A novel way of revisiting children’s classics…

Although I only studied it up to O-level, possibly my favourite subject at school was Latin. I continue to surprise myself by the amount of Latin I’ve retained over the years, but I do try to use it whenever I can.  Viz my blog’s Latin motto: Noli domo egredi nisi librum habesNever leave home without a book.  (Mottoes just have to be in Latin!)  On holiday in Normandy I revelled in being able to translate bits of the Bayeux Tapestry; I like reading Latin engravings on tombstones in old churches and so on. Now, I’m able to help my daughter with her homework (she doesn’t share my love for the subject, but is naturally good at it!).

Years ago I acquired Winnie Ille Pu , translated by Alexander Lenard, and Domus Anguli Puensis which were first published in 1958 (and many other Pooh spin-off books not in Latin – The Pooh Perplex, The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet etc. Sadly, I’ve not kept any of them.) Back to the Latin – it’s lovely to see Heffalump declined in Latin – Heffalumpus, Heffalumpum… It is an intuitive translation and is great fun for Latin-lovers.

One of my daughter’s favourite picture books as a child was Olivia by Ian Falconer. She’s since become a bit of a media star and had many sequels, TV series and merchandise, but that first Olivia book before all that was pure gold. She’s a precocious and genius of a piglet, of course! Fashion-conscious, arty, likes ballet and so on.

Recently I saw that it had been translated into Latin some years ago and The Book People had it in their sale – I just had to have it!

I love the bit where she’s bargaining with her mum over bedtime reading… her first bid is five. I’m going to have to buy the original again, aren’t I to make sure I got it all right, I think we passed it on, but it goes something like this…

‘No, Olivia, one only.’
‘Perhaps four?’
‘Done. Three.
But that’s enough!’

A piglet who enjoys reading – attagirl!

The one thing that all these books and the many parodies and cod-philosophical volumes have in common is that by their nature, you have to have read the original to enjoy the adaptation.

Go on, own up! Which books of this sort are on your shelves?  Be they foreign versions or parodies.  

I’ll also admit to owning several Asterix books in French (which is commendable), but also the funny (well it was back when I read it) Harvard Lampoon’s Bored of the Rings (1968).

* * * * *
Source: Own Copies. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Olivia by Ian Falconer (The original book)
Olivia: The Essential Latin Edition by Ian Falconer trans Amy High.
Winnie Ille Pu by A.A.Milne, trans Alexander Lenard. O/P but S/H available.
Bored Of The Rings (GOLLANCZ S.F.) – Harvard Lampoon.

9 thoughts on “A novel way of revisiting children’s classics…

  1. susanosborne55 says:

    Lovely post, Annabel. Like you I only studied Latin to O-Level – it was the endless translations of De Bello Gallico that finished me off – but it’s given me an appreciation of the roots of language. As for parodies, I don’t own any but will confess to a squirming embarrassment when my partner pronounced ‘Tintin’ in the French style. Very correct, I know, but horribly pretentious – at least that’s what I thought until I found out he spent his first years in Belgium…

    • Annabel (gaskella) says:

      I did Latin in the early days of the ‘Cambridge Latin Course’ which is still in use today – little changed! Through following an Roman family and their lives learning Latin at the same time, and it engendered my enduring love of all things ancient Roman. We did have to do some Pliny letters, Catullus poems (with very tame translations) and part of the Aeneid for the O-level though.

      Does your partner called Snowy ‘Milou’ though too? He should go the whole Haddock! 🙂

  2. vicki (skiourophile / bibliolathas) says:

    I have some Asterix in Latin: it just seems *right*. Also one Tintin (De Insula Nigra) which seems slightly less right. And Harry Potter, which swings us back to ‘feels natural that it’s in Latin’ (I also have that in Ancient Greek). I think that if you know the story pretty well, they’re an excellent way of really grounding yourself in the language.

  3. Alex says:

    My god daughter has recently been reading ‘Harry Potter’ in French and we’ve been having great fun with some of the literal translations for words which the French have no equivalent.

  4. Jenny @ Reading the End says:

    I took to Latin immediately in sixth grade (which is the grade you’re in when you’re eleven over here), despite having a teacher incapable of explaining anything. I taught myself from the book because I loved it so much, and then in high school (age fourteen on) we had an incredible Latin teacher, and it became an even favoriter subject. I have several Latin texts at home (Ovid, some Cicero, the Aeneid), and I keep intending to go back and get back into translating. I haven’t so far though…

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