August 27th, 2016

tree_face

Off with their Feet!

According to my mother, who worked at Geoffrey Bles at the time, when C. S. Lewis handed in the MS of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe he regarded it simply as a working title, and asked them to supply a better one. It took some persuading to make him believe that it was already very good. I can see why he was doubtful, but it is good, of course; not least because of its riddling conjunction of three apparently unrelated objects: one adventurous, one supernatural, one resolutely domestic. The unusual rhythm helps too: three amphibrachs. Threes work well in Western culture, anyway - it gives the structure to so many of our jokes and folk tales.

I learned in conversation with my friend Chiho today that in Japan this book is simply called The Lion and the Witch (ライオンと魔女). The wardrobe has disappeared! Presumably this seemed a good idea to whoever translated it, back in the day, but I wish I knew what had gone through their head, and what canons of Japanese taste this version satisfies that the original did not.

I fear for other truncated titles: E. Nesbit's Five Children; Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher, etc. I'm sure you can supply more...