On Saturday 28 April "De kinderen van Húrin", the Dutch translation of The Children of Húrin (CoH), was officially presented at a most suitable venue, The Tolkien Shop. The shop in Leiden, Holland, was crowded with Tolkien enthusiasts from all across the country to marvel at all the various editions of CoH (the Dutch, the American and both the regular and the de luxe edition of the British version) and of course at all the other exciting offerings in the one and only bookshop in the world entirely dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien.
At 4 o'clock Jürgen Snoeren, publisher at the Dutch Tolkien publishers Mynx, opened proceedings with a welcome address. He expressed his excitement at the opportunity as a Tolkien fan himself (he went into the booktrade because of his love of tolkien's books) to publish a new book by his favorite author. Despite some initial problems with the printing, he was very happy with the result. The problem was with the paper used. Because it started to warp he had the first print run destroyed and reprinted. By the way, HarperCollins did use the 'warped' paper, which can clearly be seen in each copy. He hoped, with Christopher Tolkien, that this book will appeal to all the people who enjoyed The Lord of the Rings (book or movie), but found The Silmarillion too rough going. CoH can thus become a bridge between tolkien's most popular book and his mythology. Signs are that this is working, for in two weeks time the whole first print-run of 25.000 copies of De kinderen van Húrin was sold and the book is already being reprinted. Hopefully the error in the first edition (in some copies one or two colour plates are bound upside down) will be avoided.
After Jürgen, René van Rossenberg, theowner of Tolkienshop.com, gave a speech on the CoH. He argued that this book is about 25 years too late for it should have been published a few years after The Silmarillion. This would have been far better than the broken up, piecemeal approach Christopher had chosen. The end result was that we received over a period of about 30 years five chunks of this story, so vitally important to tolkien's mythology. To his mind, both the diehard fans and the general public would have been better served with this consistent, long story to be published in the late Seventies. Still, he applauded the fact that the book has finally been published. Not in the least for he sold well over 100 copies in the first two days (and that always pleases a shopkeeper), but also for the fact that the full story is now finally available to those who cannot read English for none of the volumes of The History of Middle-earth have been translated into Dutch.
The second most asked question in The Tolkien Shop is when is HOME going to be translated? The answer -alas- is 'never'. And in case you are wondering, the most asked question is when is The Hobbit movie going to be released?
René continued with the special demands Tolkien puts on translators. Because of the linguistic background a name with Tolkien is not just a name; it has a history and deeper meanings. A translator needs to be a linguist himself to do justice to Tolkien in his translation. In the Netherlands we have been very fortunate that Tolkien got a very good Dutch translation. Max Schuchart did a superb job in translating The Lord of the Rings into Dutch. For instance it was a masterstroke in not translating the title literaly. Not De heer van de ringen, but In de Ban van de Ring (i.e. Captivated by the ring), making it the best recognised booktitle in the Dutch language. Schuchart went on in doing all the Dutch translations of tolkien's work, as well as many other well-known fantasy authors. He became so famous that his name was printed on the covers of books he translated as a mark of quality!
Unfortunately Max Schuchart died two years ago, so De kinderen van Húrin is the first mayor Tolkien book not translated by him. As a mark of respect it was decided to present the first copy of De kinderen van Húrin to Max' son, Eliot.
Eliot Schuchart was pleased and honoured to receive the book. He spoke on how important Tolkien was for his father. Max Schuchart loved the books and was very pleased that he was asked to translate them. As a shy, modest man he was somewhat intimidated by the praise he received for his translations. For instance he was awarded the prestigious Nijhoff Prijs for his translation of The Lord of the Rings.
The first thing Eliot did after his speech was to ask the new Tolkien translator, Peter Cuijpers, to autograph the copy of De kinderen van Húirn he had just received, which Peter gladly did. That was the first and certainly not the last signature Peter gave that day, for a queue had formed at the autograph table.
Next to Peter Cuijpers at the autograph table was the Dutch/German
illustrator Henning Janssen, who autographed his Tolkien birthday
calendar which was recently released. That calendar is also available from tolkienshop.com.
After all this the audience enjoyed a drink and a bite to eat at The Tolkien Shop, with a lot of people standing in front of the shop, enjoying the warm sunshine. A number of members of the Dutch Tolkien society Unquendor held an impromptu smial meeting and played The Lord of the Rings Trivia Game for many hours. René van Rossenberg was not allowed to take part, for he did the Dutch translation of the game. So his job was to read out the questions (and discovering some printing errors).
All in all a most enjoyable Tolkien day at The Tolkien Shop. And as someone remarked, "this Tolkien fellow should write some more books..."
René van Rossenberg
Utrechtse Jaagpad 2
NL-2313 KW Leiden
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