Yesterday we heard that, later this year, The Hobbit will be published in Latin, and you will remember that we reported a while back about the Irish language version of Tolkien’s book.  Ringer spy Ealbhchara (‘Elf-friend’ in Irish Gaelic) was at the official launch of the new translation, in Dublin, and he sent along a report.  Though Ealbhchara has nothing to do with the translation and publication, he prefaces his report with a confession:  ‘I hope you will forgive me if my report sounds promotional – in a way it is: I am keenly interested in promoting the Irish language (currently a minority language) and the publication of The Hobbit raises the status of the language significantly. Not to mention that I want An Hobad to sell well enough so that they’ll translate The Lord Of the Rings next!’

Ealbhchara’s full report follows after the break – it’s a fascinating read!  Many thanks to him for sending it along!

I bpoll sa talamh a bhí cónaí ar hobad. It’s been a long time coming, but finally it is possible to follow the adventures of Bilbo Baggins (Biolbó Baigín) in the Irish language. I had the great fortune to attend the official launch of An Hobad last night at An Siopa Leabhar (The Book Shop) here in Dublin.


Tolkien didn’t mention if Bilbo had a library at Bag End but if he did, I imagine it would look something like An Siopa Leabhar – cosy and inviting; the shelves stacked with beautifully-made books. I have often gone in to buy one book only to come out with three or four, to the detriment of my wallet. On this occasion several display cases were filled with copies of An Hobad.


This has been an historic event for the Irish language. Many great and popular works have been translated into Irish over the years, from Don Quixote to Dracula and most recently, Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl – but An Hobad stands a good chance of being the best-selling Irish language book of all time. By the end of the evening, I noticed that an entire display case had been cleaned out.


There has been a lot of interest in the launch and the shop was packed to capacity. Daragh Ó Tuama, manager and organiser of the event, told us how he had read only The Lord Of the Rings and was proud to be experiencing The Hobbit for the first time, through the Irish language.


Part of the evening was taken up by media interviews with the extraordinary people involved in the translation. Professor Nicholas Williams (who previously translated Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass) explained that a particular difficulty in the translation was the absence in Irish mythology of an exact equivalent of Tolkien’s Elves. The search for a suitable word resulted in a years-long delay while Professor Williams and the publisher, Michael Everson (himself a formidable linguist, typesetter and font designer) sought to find common ground on the matter. In the end, a new word was created, Ealbh, based on a borrowing into Scottish Gaelic from Norse – a solution Tolkien might well have approved of!


After some manoeuvering amongst the throng, I got to speak with Michael Everson himself (an American immigrant to Ireland who speaks fluent Irish). An Hobad has clearly been a labour of love and he has gone to painstaking lengths to ensure that the end result is outstanding. All the handwritten texts in Tolkien’s maps and illustrations have been translated, inluding the Dwarves’ runes. Everson even managed to duplicate Tolkien’s own calligraphy; the Irish writing has effectively been produced by Tolkien’s own hand – a first, I’m told, for any translation of The Hobbit


At this point, I’m half-way through the book itself (I got my copy some days ago). The translation is exceptional and I’m getting to relive the experience I had when I first read The Hobbit at the age of nine. I’ll leave you with a few famous quotes from the book in their Irish versions. I know Tolkien readers like linguistic riddles: see if you can work them out! (translation below)


“Sonas maidine duit!” arsa Biolbó ar deireadh. “Ní theastaíonn eachtraí uainne anseo, go raibh míle maith agat!”


“Beir bua aguss beannacht, a sstóirín!”


“Co raibh bíle baith acaibh.”


“Ná déan magadh faoi dhragan beo, a Bhiolbó, a amadáin!”




“Good morning!” he said at last. “We don’t want any adventures here, thank you!”

“Bless us and splash us, my precioussss!”

“Thag you very buch.”

“Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo you fool!”