Have You Ever Heard of Little Dwarf Dwimble?, translated by Christina Lucassi

Have you ever heard of little dwarf Dwimble?
He’s just twice as big as a tiny thimble.
Now, some people call him the Pocketable,
The teeniest, weeniest one possible:
The smallest of dwarves that you ever did see.
As friendly and helpful, polite as can be.

Aww, look at the little dwarf sliding on roots.
He’s carefully balanced on bushes and shoots.
Never once putting a foot out of place,
Never unbalanced as he moves with grace.
It's cold in the forest, but look at his hat:
He’ll stay nice and warm in a berry like that!

Now, Dwimble had never been one to complain
But he had a problem, and it was a pain.
He wanted to help, but try as he might
No-one would let him because of his height.

But, as Dwimble walked through the forest one day
He happened to meet a large bear on his way
He offered him help anytime, anywhere;
If the bear had a problem, he would be there.
Dwimble would help any way that he could
Whenever was needed, as any friend should.

“I’ll gladly advise you. Together, you’ll see,
We’ll soon make your problem as small as can be.
Our problems are never as big as we think.
My best help will solve it as quick as a wink!”
But strangely, the bear, with a shake of his head,
Just turned to dwarf Dwimble and rudely said:
“Now what do you want then, Dwimblybum?
I don’t think you’re even as tall as my thumb,
And all of my problems are bigger than you!
So tell me now really: what could you do?
I’ll tell you what, Dwimble, since you are so tall,
If a tick ever bites me, I’ll give you a call!
Until then: goodbye, dwarf Dwimblypoo.”
With that, the dwarf left, feeling lonely and blue.

Then, as Dwimble walked through the forest that day
He happened to meet a sly fox on his way.
He offered him help anytime, anywhere;
If the fox had a problem, he would be there.
Dwimble would help any way that he could
Whenever was needed, as any friend should.
“Fox, my dear friend, I would gladly help you,
Your wife and your fox cubs, the whole motley crew.
If you’d like my help, please just ask me and then
I’ll even work out how to build a fox den.”

But sadly, the fox, with a shake of his head,
Just turned to dwarf Dwimble and rudely said:
“My problems are mine and they are mine alone
And they’re far too big for someone half-grown.
I’ll tell you what, Dwimble, since you are so tall,
If my whiskers break, I’ll give you a call!
Until then: adios, dwarf Dwimblypoo.”
With that, the dwarf left feeling lonely and blue.

 

My translation is of an extract of Christina Tropper and Alexander Smutni-Tropper’s rhyming children’s book Zwuderich der Unkürzbare (2020). Its beautiful use of nonsense words inspired my MA Thesis (due for submission August 2021) ‘Sacrifice and Compromise in the Translation of Rhyming Children’s Books: To what extent do translation theories inform creative translations?’ for which this lovely text was originally translated. I used a free translation approach, prioritising the meaning over literal translation ensuring, of course, that the plot remained unchanged. I did, however, feel it important to use the same stylistic devices as the author where possible. I felt that the skipping rhythm and bounce created by the author’s consistent metre established a friendly, childlike atmosphere for the poem and this was therefore the translation focus above other stylistic devices, resulting in some necessary sacrifices. Nonsense words created the biggest challenge, e.g. ‘Zwuderich’, translated as ‘Dwimble’ to make him seem diminutive (rhyming with thimble). This also maintained the alliteration of the sound ‘dw’ in ‘dwarf Dwimble, translated from ‘Zwerg Zwuderich’. An inversion method was used in translating Dwimble’s titular pet name ‘Unkurzbäre’ (unshortable) where instead of being unable to make Dwimble smaller, he is now so small that we are able to pocket him, hence ‘Pocketable’. Finally, one transcreation problem specific to German was the word ‘Zwuder-ding’, being a compound of the character’s partial name and the word ‘thing’. Inventing compound words is more common in German than in English. Therefore, nonsense words were used as a workaround, translating ‘Zwuder-ding’ (with the root ‘Zwuder-‘ from ‘Zwuderich’ and the German word for ‘thing’) as ‘Dwimblypoo’. This maintained the name root, and added a child-friendly insult as a suffix to achieve the intended purpose of a thinly veiled insult, which was far more important to the story than the words used.

 

Original poem by Christina Tropper and Alexander Smutni-Tropper

Kennt ihr schon ZWERG ZWUDERICH?
Einen klein’ren gibt es nicht!
Man nennt ihn auch den Unkürzbaren,
den einzig echten, wirklich wahren,
den kleinsten Zwerg, den man je sah,
der höflich, freundlich, hilfreich war,

Schaut ihn an, den ZWERGENMANN,
Wie er auf Wurzeln rutschen kann.
Wie er auf Sträuchern balanciert
Und nie das Gleichgewicht verliert.
Den Zwergenkopf die Beere ziert,
damit dem Zwerg im Wald nicht friert.

Wenn ZWUDERICH nur eines quält,
dass seine Hilfe nirgends fehlt.

So traf er den BÄREN mal im Wald
Und bot ihm an, dass er, sobald
Er irgendwie und irgendwann,
irgendwo mal helfen kann,
wär‘ ZWUDERICH dazu bereit,
auch zur unzeitigsten Zeit.

„Ich helfe dir, so gut ich kann,
gebe gerne Rat und dann,
wird jedem von uns beiden klar,
dass dein Problem kein großes war.“
Der BÄR, der schüttelte den Kopf:
„Was willst du denn, du kleiner Knopf?
Du bist nur klein, die Sorgen groß-
Sag einmal kurz: Was willst du bloß?
Wenn mich mal eine Zecke sticht:
Weißt du was? Dann ruf ich dich!
Bis dahin: Tschüss, du Zwuder-Ding!“
Worauf der ZWERG ganz traurig ging.

So traf er dann den FUCHS im Wald
Und bot ihm an, dass er, sobald
Er irgendwie und irgendwann,
irgendwo mal helfen kann,
dann wär‘ er da und stets bereit,
auch zur unzeitigsten Zeit.
„Ich helfe gerne, lieber Fuchs,
dir, der Frau, dem FUCHSNACHWUCHS.
Wenn du willst, mach ich mich schlau,
auch in Fragen Fuchsbau-Bau.“

Der FUCHS, der schüttelte nur den Kopf:
„Zwuderich, du kleiner Knopf,
meine Sorgen sind nur meine,
und außerdem auch nicht sehr kleine.
Wenn mir mal ein Barthaar bricht:
Weißt du was? Dann ruf ich dich!
Bis dahin: Tschau, du Zwuder-Ding.“
Worauf der ZWERG ganz traurig ging.

Reproduced by kind permission of the authors.