Iceland Celebrates 20 Years of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”
Earlier this month, Potter fans in Iceland celebrated the 20-year anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Icelandic. To commemorate the occasion, the translator of the series, Helga Auðardóttir, has spoken about her experience of translating the story of the world-famous boy wizard.
Auðardóttir was a 26-year-old student when she was offered the opportunity to translate the first Potter book, which at the time she believed to be “just a six-page hardcover book for little kids.” Juggling a degree in psychology and a job as a flight attendant with Icelandair, she translated Sorcerer’s Stone, or Harry Potter og viskusteinninn (English: Harry Potter and the Wisdom Stone), in half a year. She went on to translate all seven books in the series, with her favorite being Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Icelandic: Harry Potter og fanginn frá Azkaban).
Like other translators of the Potter series, Auðardóttir faced a number of challenges. She had to make decisions on what to keep in the original English and what to translate into Icelandic. Names such as Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Hogwarts remained in English, whereas names that had wordplay or symbolism were translated. MuggleNet reader Icelander has provided an example of this, telling us that “Mad-Eye Moody” (which describes character traits) was translated to Skröggur Illauga, meaning “Scrooge Evil-Eye.”
Another challenge of translating Sorcerer’s Stone and other books in the series was the lack of any extra information given to translators. As the popularity of the books grew, so did the secrecy around the contents of each installment. According to Auðardóttir, Rowling gave “no more information for the translators than other readers,” which presented challenges when translating into other languages. However, by the fourth installment of the series, she was working in partnership with Jón Hallur Stefánsson.
This is something the interview credits as helping Auðardóttir through the second half of series, making reference to an unfortunate incident for the translator for the French editions, who suffered a nervous breakdown after “having worked tirelessly for ten hours a day for sixty-three consecutive days.”
Although Auðardóttir enjoyed translating Potter, she has not translated any other books since or returned to the world of witchcraft and wizardry, admitting that usually, she is not a fan of fantasy books.
I do not associate with clinging to that world or diving any deeper into it. To a certain extent, this was my job, and I’m actually not much of a fan of fantasy. This is not something I would choose to read, but fortunately, I got the opportunity.
Icelandic is just one of over 70 languages in which Harry Potter’s story has been retold. To celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the publication of the first book, Icelandic publisher Bjartur released the illustrated edition of Harry Potter og viskusteinninn. The second book in the series, Harry Potter og leyniklefinn, will celebrate its 20-year anniversary next year.
Thanks to MuggleNet reader “Icelander” for providing a translation of this interview! Check out the full translation below.