Czech text or he misunderstands a grammatical form

O: anybody could see us, p. 290 - T1: nikdo nás neuvidí, p. 178

O: “Don’t think about him.” “All right. I won’t.”, p. 301 - T1: “Nemysli už na něho.” “Dobře. Už nebudu myslit.”, p. 185

O: the other policemen, p. 312 - T1: ostatní strážníky, p. 193

O: The peak seemed lower than it had (seemed), p.30 - T1: připadal jim nižší než byl (připadal jim nižší než předtím), p. 23

O: you wouldn’t think I was as old as all that, p. 157 - T1: nemyslete si, že jsem tak starý, p. 97

Sometimes the connotative meaning of a Czech phrase or its function is different from that of an English one

O: You son of a seacook, p. 235 - T1: Ty synu mořského orla, p. 143 (negative connotations vs. more or less positive ones)

O: Now then, my hearties, p. 235 - T1: A teď vzhůru, srdce, p. 143

O: BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WONT DROWN, p. 5 - T1: Líp se utopit než být packaly, jestliže nejste packalové, neutopíte se. p. 10 -this is not standard form of a telegram.

These types of mistakes can’t be found in the Wolfová’s variant.

One of the problems translator has to solve is the difference between stylistic and textual standards of a source and a target languages, which depend on both cultural tradition and social conventions. The example of these differences is the use of verbs in introductory clauses in different languages and its asymetry.9 English uses almost only the verb said, Czech is more creative and doesn’t make only with repeating řekl. Czech translations need either synonyms of řekl (pravil, povídal, poznamenal, prohodil, konstatoval) or verbs whose meanings arise from the text (usmál se, rozzlobil se, zeptal se, souhlasil, radil, okřikl, zešeptal, naléhal, oslovil ho, rozkřikl se..)10 Štepánek doesn’t follow this rule and translates said with pravil or řekl almost in all cases.

Mistakes of quantity are not dealt with in this paper.

Sailing terms

The book Swallows and Amazons is full of sailing terms - terms describing different parts of a sailing boat or different sailing operations. Both Štepánek and Wolfová render denotative meaning of the terms and their translations are comprehensible and make sense in the given context, although the terms used may not be identical the with official Czech sailing terms. Both translators are not always consistent throughout the text, but in most cases this doesn’t block comprehension.

O: small jetty, p. 16, 25 - T1: úzký můstek, p. 15; hráz, p. 20, T2: krátká přístavní hráz, p. 19; malý přístavní můstek, p. 27

O: Most sailing dinghies have centre-boards, plates, which can be let down through their keels, to make then sail better against the wind, p. 16 - T1: Malé plachetnice mají většinou střední kýl, závaží, které je možno spustit ze skříně v lodi, aby loď plula lépe proti větru, p. 16, T2: Většina plachetnic mívá střední kýl, ploutev, která se dá spustit kýlem, aby loď plula proti větru bezpečněji, p. 20

O: Mate Susan untied the painter... then she fastened the painter to an iron ring, p. 17 - T1: První důstojník Zuzana uvolnila lano... pak Zuzana připevnila řetízek k železnému kruhu, p. 16, T2: První důstojník Zuzana odvázala poutací lano... uvázala lano na železný kruh, p. 20

O: she’s got a little flagstaff and there are flag halyards on the mast to hoist it by it,p. 17 - T1: má malý stožárek pro vlajku a jsou tu lana, aby mohla být vytažena, p. 16, T2: je tu maličká vlajková žerď a na stožáru jsou zvedací lana na vztyčování vlajky, p. 20

O: she doesn’t seem to have a forestay... and there isn’t a place to lead the halyard to in the bowsto make it do instead, p. 17 - T1:, Nemá, tuším, stěhlové plachty... a není tu nic, k čemuž by se připjala lana od horního ráhna, p. 16, T2: nemá zřejmě čelní stěh... a není tu nic, k čemu by se místo na něj připjala na přídi zvedací lana, p. 21

O: On the yard there was a stroop (which is really a loop) that hooked on a hook on one side of an iron ring called the traveller, p. 18 - T1: Na horním ráhně byl lanový svor (vlastně otvor) visící na háku na jedné straně železného kruhu, který klouzalpo stožáru nahoru a dolů, p. 17, T2: Na horním ráhně byla lanová smyčka (vlastně klička), zachycená na háčku z jedné strany železného kroužku, kterému se říká jezdec, protože putuje dolů a nahoru po stožáru, p. 21

O: the halyard ran from the traveller up to the top of the mast, through a sheave (which is a hole with a little wheel in it), and down again, p. 18 - T1: Lano běželo od kruhu vzhůru až na vrchol stožáru přes kladku k otvoru ve stožáru a pak opět dolů, p. 17, T2: zvedací lano se táhlo od jezdce nahoru k vrcholku stožáru přes kladku - což je vlastně dírka a v ní malé kolečko - a pak zase dolů, p. 21

O: the main thwart, p. 25 - T1: hlavní příčka, p. 20, T2: hlavní sedačka, p. 27

O: “Are we all right about jibing?” askes Susan, remembering the sad day... when the boom had jibed over with sudden decision and given her a bump, p. 30 - T1: “Není nebezpečí přesmyku?” zeptala se... Zuzana, pamatující se na den, kdy se... ráhno prudce přesmyklo přes loď a udělalo jí bouli, p. 23, T2: “Máme dobře natočenou vratiplachtu?” optala se Zuzana. Vzpomněla si na... den, kdy plachtili a tu se jim zčistajasna otočili spodní ráhno a udělalo jí bouli, p. 31

O: “Jibe O” - T1: “Pozor, přesmyk”, T2: Pozor, obrat”

O: sailors, p. 128 - T1: plavci, p. 80, T2: námořníci, p. 111

O: Amazon slipped away to leeward, p. 270 - T1: klouzala k levé straně, p. 164, T2: stáčela se k závětrné straně, p. 224

Only some translation doesn’t function well in the translations:

O: A chief ship of a fleet, p. 283 - T1: hlavní loď loďstva, p. 172 - too general term, here it means only the ships afloat T2: hlavní loď flotily, p. 236

O: ragged reef points, p. 303 - T1: otřelé části na zmenšování plachty, p. 187 - description is too long, in the sentence sounds unnaturally and disturbs a reader, T2: potrhané úvazky, p. 253

O: “Sail Ho!” , p. 97 - T1: “Hej, plachta!”, p. 62 - there is a fixed phrase in Czech as well as in English, T2: “Loď na obzoru!”, p. 84

O: on one tack, p. 67 - T1: při jednom výkyvu vlnovky, p. 44 - this doesn’t describe the movement of a ship and it has completely different usage, T2: při jednom oblouku, p. 61

The equivalence on the textual level

Sentence structures

Languages vary in the extent to which they rely on word order to signal relationship between elements in the clause. In languages with elaborate case inflections word order is largely a matter of stylistic variation 11 - an example of this type of language is Czech. English word order is much more fixed, the meaning of a sentence in English depends entirely on the order in which the elements are placed.12 Transferring English word order into a Czech text results in unnatural and awkward sentences, which may emphasise already known facts and doesn’t convey a message properly. In Štěpánek’s translation interference on the level of syntax can be observed (O: “Who is going to help?” Everybody wanted to help. p. 293 - T1: “Kdo mi chce pomoci?” Každý chce pomoci. p. 180)

A length of sentences and a way clauses are combined differ in both translations. Štěpánek tends to translate sentences exactly as they are in the original. Wolfová rearranges sentence structures, she divides sentences into separate clauses or adds conjunctions into the text and combines clauses together - the latter is done more often. Her sentences sound more natural than those in the Štěpánek’s translation, Czech may tend to prefer more complex structures than English. However, structuring sentences and organising discourse is often part of a writer’s technique and reflects writer’s idiolect. The differences in the translations illustrate the differences in approaches to it - Štěpánek is passive, he tries to translate literally, Wolfová is more active, she rearranges and adapts in order to produce readable and swift text.

Stylistic rearrangements

Stylistic differences, which depend on different cultural traditions and social conventions, can be observed also on the level of language expressivity. Analysis of Czech translations of English texts show that in Czech expressive words are used with higher frequency than in an original, stylistically neutral expressions are translated with much more expressive Czech words.13 Wolfová’s translation has the same features (O: who has ever sailed, p. 7 - T2: kdo přičichne k plachtění, p. 13; O: Vicky would stay at home, p. 8 - T2: Vicky zůstane pěkně doma, p. 14; O: return back, p. 20 - T2: hajdy domů, p. 22; O: it looked the same on both sides, p. 20 - T2: aťse an ni člověk díval z kterékoli strany, vždycky byla stejná, p. 23; O: Grand weather we are having! p. 65 - T2: To je ale počasíčko, co? p. 59; O: Roger was ready to go on talking, p. 69 - T2: Roger měl sto chutí o tom ještě o tom porozprávět, p. 62; O: they were almost exactly the same, p. 89 - T2: byly si podobné jak vejce vejci, p. 78; O: the poor natives are not allowed to see it, p. 217 - T2: nesmí tam pohlédnout oko žádného ubohého domorodce, p. 182; O: a hat, p. 248 - T2: hučka, p. 205; O: lucky for us, p. 248 - T2: máme kliku, p. 205; O: those Blackett girls were always with him, p. 59 - T2: byly u něj pečené vařené ty Blackettovic žáby, p. 55). By using so many expressives, she changed the emotional tone - in the original it is warm, in her translation intense. Štěpánek uses usually neutral equivalents of English neutral words, however, in Czech this sounds as if the emotional tone was rather factual.

Both translators don’t account for every word in SL text. The translations omit the only two metaphors in the book - one is also an allusion to another English book for children, the other to a proverb (O: “It’ll change its tune in a minute,” said the mate. (the kettle) “Like the cuckoo, except that kettles change their tune as soon as they boil, and don’t wait till June.”; O: All the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t put Humpty Dumpty together again, p. 313)

Štěpánek doesn’t translate words or clauses referring to cultural setting and he omits specifying expressions, usually adjectives, and translates only general term or substitutes the two ( O: aneroid barometer, tins of corned beef, seed cake, stout grass rope, p. 25 - T1: tlakoměr, konzervy, koláč, silný lano, p. 21; O: stone bottles, p. 100 - T1: lahve, p. 64; O: she heard chug, chug, chug of a steamer, p. 213 - T1: slyšela šumění parníku, p. 130) Wolfová omits whole paragraphs - usually descriptive ones, therefore her translation is more dynamic than the original text.

The assessment of the translations

There are two possible approaches of assessing a translated text - the functional and the analytical. The functional is a general approach, the attempt to asses whether the translator has achieved what he attempted to do and where he fell short. This is to some extent a subjective approach. The analytical approach is detailed, rests on the assumptions that a text can be assessed in sections14 , usually analysing different types of mistakes in different types of texts.

I have used analytical approach - both translations have been assessed during the translation analysis. I can conclude that the translations have both weak and strong points. Linguistic mistakes, including grammatical and lexical, can be observed in Štěpánek’s translation. He translates too literally and his language doesn’t sound naturally enough, he also makes mistakes of usage in the text. In spite of this, the text is quite readable and if its purpose was to inspire children to think of an adventure and try to put it into practice, it was fulfilled. Wolfová’s translation is more free, she added expressives and omitted descriptive passages, she changed the stylistic form of the text. But her story is extremely readable, elegant and neat and renders the author’s aim as well.

I don’t even attempt to evaluate these translation as good or bad - it is very subjective and it is always impossible to draw a line between what counts as bad and what counts as good.15

Maps and illustrations

Illustrations are essential part of a book - they help to explain, they help to imagine and they make characters in a story more concrete. The type of illustration indicates the age of a readership - there are, of course, different pictures for adults and for six years old children.

Pictures in the three compared books differ significantly and highlight the differences in the translations and the aims of the translators. The original is accompanied with author’s own drawings - simple, undetailed sketches, the older translation is equipped with coloured, dramatic paintings, pictures in the newer variant are very simple childish (see appendix).

There are also two maps in the book - a map of Wild Cats Island and a map of the Lake. Actually, they are plans - with marked cardinal points and given latitude and longitude. Each translation omitted one map - Štepánek that of Wild Cats Island and Wolfová that of the Lake. Štěpánek’s map of the Lake looks more like a painting than a plan, details (roads and paths) are omitted, Swallow drawn on the Lake in the original is replaced with an ancient clipper, a picture of a whale is added. Wolfová’s map of Wild Cats Island tries to be faithful reproduction, but omits latitude and longitude.

Differences in translation reflecting the development of Czech

Following examples are not relevant to the translation analysis but I find them interesting - they show how are social changes reflected in language. Relationships between parents and children has changed and this can be seen in the differences in addressing (O: mother - T1: matka, T2: maminka; O: With love, Roger (in a letter), p.2 - T1: Líbá Tě Roger, p.8, T2: Tvůj Roger, p.8). Children’s knowledge about the world has enlarged and in T2 there is no need to explain things (O: sailing in Sydney Harbour, p.197 - T1: plachtění v přístavu Sydney v Austrálii, p.121, T2: plachtění v sydneyském přístavu, p.166).

Part III - Arthur Ransome’s children books in Czech

(List of translations)


Boj o ostrov (Swallows and Amazons),
přel. B. Štěpánek, J.Hokr, 1934, 1947
přel. Zora Wolfová, SNDK, 1959 ilust. Kamil Lhoták
Albatros, 1971, 1982 - verše přeložili Konstantin Biebel a Soňa Nová, ilust. Jan Černý

Holubí pošta (Pigeon Post)
přel. Zora Wolfová, SNDK, 1964 ilust. Kamil Lhoták
Albatros, 1977, ilust. Jan Černý
Toužimský&Moravec, 1998, ilust. A. Ransome

Klub Lysek (Coot Club)
přel. Zora Wolfová, SNDK, 1963 ilust. Kamil Lhoták
Albatros, 1992, ilust. Jan Černý

Nechtěli jsme jet na moře (We didn’t mean to go to sea)
přel. Jaromír Hořejš, J.Hokr, 1948

Nechtěli jsme na moře (We didn’t mean to go to sea)
přel. Zora Wolfová, Albatros, 1976, ilust. Jan Černý

Petr Kachna (Peter Duck)
přel. Zora Wolfová, SNDK, 1961 ilust. Kamil Lhoták

Piktové a mučedníci aneb naprosto nevítaná návštěva (The Picts and the Martyrs)
přel. Zora Wolfová, Albatros, 1987, ilust. Jan Černý

Potopená loď. Dobrodružství na řece a průplavech. (Swallowdale)
přel. Jaromír Hořejš, J.Hokr, 1939

Prázdniny na moři (Peter Duck)
přel. Jaromír Hořejš, J.Hokr, 1936

Trosečníci z Vlaštovky (Swallowdale)
přel. Zora Wolfová, SNDK, 1960 ilust. Kamil Lhoták
Albatros, 1972, 1988 verše přeložila Soňa Nová, ilust. Jan Černý

Velká severní? (Great Northern?)
přel. Zora Wolfová, Albatros, 1974, ilust. Jan Černý

Velká šestka (The Big Six)
přel. Zora Wolfová, SNDK, 1967 ilust. Kamil Lhoták

Záhadné vody (Secret Water)
přel. Zora Wolfová, Albatros, 1980, ilust. Jan Černý

Zamrzlá loď kapitána Flinta
přel. Jaromír Hořejš, J.Hokr, 1937
; SNDK, 1958
přel. Zora Wolfová, Albatros, 1973, 1991, ilust. Jan Černý


Part IV - Arthur Ransome’s Bibliography:

The souls of the streets, and other little papers. 1904.

The stone lady, ten little papers and two mad stories. 1905.

Pounds and stream. 1906.

The child’s book of seasons. 1906.

The things in our garden. 1906.

Highways and byways in fairyland. 1906.

Bohemia in London. 1907, New York 1907, London 1912 (rev.)

A history of story-telling: studies in the development of narrative. 1909.

Edgar Alan Poe: a critical study. 1910, New York 1910

The imp and the elf and the ogre. 1910.

The hoofmarks of the faun. 1911.

Oscar Wilde: a critical study. 1912, 1913, New York 1913

Portraits and speculations. 1913.

The elixir of life. 1915.

Old Peter’s Russian tales. 1916, New York 1917, London 1938.

Aladdin and his wonderfull lamp, in rhyme. 1919.

Six weeks in Russia in 1919. New York, 1919.

The soldier and death: a Russian folk tale told in English. 1920, New York 1922

The crisis in Russia. 1921, New York 1921.

‘Racundra’s’ first cruise. 1923, New York 1923.

The Chinese puzzle. 1927.

Rod and line: essays, together with Aksakov on fishing. 1929.

Swallows & Amazons. 1930, Philadelphia 1930.

Swallowdale. 1931, Philadelphia 1932.

Peter Duck. 1932, Philadelphia 1933.

Winter holiday. 1933, Philadelphia 1934.

Coot club. 1934, Philadelphia 1935.

Pigeon Post. 1936, Philadelphia 1937.

We didn’t mean to go to sea. 1937, New York 1938.

Secret water. 1939, New York 1940.

The big six. 1940, New York 1941.

Missee Lee. 1941, New York 1942.

The Picts and the martyrs: or not welcome at all. 1943, New York 1943.

Great Northern? 1947, New York 1948.

Fishing. Cambridge 1955

Mainly about fishing. 1959.

(Taken from The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Oxford 1985)


Footnotes and Discussed Books

Part I


1., 2. Brogan, Hugh - The Life of Arthur Ransome, London 1984, p. 314

Books Discussed:

Brogan, Hugh - The Life of Arthur Ransome, London 1984

Ward, A. C. - Longman Companion to Twentieth Century Literature, London 1970


Part II


1. Newmark, Peter - A Textbook of Translation, p. 41

2. Newmark, Peter - A Textbook of Translation, p. 47

3. Newmark, Peter - Approaches to Translation, p. 70

4. Newmark, Peter - A Textbook of Translation, p. 214

5. Newmark, Peter - Approaches to Translation, p. 70

6. Newmark, Peter - A Textbook of Translation, p. 218

7. Newmark, Peter - A Textbook of Translation, p. 97

8. Překládání a čeština, p. 47-48

9. Překládání a čeština, p. 106

10. Překládání a čeština, p. 106

11. Baker, Mona - In Other Words, p. 110

12. Baker, Mona - In Other Words, p. 110

13. Překládání a čeština, p. 107

14. Newmark, Peter - A Textbook of Translation, p. 189

15. Baker, Mona - In Other Words, p. 7

Books Discussed

Baker, Mona - In Other Words, London 1992

Překládání a čeština, Praha 1994

Newmark, Peter - A Textbook of Translation, Hemel Hempstead 1988

Newmark, Peter - Approaches to Translation, Oxford 1981