Tag Archives: translation

“The Silver Rose,” an Alsatian folktale

(Originally posted in the Folktales’ section of the little translator website, June 30, 2016)

I translated this particular French version of the tale from the Castles of France website, and this version has been frequently posted in other folktale centers around the Internet. Other versions were collected by or referenced to Auguste Stoeber, either in the Revue d’Alsace (1851) or Die Sagen des Elsasses nach Volksuberlieferung, gedruckten und handschriftlichen Quellen gesammelt und erlautert, mit einer Sagenkarte. (1852)

In the heart of the Vosges mountains of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, there lived an entire nation of dwarves. These dwarves had built a subterranean city of shining beauty.

This city of crystal and silver was a permanent Gate between the two worlds. The dwarves dug into the earth and shadowed the men from whom they learned the arts of mining, of the forge, of gold and silversmithing.

But despite the good relations between humans and dwarves, skepticism and wariness began to increase in the hearts of man. Disputes, conflicts, and jealousies multiplied.

Then, it happened one day that the King of the Silberzwergen1 came up out of the mountain to contemplate the moonlight of the world of men. Near a stream, he saw a young woman who was the daughter of a rich miner and who had just departed from the cloister where nuns had raised her.

The young damsel was radiantly beautiful, and the king fell desperately2 in love. He revealed himself to her in order to confess to her his love, but she was frightened by the sight of this small, ill-formed creature, believing she had before her one of the demons the good sisters had spoken of. She fled without saying a word.

The King of the Dwarves was seized with a great passion for the damsel. He made a thousand attempts to seduce3 her, showering her with magnificent gifts. But she, terrified, always fled.

Mad with love, the King of the Dwarves no longer knew what to do. In the end, he offered the young woman the most wondrous treasure in his possession: the Silver Rose. It was the only one of its kind and held great power, crafted by the Ancients and the Goddess of the Moon. The Rose rested at the heart of the underground city, and it was the Rose that bound the two worlds permanently together by way of its magic.

But once again the young girl refused the dwarf’s advances. She fled, shouting hurtful words to the king as he held out the Rose to her in a gesture of supplication. As she ran, she had a terrible accident: she tripped on a root of a tree in the darkness of the night and fell into a river. Not knowing how to swim, she drowned.

The king of the dwarves felt an immense sadness after having learned of the young girl’s drowning. He returned to his mountain home and had all the mine’s tunnels collapsed behind him. As for his magical powers, the miners of the Valley of Sainte-Marie-aux-mines were no longer able to discover the veins of gold or silver flowing within the mountain. The King, still unhappy, took the magic Rose and departed for lands far away, in the regions to the east of the Waldwelt woods.

This unfortunate event had immense repercussions within the Waldwelt: upon learning what happened, its inhabitants felt it was no longer possible to maintain relations with humans if humans would only flee. Everywhere, faeries, elves, dwarves, and lutins4 disappeared little by little, leaving only a variety of legends and tales behind them.

As for the king of the Dwarves, he returned to his native land, in the mountains which arose at the castle of the Unicorn and the Forest of Shadows. There, he made a gift of this Rose to the Unicorn’s Lady, and this queen of the Elves accepted the guardianship of the treasure and cast it into the deepest well of her domain. The unhappy dwarf left to return to his dear mountains and died of grief….

1. German for “silver dwarves.”

2. The word in French is “éperdument” which is most often used in the context of love, as opposed to translation of “desperately” which can be used in many contexts. But this is a love that’s consuming, violent in its power and force, and may lead to destruction.

3. The French word “séduire” (seduce) didn’t gain a positive subtext (“entice”) until the late 18th century. If this tale were recorded as a 17th century fairy tale, I’d automatically assume, from this word, that the dwarf king’s intentions were less than noble. But instead all known recordings of this tale date from the 19th century, leaving us with the question: did the dwarf king only mean to entice her, win her over with his gifts? Did she run solely because she was afraid of how he looked?

4. Lutins are a French kind of hobgoblin.


If you’ve enjoyed this series of folklore translations and would like to support my further translation endeavors, please feel free to support my work on Patreon.

“The White Lady of Kœpfle Hill”

(Posted to the site February 2016)

Translated from the folktale “LA DAME BLANCHE DU KŒPFLE” collected by the Alsatian folklorist Auguste Stoeber, translated into French by René Stiébel and published in Revue des traditions populaires, volume 16 in 1901.

Between Didenheim and Zillisheim is a hill, belonging to this last town, called Kœpfle. A white lady is often seen there at noon carrying a set of keys. She seems to smile, and often she descends to the bank of the Ill near the Bisz watermill; there, she washes her face and her hair. Soon she returns, and one can hear her weeping until she disappears over the hill.

At night on this same hill, great blue wandering flames can sometimes be seen. The whole village believes the white lady guards a hidden treasure. People have sought it in vain. During the winter of 1849 a local left on this quest after saying Saint Christopher’s prayer1. He saw an apparition that he couldn’t describe. Then he returned home, sick with fear, and remained ill for a long time.

1. Saint Christopher is the patron saint of travelers. One of the traditional prayers is as follows:

Dear Saint Christopher,
protect me today
in all my travels
along the road’s way.
Give your warning sign
if danger is near
so that I may stop
while the path is clear.
Be at my window
and direct me through
when the vision blurs
From out of the blue.
Carry me safely
to my destined place,
like you carried Christ
in your close embrace.
Sources: Prayer to Saint Christopher, Prayer to St. Christopher While Traveling


If you’ve enjoyed this series of folklore translations and would like to support my further translation endeavors, please feel free to support my work on Patreon.

My alpha/beta-reading CV

The past month has been extremely crazy due to a rather serious medical emergency in my immediate family, (I’ve been among the primary caregivers.)  Hopefully I should be around more from now on, but I expect things to continue to be disjointed and slowest on my blog as I will be focusing on my fiction writing and translation.  Y’know, all that behind-the-scenes meaty stuff.


The other day I was tallying up the range of alpha/beta-reading I’ve done in the past several years.  Recently I’ve been having to say “no” a lot more often than I’d like to, but I’m curious to see what all the projects look like in a pile together.  Length-wise, I’ve tackled projects all over the map.  I have a shelf on Goodreads for them, but it’s hardly representative of the work I’ve done.

Since 2011, I’ve alpha/beta-read

  • historical fantasy
  • dark fantasy/horror
  • time-traveling fantasy
  • space opera
  • translation of a Japanese game
  • translation of a French literary/academic horror novel
  • dystopian webcomic script

Kinda cool!  Definitely didn’t expect that spread when I first started alpha/beta-reading. 🙂

Website Update

I just finished “updating” my translation website to reflect the current state of affairs.   Knowing me, I will probably only get a full website working when I have something to show for it, aka when Persinette is ready to sell.  But never fear, I am making good progress there.  I’m on task to finish my second translation pass by the end of the month, which makes me very happy.

The “little translator” image was made for me by Myriam Bloom.  The cover art for Andromeda was designed by Niki Smith.



Yes, I updated The Storybox again.  This time with a historical fiction novel idea that has been popping in and out of my head since 2007.  I figured I now have a good reason to take it seriously. I won’t go into all the details about why, but there you have it.  I have officially added “historical fiction sans fantasie” to my list of genres I write in.  Oh? You didn’t know I write historical fiction without fantastic elements? Well, I do! Just not very often.

I also updated The Storybox with a brief description of what my as-of-yet-coolly-unnamed Armenian fantasy will be about.

The thing is, The Storybox isn’t even a complete list of all the things swarming my head, either.  I printed out the book I translated in 2008 and I’m currently working on English-to-English edits, also.  It’s going really well, and it’s remarkably fun, now that the stress of deadlines  is long past.  I’m hoping to finish this batch of edits before I get to Utah where I have the rest of my materials.  There I’ll compare these edits with my French-to-English edits, the original manuscript, and… Okay, so this is the wrong audience for translation talk, so I’ll spare you.  I do have hopes to publish it, though.

In any case, for my own sake, I need to organize the chaos of storylines and characters clawing for my attention.  Pretend I’m in the principal’s office with a gaggle of wayward children.

So! THE WITCH’S TOWER and OF GODS & WITCHES are set in the same world and are highly interconnected.  It’d be to my advantage to write them one after another and do the final edits at the same time.   Each can stand alone, however, so it won’t hurt to try to publish either of them separately.  Doing them together has some disadvantages: namely it pushes back potential publication of the first one.  But it has the great advantage of cohesion and gives me a greater flex time for potential editor-deadlines. I really hate deadlines with CFS.

Otherwise, of everything and everyone bustling about in my head, THE WITCH’S TOWER, OF GODS & WITCHES, and OTHERSIDE have the most meta-work and progress done on them, so they’re easiest to finish.  My sister also keeps wondering when I’ll get back to finishing OTHERSIDE. (I agree, I absolutely love the story!)

ARMENIAN TALE and THE SCHEMER I’m a little worried about because ARMENIAN TALE depends largely on my ability to remember a lot of details about my year living in Armenia, so I need to do it fairly soon.  THE SCHEMER depends on my French and French history&culture knowledge, so it also is time- and memory-sensitive.

You see the chaos’ whyfor, don’t you.  I can’t possibly write four novels at once.   To combat my failing memory, I’ve written a 5k document on Armenian culture…which still barely scratches the surface, of course, but I’m chipping away at it. But that can’t make up for the feel or memory of something.

I’m also tentatively considering a non-fiction project.

Not to mention all my short story ideas. Oy! Ah! Crowded! Spinning! Can’t think!

So! Order to chaos, here we go:

  1. Priority #1 – Finish THE WITCH’S TOWER. Remember? You need to finish something first!  And the natural act of finishing this project will mean that its prequel will get more work done on it, as well.
  2. Finish The Harvest Mask before October 1st.
  3. Finish English-English edits for ANDROMEDA.
  4. Tell all the other characters and stories to wait their turn, like well-behaved children.

See, self? Work on finishing what you’ve started before starting lots of other new shiny projects!

Fashion in Style

Take a look at these:

From Clarkesworld Guidelines:

Stories must be:

1. Well-written. Language is important. There is no distinction between “style” and “substance” or “story” and “writing.”

From Ideomancer Guidelines:

We want unique pieces from authors willing to explore non-traditional narratives and take chances with tone, structure and execution, balance ideas and character, emotion and ruthlessness.

From Fantasy Magazine Guidelines:

Fantasy is entertainment for the intelligent genre reader — send us stories of the fantastic that make us think, and tell us what it is to be human while amazing us with your mastery of language and story elements.

From Intergalactic Medicine Show Guidelines:

We also look for clear, unaffected writing. Asimov, Niven, Tolkien, Yolen, and Hobb are more likely to be our literary exemplars than James Joyce.

– – –

Style, in writing, is one of those spectra where you have a lot of divisive, strong-willed opinions. (The above are very watered-down versions of the heated arguments I’ve seen).  There’s an argument about style that usually consists of an argument for a “literary style” on one end or “American Plain Style” aka “no style” on the other in writing fiction.

I’m one of those fence sitters who think everyone is being ridiculous to be having this argument.  Style of writing and word choice to me is like music.  You can have baroque or you can have romantic, jazz or classical, rock or opera.  You can even have combinations of any of the above. But movies still need soundtracks. Books still need words, (you can’t have a book without them!) and words shape themselves into sentences, paragraphs, voice…and therefore style.

An author’s writing style to me is never invisible.  I notice the word choice, voice, sentence structure, its appearance on the page like a carefully orchestrated visual art.  A movie soundtrack is never invisible to me, either, though people say it is meant to be and it is true that most people do not notice a soundtrack while watching a movie.  Yet if a piccolo plays, I’ll pick it out. I love, absolutely love the melodies given to french horns.  If a movie decides to go for an all rock recording, I may think twice about buying it, because it will date itself in five years. But Daft Punk‘s soundtrack for Tron: Legacy was glorious.

You can’t write a book without the author having a particular flavor, a particular style of writing.  So why try to write “stylelessly”?  It’s like trying to live without eating!   Even “See Jane run” is a different style than “Look! Jane just sprinted across the field!”

Yes, this is me much amused.

Translators know how unavoidable style is–and how much a pain it can be to transfer to another cultural context.  You have a source text–and then how you translate that text depends entirely on the whims of the client and what style they wish it to be, (as well as other specifications).  Here are some examples from my 2008 portfolio, (note: I’ve improved since then).

– – –

Un monstre, un valet de coeur
Source text:

Vous connaissez le nom d’au moins un des hommes d’armes qui accompagnaient Jeanne d’Arc. Comment? Vous ne voyez vraiment pas car vous n’êtes pas une spécialiste de l’histoire médiévale? Et pourtant, le nom de Barbe-Bleue vous dit bien quelque chose, non?  Eh bien, c’est un compagnon bien réel de la Pucelle qui a inspiré à Charles Perrault cette créature de contes.  Gilles de Rais, valeureux guerrier, combattit les Anglais, assista au sacre de Charles VII, mena encore quelques combats avant de se retirer dans son château de Tiffauges, en Vendée.  Là, il mena grand train, se passionna pour l’alchimie et la magie noire, invoqua le Diable et, surtout, viola et assassina plusieurs centaines d’enfants, surtout de jeunes garçons.  Il fut jugé et exécuté en 1440 à Nantes.  Un autre des conseillers de Jeanne ne vous es pas inconnu : il s’agit d’Etienne de Vignolles, dit << La Hire >>, qui n’est autre que le valet de cœur des cartes à jouer.

From L’histoire de France des paresseuses by Frédéric Bosc (c) 2006, published by Marabout.


-Due Thursday Friday 28, 2008                                   Target language: English

-Keep the playful voice

-Assume that the American audience has an even more limited kowledge of French history than the text implies, (added after initial translation attempts).

Do you know the name of at least one of the men-at-arms who accompanied Joan of Arc?  No? You’re not really a Medieval History specialist, you say?  But you have heard the name Blue Beard, haven’t you?  Well, Charles Perrault, the author of the tale of Blue Beard, was inspired by one of her real-life men-at-arms.  Gilles de Rais the valorous warrior fought the English, attended Charles VII’s coronation, and led several battles before retiring to his chateau de Tiffauges in Vendée.  There he lived a life of debauchery, became passionate for alchemy and black magic, invoked the Devil and, notably, raped and murdered several hundred children–especially young boys.  He was judged and executed in 1440 at Nantes.  Another of Joan’s comrades is also known to you:  Etienne de Vignolles, nicknamed “La Hire” for his violent temper, is none other than the Jack of Hearts in your deck of playing cards.


The question came up in class about my translation above of whether or not the word “chateau” is commonly known enough to the general English populus to warrant an explanation and/or complete reworking of how geography is handled in the passage.

Otherwise, the most noted changes we made were to clarify the words “compagnons”, “conseillers”, to clarify the play on words that is “La Hire”, and correct my word for “sacre”.

– – –

Un extrait des Essais
Source text:

Or je trouve, pour revenir à mon propos, qu’il n’y a rien de barbare et de sauvage en cette nation, à ce qu’on m’en a rapporté, sinon que chacun appelle barbarie ce qui n’est pas de son usage ; comme de vrai, il semble que nous n’avons autre mire de la vérité et de la raison que l’exemple et idée des opinions et usances du pays où nous sommes. Là est toujours la parfait religion, la parfait police, parfait et accomli usage de toutes choses. Ils sont sauvages, de meme que nous appelons sauvages les fruits que nature, de soi et de son progès ordinaire, a produits : . . .

From Des cannibales from Essais by Montaigne, Pocket Classiques version, pg. 129


-Due Thurs March 6, 2008                                  Target language: Old & Modern English

Version 1: Old, Formal English

Thus, I find, going back to my argument, there’s nothing barbarous or savage-like in this nation, on which subject I’ve heard so much about, in any case, what we call barbarousness is not the word’s correct usage; in reality, it seems to me that we have no other criteria for truth or reason than the example and idea of the opinions and usages of that country from which we hail.  Here is always the perfect religion, the perfect organization, complete and accomplished usage of all things. These are the savages, with those same men we call savage “fruits of nature”, that a person and his ordinary advances have produced.

Version 2: After Revision.

Thus, returning to my argument, I find that there is nothing barbarous or savage in this nation– which subject I have heard so much about–that, contrary to popular belief, what every man calls barbarous is only that which he is not accustomed to; in truth, it seems to me that we have no other criteria for truth and reason except for the example and idea of the opinions and customs from our own native country. Here we always have the perfect religion, the perfect government, complete and accomplished habits in all things.  Others are savage, in the same way that we call wild the fruit that Nature–by itself and its own natural progress–has produced: . . .

Version 3: Modern, Informal English

In any case, going back to my argument, I’ve discovered that, despite what everyone has been saying, there’s nothing “barbaric” in this nation except for what people find as strange or different; in actuality, it seems to me that we have little on which to base our judgements of “what is truth” except for the concepts, opinions, and customs of our own country. Here, our religion is perfect, our government system is perfect, and our customs are perfect and accomplished.  Over there they are wild, just like fruit grown wild is an ordinary process of nature, . . .

News! And some long-term goals

As of last week–Two things of import!

  1. Meg and I have decided we’re going to WorldCon together in August. Woot! The timing and location work out really well, so I think it’s a go!
  2. My novel THE WITCH’S TOWER now has an ending I’m happy with!  I’m also passed my block of uncertainty on what should happen in the upcoming scenes. All because of insomnia.  Sometimes unpleasant things have good outcomes.

So! Anyone else going to WorldCon this year?

Other than that, I’ve been thinking about long-term goals recently. Using spreadsheets, I’ve mapped out the next months until the end of the year.

I still really want to have THE WITCH’S TOWER done by the end of July. That will hopefully give me enough time to fix the chapters I wrote without all the backstory I now know  and will give me about a month’s leeway before WorldCon at the end of August.  I’m penciling in September as a month of edits as well, and we’ll reevaluate from there.

I also have decided I want to write a short story, novelette, or novella every month.  The novel comes first in priority, of course, but it’s nice having a side project to take breaks on.  Also, I think it is a nice pace to go on, considering the short story writing markets’ typical response times. I’m going to stay organized and I’m going to keep my stories on submission. They don’t do any good just sitting on my hard drive, and even if they’re getting rejected–at least someone besides me is reading them!

As for the e-book publishing world vs. the traditional publishing world question, after much inward debating, I’ve decided that I still love Tor-Forge and DAW books too much not to try to become a part of their book community.  You don’t need an agent to submit to them, either, so I will definitely make submitting to them and doing my best to present myself and my novels well to them a top priority.

There are a few more things I should mention about possible projects in the future.  When I get to Utah, perhaps in July, a couple of things will happen. First, I will have my Maze of Mirrors script again, so that will add itself to my projects.  Second, I will have access to all of my translation materials and resources–including Pierre Corneille’s machine play Andromède, which I translated and compiled in 2008.  I am still hoping to review it, edit it some more, translate some additional materials and try to get it published.  We will see if I can end up publishing it traditionally…but really there is not a huge market for translated books in America that aren’t somehow textbook related.  Now I am beginning to wonder if I can’t release it as an e-book for the Kindle or Nook, etc.  There might be a market for it? If only as a sort of curiosity piece?  It really is a brilliant play, and I did a poetry to prose translation so it’s more approachable and I don’t think my writing is half bad, either.  My good friend and artist Niki Smith has already done the cover art for it and she did a gorgeous job with the design.

Other goals include going to ComicCon or TCAF next year. I’ve decided. I love art so, so much. And really, I can’t stay broke forever. New adventures must be had!

So long, folks! This entry brought to you by randomosity!