Blog

THATMuse Harry Potter

X

This is the third in a series of 3 blog posts by Annie Caley-Renn about the Harry Potter series, which we’re running to coincide with the launch of our newest hunt, THATMuse Harry Potter (you can read the first post here, and the second one here). The THATMuse Harry Potter Launch will take place on Saturday 17th February at 2.30pm.
 
Last week we asked you the French translation of a “magic wand”. The day I discovered this was (probably) the day I realised I love the French – it’s “une baguette magique” or, even more wonderfully, just “une baguette”. When you look into it a little, it’s not quite as great as it sounds (they’re not actually talking about bread) because a baguette can be used to mean just a stick (and includes lots of things, from conductors’ batons to chopsticks), but I still love it.
Translating the Harry Potter series, with its enormous wealth of invented words, was a huge challenge, but Jean-Francois Ménard, who took on the job, delivered. Here are three more lovely translations (plus one bonus character name which is just fabulous), in celebration of our THATMuse Harry Potter launch, which will be today, Saturday 17th February, at 2.30pm!!

1. Moldu
 
The word in the original English text for a non-magical person is a muggle. Although J.K. Rowling coined the word, it has been used for centuries with various meanings. The most interesting seems to have come about in New Orleans in the 1920s, and was used to mean marijuana. Consequently, a muggler was someone who smoked marijuana, and you can work out muggle-head out for yourselves. J.K Rowling’s meaning, however, was unrelated to this, and according to her, she wanted a word which “suggested both foolishness and lovability”, and described it as a softened version of the word mug, for someone who’s a bit dim. Similarly, Ménard went for the (invented) word, moldu, inspired by the French expression “mou du bulbe”, meaning something like “soft in the head”. Ah, those cute, dopey muggles – glad I’m not one!





2.
Poufsouffle
The names of the four Hogwarts houses present a huge challenge for a translator, as each comes with its own connotations, sometimes important to the plot of the books. To the annoyance of some English fans, the mascot of Ravenclaw house is an eagle rather than a raven, which the French version corrects (Ravenclaw in French is Serdaigle, literally raven’s talon/claw). However, by far the cutest house name – in both languages – is Hufflepuff, which Ménard translates as Poufsouffle. His reasoning was that “Hufflepuff” brings to mind the story of the 3 little pigs, and the Big Bad Wolf who “huffed and puffed” to blow down their houses – so he wanted to keep the idea of breath (souffle in French means a breath or a blast of air, as in soufflé). But more importantly, the word is just delightful – say it with me: poufsouffle!
 






3.
Choixpeau

One of the problems with translation is that it’s hard to keep double-meanings and wordplay from the original text, and it’s true that certain bits of this are lost in the French version of the Harry Potter series (for example the double-meaning of the wizarding streets Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley – i.e. diagonally and nocturnally - are lost). But there are also some truly lovely puns which Ménard created just for the French version, such as this one. As any Harry Potter fan knows, first year students at Hogwarts are sorted into their houses by the Sorting Hat, an animate, slightly telepathic piece of clothing who looks inside their minds and works out where they should be (I went to school in England, and I can confirm this is exactly what happens). In the French version however, the Sorting Hat is called the Choixpeau, a charming play on words: it’s a combination of the French words chapeau (hat) and choix (choice). So he’s the “Choice Hat”. Amazing!











BONUS:

OK, Harry Potter fans that spend as much time reading pointless things on the internet as I do probably know this already. But for those of you with real lives, I need to share possibly the most important thing about the French translation of Harry Potter. At the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (and beware, massive spoiler coming up here), there’s a big reveal that Tom Riddle, the character from the past with whom Harry has been communicating through his enchanted diary, is in fact none other than supreme bad-guy, Lord Voldemort. Even as a young boy/old ghost, he has a flare for the dramatic: he drops this massive plot-twist by writing his full name, Tom Marvolo Riddle, in the air with his wand, and then giving it a wave so the letters rearrange themselves to say “I am Lord Voldemort” (let’s not talk about the fact that he’s arbitrarily assigned himself the title of “Lord”... that's not how it works, Voldy).

Well, take a look at this extract from the French version:


-Voldemort, dit Jedusor d’une voix douce, est à la fois mon passé, mon présent et mon avenir, Harry Potter….

Il sortit de sa poche la baguette magique de Harry et écrivit dans l’air en lettres scintillantes :

TOM ELVIS JEDUSOR

Puis il fit un mouvement avec la baguette et les lettres de son nom s’assemblèrent dans un ordre diffèrent. A présent, on pouvait lire :

JE SUIS VOLDEMORT

-Tu vois ? Murmura-t-il. C’est un nom que j’utilisais déjà à Poudlard, pour mes amis les plus proches. Tu crois donc que j’allais accepter le « jeu du sort » qui m’avait donné ce nom immonde de « Jedusor », lègue par mon Moldu de père ? Moi, l’héritier par ma mère du sang de Salazar…

Yes, that’s right. To make this plot device work in French, they had to give Voldemort, the most malevolent, terrifying and powerful dark wizard of all time, the middle name “Elvis”. Vive la France.


Thanks for reading these blog posts about the world of Harry Potter. If that’s not enough HP trivia for you, contact us to book a THATMuse Harry Potter for your next birthday party, hen do or event!
This is the second in a series of 3 blog posts by Annie Caley-Renn about the Harry Potter series, which we’re running to coincide with the launch of our newest hunt, THATMuse Harry Potter (you can read the first blog post, A Parisian Wizard, here). The THATMuse Harry Potter Launch will take place on Saturday 17th February at 2.30pm. See the quiz question at the bottom of this post for the chance to participate!

Last week, we asked you to name a magical creature which has the front half of an eagle, and the back half of a horse, which features in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The answer is of course, a Hippogriff! Though the Harry Potter series certainly brought these beasts into the popular attention, mentions of hippogriffs go back as far as the Latin poet Virgil, who mentioned them in his major works, the Eclogues. The word itself is derived from the ancient Greek, hippos (horse) and the Italian, griifo (griffin – another magical creature with the head of an eagle and the body of a lion).

Though everyone knows that J.K. Rowling didn’t invent unicorns, dragons or mermaids, the Harry Potter series is stuffed full of mythical creatures which have their origins in either Greek mythology or British and Scandinavian folklore. In celebration of our latest treasure hunt, THATMuse Harry Potter (the launch event will be on Saturday 17th February at 2.30pm), here are three more magical creatures featured in the Harry Potter series, with their origins in mythology:

1. Basilisk

As any Harry Potter fan will know, J.K. Rowling’s Basilisk is a huge snake, “twenty feet long at least”, which lurks in the Chamber of Secrets, popping out occasionally (using Hogwarts’ old-fashioned plumbing system to get around) to attack muggle-borns. Its weapon of choice is pretty neat: it can kill its victims simply by looking at them. The “real” basilisk – the “king of snakes”, first mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, is also reputed to kill victims with its glare. The main difference seems to be that Pliny’s basilisk is a lot smaller, “not more than twelve fingers in length” – though it is sometimes also portrayed as being half snake, half rooster. Basilisks have popped up in various forms throughout the ages, with some differences: some say that their breath, as well as the fatal stare, can kill, others mention that they can breathe fire, or kill by the sound of their voice. Most bizarrely though, most accounts agree that the way to defeat a basilisk is with a weasel, who’s smell and/or urine will kill it if you just pop one into the basilisk’s hole. Well, that would have been a different ending to the second Harry Potter book!






2.
Boggart

A Boggart in the Harry Potter series is a shape-shifting creature, terrifying in that it will change its form to what it knows will scare its victim most. Its “real-life” counterpart takes almost as many shapes: the word “boggart” comes from the same root as “bogeyman”, and the boggart takes various forms in English folklore. A common type is a Household Boggart, a mischievous creature which wreaks havoc by souring milk, pulling on people’s ears or pulling their bedsheets off at night. There are also more sinister boggarts which hang out in marshes, and have been accused of more serious crimes like abducting children. Stories and urban legends abound, with slightly different versions all over Britain, but popular ways of keeping boggarts away include hanging a horseshoe on the door or leaving piles of salt outside your bedroom. Can you remember the spell that a wizard might use to defeat a boggart?

A Domovoi, a Russian creature similar to a household boggart (but usually benevolent).





3.
Sphinx

It’s a great shame that the sphinx Harry encounters in final challenge of the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire never made it to the movies (one can only assume they’d used up their CGI budget on dragons).  Harry must answer the sphinx’s riddle in order to pass, a plot device lifted directly from Greek mythology. Greek sphinxes, which typically have the head, shoulders and torso of a woman, the lower half of a lion, and the wings of a bird, are famous for their riddling ways, blocking the passage of such famous Greek tragic heroes as Oedipus. Egyptian sphinxes, however, are generally male, and tend to have the head of a king. The most famous Egyptian sphinx is the Great Sphinx of Giza (whose beard is at the British Museum and features in one of our THATBrit treasure hunts there!), generally believed to represent the Pharaoh Khafre.


Oedipus and the sphinx, by the French painter Ingres (at the Louvre, and part of our Beauty & the Bestiary treasure hunt).










So there you have it! One of these three creatures will show up in our newest hunt, THATMuse Harry Potter. Can you guess which one?

Our THATMuse Harry Potter launch event will be on Saturday 17th February, beginning at 2.30pm. If you would like to win a place on this hunt for you and a friend, you can do so by answering this third and final Giveaway Quiz Question (see rules below):

What is the French word for a magic wand (both inside and outside of the world of Harry Potter)? If you don’t know, the answer may surprise you!

RULES of the competition:
1)      Follow or like our page on either Instagram, Twitter (@THAT_Muse_) or Facebook (Treasure Hunt at the Museum)

2)      Retweet or share one of our competition posts, using the hashtags #THATMuse AND #THATMuseHarryPotter

3)      Tag a HP fan friend

4)      Email annie@thatmuse.com with your answer to the question, with the subject line “THATMuse Harry Potter Giveaway Quiz”

Check back next week, where we’ll reveal the answer to this Giveaway Quiz Question in another Harry Potter-related blog post!
A Parisian Wizard
2018 February 02
  • THATMuse Harry Potter

A Parisian Wizard

This is the first in a series of 3 blog posts by Annie Caley-Renn about the Harry Potter series, which we’re running to coincide with the launch of our newest hunt, THATMuse Harry Potter (read the second post here). The THATMuse Harry Potter Launch will take place on Saturday 17th February at 2.30pm. See the quiz question at the bottom of this post for the chance to participate!

Did you get the answer to last week’s Giveaway quiz question? If so, well done you!
The real-life 14th Century Parisian-turned-Harry Potter legend who created the Philosopher’s Stone was of course Nicolas Flamel (and yes, you have just earned a leg-up on the other teams who will be playing at the THATMuse Harry Potter launch on Saturday 17th February at 2.30pm!).
I hadn’t been in Paris long (and was consequently completely lost) when I stumbled upon rue Nicolas Flamel, in the 4th arrondissement. Clearly I’d been spending too much time with my head in a Harry Potter book and not enough studying French history, because before this I had no idea that Flamel was a real person (seriously, I might as well have found myself on Homer Simpson Street or Darth Vader Boulevard). Anyway, being the curious curator of facts (read: nerd) that I am, I couldn’t help but do a little digging.
It turns out that Flamel was unfortunately not – to our knowledge anyway -  a wizard or alchemist (which is bizarre as even in real life he’s most famous for being the latter), and neither could I find any mention of his being chums with Dumbledore.  In fact, the reputation he had as an alchemist (someone who turns metals to gold) only really attached itself to him after his death- and about two hundred years afterwards at that! The evidence of his so-called alchemical practices is pretty flimsy really – plenty of his contemporaries were charlatan fake-alchemists, but Flamel wasn’t one: in fact, the idea seems to be largely based on the fact that Flamel & his wife Perenelle were quite rich, and gave a fair bit of dosh away (couldn’t be anything to do with the fact that Perenelle was already loaded from two previous marriages when they met? Or that he was a successful businessman and landlord? No? Sigh, ok sure, he must have been secretly cooking up gold in his basement).
Supposedly, Flamel was given a manuscript containing the secrets of alchemy by a mysterious stranger. Unfortunately, it was written in Greek, Hebrew and other languages he couldn’t read (because isn’t that always the case with mysterious manuscripts?). It being the fourteenth century, Google translate wasn’t an option, so (after a brief 21 years of trying to figure it out himself), Nick packed his bags and went off to Spain in search of help. Here’s where it gets weird(er) – while en route he happened to bump into a Jewish sage named Canches, who helped him out with the translation, then promptly died before Flamel could get him back to Paris. With his new-found knowledge, Flamel was supposedly able to create the Philosopher’s stone, allowing him unlimited wealth, and – perhaps most importantly – immortality. The fact that Flamel supposedly died around 1418 at around 80 years old (which to be fair is pretty impressive in the 14th Century) did nothing to quash the rumours, because of course Flamel and Perenelle had faked their deaths, using them as a cover to move to India. Well, who knows? Maybe they’re living it up there now, at the ripe old age of 600! What we do know is that Flamel had been prepared for his death and had even had his own tombstone made ready - it can still be seen in the Musée Cluny.
As for our THATMuse Harry Potter, could rue Nicolas Flamel and its intersecting rue Pernelle be included in the hunt? It seems likely!
Our THATMuse Harry Potter launch event will be on Saturday 17th February, beginning at 2.30pm. If you would like to win a place on this hunt for you and a friend, you can do so by answering this second Giveaway Quiz Question (see rules below):
Please name the magical creature which is related to the griffin, but is half-eagle, half-horse. These magnificent beasts were not invented by J.K. Rowling, but one such creature was featured in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where it helps Sirius Black to escape the law…

RULES of the competition:
1)      Follow or like our page on either Instagram, Twitter (@THAT_Muse_) or Facebook (Treasure Hunt at the Museum)
2)      Retweet or share one of our competition posts, using the hashtags #THATMuse AND #THATMuseHarryPotter
3)      Tag a HP fan friend
4)      Email annie@thatmuse.com with your answer to the question, with the subject line “THATMuse Harry Potter Giveaway Quiz”
Check back next week, where we’ll reveal the answer to this Giveaway Quiz Question in another Harry Potter-related blog post!