It's All Dutch To Me!

Article by Sammie Wellen (October 28, 2005)

Note from the site owner: Most English-speaking people don't know any other languages, and are certainly not fluent enough to read much-loved books printed in non-English countries. So I was very interested when I received an email from Sammie Wellen from the Netherlands, who is in the enviable position to compare both the English and Dutch versions of the Malory Towers and St Clare's series...

Since I was a child, I have loved the Malory Towers and the St Clare's books. Now I'm twenty years old, and I read them still once or twice a year. The summaries on this site are very good and very funny, especially the inconsistencies in St Clare's, which are annoying indeed. Forgive me my bad English, but I'm a Dutch girl who has problems with that language. :)

I wondered if readers might like to know the names in the translated versions, because I liked reading the original names. For example, I was surprised to find that the heroine of Malory Towers is Darrell, for I've always known her as Pitty (which is a highly uncommon name in Dutch—it sounds like an English name to us). Rather strange as well is the fact that Hilary and Gladys remain as Hilary and Gladys (impossible to pronounce in Dutch!), while Gwendoline transformed into Eline and Daphne became Olga (I know three Dutch girls who are named Daphne). And not to forget, Isabel is named Ann in Dutch, although no Dutch girl ever had the name Ann—normally it is An, Anne or Anna.

There are other changes. In the Malory Towers books, Alicia is Alice, Belinda is Linda, Mavis is Marion, Moira is Norah, Zerelda is Diana, Felicity is Lizzie, June is Julie. In the St Clare's books, Mirabel is Myra, and Margery is Marjorie... but here Belinda remains as Belinda.

St Clare's is also translated. In Dutch it is Clarence House, and if you heard me try to pronouce that you probably wouldn't understand at all what I was talking about (it's unpronouncable in Dutch). The titles of the books have changed too. The Malory Towers books have titles like "Pitty's eerste kostschooljaar" (Pitty's first boarding school year), and the St Clare's books are known as "De dolle tweeling op avontuur" (the wild twins on adventure, which is the summer term book).

In the new editions of the books, there are other changes—as in the new English books, only worse. For instance, a fireplace has become central heating, and tea has been changed to Coke!

Whoever translated the Malory Towers and St Clare's books made some mistakes, like Enid Blyton herself. Maybe it is not interesting, because it has nothing to do with the original books, but I can still tell about it...

Something very annoying is, for example, the fact that Miss Pott (I believe it's Miss Potts in the original, but I mean the teacher in the first year at Malory Towers) becomes Miss Pitt when Pitty (or Darrell) is in the highest grade. Gwendoline's (whose name is Eline Sylvia in Dutch) surname is Lacey in the first, second, third and fourth books, and then her name changes to Lacy. Jean, the Scottish girl in the first book, is named Jeanne in the second book. Maureen's (Marlene in Dutch) surname had been translated in the first part of the fifth book (so her name is Marlene Kleine, which should have been 'de Klein' in my opinion, for that's a common name in Dutch), but when she is singing off-key they talk about Marlene Little.

Hmm, while I'm writing this, I realize that I don't know of any translation failures in St Clare's.

I also know of some more bloopers which, I assume, are faults of the author herself. Mavis is small in the fourth book but long and tall in the fifth book. Gwendoline is rather pretty in the first book, but fat in the fourth and fifth books. Darrell likes Connie in the fourth book (although she likes Ruth more), but in the fifth book she doesn't like her at all. In the fourth book, Felicity and June have a fight and then the author says "En ze werden nooit meer vriendinnen", which in English is something like "and they never became friends anymore"—but in the sixth book they are friends again.

Oh! I almost forgot that two Dutch women have written a sequel to the Malory Towers series! They are a lesbian couple and have written a story in which everyone is a lesbian and Darrell and Sally fall in love with each other in the end! I believe the book is titled "Pitty naar St Andrews", but I'm not sure.

Finally, there is a Dutch Enid Blyton site where you can find all the book covers. Click on Boeken van Enid Blyton. When you click on Pitty, the first row is terrible (in these ones you can read about central heating and Coke). I owned the second row (which you maybe won't appreciate, I think, but I do!) and when you click on "De dolle tweeling", it's the third row that is currently in my book closet.