Tuesday, January 31, 2006

the hidden costs of war, or are french children really so dreary as all that?

Browsing through Eva-Maria Metcalf's otherwise rather dry critical biography of Astrid Lindgren, I find this delightful nugget on the challenges of translating Pippi Longstocking:
Overall, the English translation is fairly true to the original. The same cannot be said of the French adaptation of Pippi Longstocking. The editor of the first edition of Pippi Longstocking in France seems to have had little appreciation for the tallness of the Pippi tale. He wrote to Astrid Lindgren that the French Pippi (Fifi Brindacier) couldn't possibly be made to lift a horse--a pony would be more like it. His reasoning was that Swedish children might perhaps believe absurdities about a small girl being capable of lifting a whole horse, since Sweden had not been involved in World War II. French children, however, were much too realistic to swallow such unreasonable stuff. That is why Fifi Brindacier lifts only a pony. Lindgren in turn asked the editor to send her a photo of a ten-year-old French girl lifting a pony with one hand, because that child would most assuredly have a secure future as a weight lifter.