Thanks to Jay, we have some more answers to something that’s been bugging me: Why LOTR hasn’t been a hit in Japan up until now. We had heard it was due to bad translations. I had email from Japanese people denying that LOTR in Japanese was a bad translation, though ironically they were using translation software to write to me so I couldn’t really follow it. I wondered what Tolkien the philologist would have thought of that particular development in technology.

Here’s what Jay found out: ” I am on a Japanese BBS with some of those guys. I think they have been trying to send you guys some email, but I looked at it and the English was pretty bad. So, I thought I’d like to clear some things up for you. These guys actually really love the Japanese translation of LOTR and hold the translator in very high esteem. They can’t understand why some people are saying that the Japanese translation is a poor one. I think the main problem for Japanese people is how long the book is. The set that I have seen in Japanese was broken up into 9 books. The Japanese translation is very accurate when compared with the English original, and I think this adds to the length of the Japanese translation (which seems like more text than the English version). I must admit that I too would be hesitant to read some foreign literature that is the length of LOTR. There is a very small but solid fanbase for LOTR in Japan. They are very much dedicated to their Japanese translation and feel that many of the direct romanizations (transliterating English into Japanese characters and sounds) that they have seen from the movie so far (e.g. the title “Lord of the Rings”, “Sting” – Frodo’s sword) sound kind of silly and hope that the Japanese translation equivalents will be used instead. One mentioned that hearing the word “Sting” would remind him of the British singer. Anyway, that’s just some of the stuff I’ve heard listening to these guys talk.”

Thanks for that, Jay. I have to ask: Do they read ‘The Wheel of Time’ over there?