Now I’m always up for a challenge, but this particular example really does strike me as pushing the boundaries.
I love that Mark Walker has done this out of a passion for Tolkein and a desire to read something he wants to read in Latin, it really brings it back to a purity of creation.
Yes, you’re thinking the right thing…. he’s translated Tolkein’s ‘The Hobbit’ into Latin. At first this seems like a crazy thing to do, but as he points out in this introduction on the Huffington Post, there are a number of quite sensible reasons why The Hobbit and Latin go together.
Firstly, the medieval-esque setting of Middle Earth means a lack of modern appliances and concepts, which would prove challenging to translate into an ancient language lacking in equivalent terms and concepts, to say the least.
Ok, but as every Ringer knows, Tolkein’s world is full of its own rich history, mythology and language, so how is this dealt with? Walker doesn’t go into much detail on this aspect of the challenge, although he does say that he has “not invented where Latin already has a term that at least approximates to Tolkien’s.” He gives the example of substituting the word dryades; the Roman forest spirits, for elves, or making use of existing Latinate structures such as Gollum’s name to develop similar names for things not part of Latin myth, such as a troll (trollum).
It turns out that the many songs found in The Hobbit can also be rendered quite elegantly into Latin verse; classical quantitative for the grave dwarven songs, rhythmic & rhyming when it comes to the more rowdy passages, and flowing iambic for the elves.
I took a GCSE in Latin but I think reading The Hobbit in it after so many years would be a tough ask…though I am sorely tempted at less than a tenner!
You can buy “Hobbitus Ille: The Latin Hobbit” on Amazon.