Ambiguity translated for children: Andersen’s “Den standhaftige Tinsoldat” as a case in point
University of Oslo
This article addresses ambiguity in translations for children. ‘Ambiguity’, here understood as something that allows for more than one interpretation, is supposed to be critical in translation for children as it clashes with some mediators’ ideas of what children’s literature is or ought to be. Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of “Den standhaftige Tinsoldat” [‘The steadfast tin soldier’] and a sample of twenty-four translations thereof (twelve into Swedish and twelve into Spanish) are used to explore different ways that ambiguity is translated for children. The objective is to determine if and how the tale’s ambiguities are manipulated in the various translations, and thus to initiate a theoretical discussion of ambiguity in translation for children. A difference is established between ‘textually resolvable’ and ‘textually irresolvable’ ambiguities and these two kinds of ambiguity are found to be treated differently in the analyzed sample of translations.
Tales that form part of our cultural heritage are repeatedly reprinted in new versions. They are published over and over again, with new illustrations, or in new translations or modernizations. Furthermore, they are often incorporated as intertexts into other literary works, and adapted for radio, film, theatre, opera and ballet. The literary fairy tales written by nineteenth century Danish author Hans Christian Andersen are no exception to this rule. In fact, his work is considered among the most translated in the world and his stories have given birth to numerous adaptations for media other than literature (see e.g. Krogh Hansen and Wolff Lundholdt 2005: 15; Haahr 2000: 497).
2005La traducción como mediación editorial: Un estudio de 150 libros para niños y jóvenes publicados en Argentina durante 1997. Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.
2007 “Translational analysis and the dynamics of reading”. Yves GambierMiriam Shlesinger, and Radegundis Stolze, ed. Doubts and directions in Translation Studies: Selected contributions from the EST congress Lisbon 2004. Amsterdam-Philadelphia: John Benjamins 2007 127–135.
1976The uses of enchantment: The meaning and importance of fairy tales. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
1990Perplexities: Rational choice, the prisoner’s dilemma, metaphor, poetic ambiguity and other puzzles. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
1980 Preface to Asklund’s Swedish translation of “Den standhaftige Tinsoldat.
 1995Seven types of ambiguity. London: Penguin.
1989 “Translating ideology: Language, power and the world of the tin soldier.” ELR Journal 3. 205–242.
Krogh Hansen, Per and Marianne Wolff Lundholdt
2005When we get to the end: Towards a narratology of the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Odense: University Press of Southern Denmark.
2004Children’s literature: New approaches. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
1999 “Count Lucanor by Don Juan Manuel as inspiration for Hans Christian Andersen and other European witers”. Johan de Mylius, Aage Jørgensen and Viggo Hjørnager Pedersen, eds. Hans Christian Andersen: A poet in time. Odense: Odense University Press 1999 173–176.
2000 “Andersen, Hans Christian.” Zipes 2000. 13–15.
2005Aesthetic approaches to children’s literature: An introduction. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press.
2002 “The figure in the carpet: Discovery or re-cognition.” Semino and Culpeper 2002. 49–71.
Semino, Elena and Jonathan Culpeper
eds.2002Cognitive stylistics: Language and cognition in text analysis. Amsterdam-Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
2002 “Aspects of cognitive poetics.” Semino and Culpeper 2002.. 279–318.
1999Børnelitteratur mellem kunst og pædagogik. Frederiksberg: Roskilde Universitetsforlag.