Speaking of Narses, he had, as a lone rider, galloped onward upon the trails traversing the southern ridges…
Notes under the cut:
Before anything else (this is a looooong post): I brainfarted on the last update. Arslan is of course worth 100k in gold, not 10k. I have no excuse except “ten thousand” flows so much better in English that it didn’t even register that I was off by a place value. (I even remember making this same mistake before, but I think I usually catch it in time. XD Please do let me know if you ever catch me doing that again, because I’m pretty sure I will… There are a few other words like that where I do know the meaning but my brain always randomly adjusts it to something else for whatever reason, but those are usually easier to catch, lol. That said, I’ve had some other brainfarts in the current volume that I’ve had to go back and fix, one of which I’ll bring up next time since this post is already long enough.)
Also, I put up a translation checklist last month, mainly to point out the interesting bits of supplementary material I’m planning to translate someday if no one else does (that stuff’s usually easier to translate than prose imo). I’ll also try to update it now and then with progress, so that you at least know I’m still alive when I’m not actively posting or making visible tweaks.
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And so we finally meet the character in my favicon/Tumblr avatar. 😛
(Yeah, Amano portrayed pretty much all the characters as dark-haired except for Arslan, Giv, Hirmiz, and a few others later on. To be fair I think only a few characters have been explicitly given hair color descriptions so far… more on this below.)
1. About her name: I’d been pretty sure about it for a few years (circa 2013?), but was wary of committing due to the Japanese transcription of her name, which has a random l/r sound in the middle: アルフリード [a-ru-fu-rii-do]. There have been plenty of variations floating around out there over the years, most notably probably Alfreed and Alfarid.
What eventually confirmed Tanaka’s intentions for me was this scene, specifically Hirmiz’s comments on in-universe usage. IRL at least three female names in the Shahnameh use the Afarid/Afrid element (spelling variation seems to be related to linguistic shifts/historical pronunciation; also doesn’t seem to be limited to female names, see Behafarid/Bihafrid): Gordafarid (also Gurdafreed, Gordafrid, Gurdafrid, etc.; the Arslan character is almost certainly named after her*), a female Behafarid, and Mahafarid/Mahafrid. Historically there was also a Sassanian princess sometimes referred to as Shahafarid. I’ve also seen Guharafrid listed as a female name.
Why didn’t Tanaka use a different transcription? アファリード [a-fa-rii-do] for instance, or even アフリード [a-fu-rii-do]. My guess is audience-oriented pronunciation issues. (The example that always comes to mind is the loan word “candy”, which is rendered “kya-n-di[i]” instead of “ka-n-di[i]” in order to mimic the correct a sound.) After all, it’s not the first time he’s “softened” a name for his audience — Rakhsh -> Rakushna, Sindh -> Sindhura, Dariush -> Dariun, “Hodir”, etc. In this case, since “fu” doubles as “hu” in transcriptions of foreign words (actual native pronunciation is somewhere in between), the second option I suggested above might be misinterpreted as Ahrid, especially since there are more than a few names/terms in this universe that DO use フ to represent a lightly voiced h, e.g. Vahriz, Bahman, Manuchehr. I’m oversimplifying a bit here and not super sure, but adding in that extra “ru” forces it away from the h sound and arguably “sounds” prettier.
“Afarid” wouldn’t have had this issue (fa is unambiguous), but Tanaka probably specifically wanted to go with the older pronunciation. Wouldn’t be the first time, though he’s not always consistent about this. Afarid took the majority in my informal poll when I last checked though, and I do think “Afrid/Afreed” feel a little weird as standalone names in English, so Afarid it is for now.
I also briefly floated some headcanon that the Zott corrupted the pronunciation of the name themselves (this was my reasoning behind the “Arfrid” option) — but since Hirmiz didn’t bother correcting the pronunciation (and you know he would have XD), this falls under “too much personal interpretation” for me to actually utilize in the translation.
* Stealing the quote currently featured on her wikipedia page:
But one of those within the fortress was a woman, daughter of the warrior Gazhdaham, named Gordafarid. When she learned that their leader had allowed himself to be taken, she found his behaviour so shameful that her rosy cheeks became as black as pitch with rage. With not a moment’s delay she dressed herself in a knight’s armour, gathered her hair beneath a Rumi helmet, and rode out from the fortress, a lion eager for battle. She roared at the enemy ranks, “Where are your heroes, your warriors, your tried and tested chieftains?” [The Lion and the Throne: Stories from the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi]
2. Haltash’s name is easier to deal with in comparison: ヘイルターシュ [he-i-ru-taa-shu]. No question about the second syllable, but the first syllable can be rendered several different ways. I’ve been assuming it’s shortened Humban-haltash*, the name of three Elamite kings (especially since Afarid and future character Merlane are also both chopped-off names), but I could be totally off.
* To be thorough: I’ve also seen the name spelled “Khumma-khaldash” or “Khumban-khaltash.” I’m not familiar enough with this area of history to be able to tell what the current standardized spelling is.
3. Zott: As I kinda touched on in the last update, there’s a lot of ambiguity involved in these pseudo-ethnic designations. Jat and Zott are basically equivalent terms IRL, but they don’t always refer to the same groups of people. It seems to me that Tanaka takes inspiration for his tribe from a specific group of “Zott” who were described as mercenaries in historical records. Otherwise “Zott” seems typically used as an umbrella label for various nomadic peoples with Indian origins (“Jat” likewise seems to have turned into a catch-all for various groups living in Afghanistan), rather than a specific tribe.
Though Tanaka certainly plays with existing stereotypes for Afarid’s characterization:
In Afghan popular culture, argumentative and quarrelsome behavior, including careless and carefree speech and dress, especially among young women, is characterized as Jāt behavior. [from above link]
Given her distinctly girly (but casual/rough) speech style, I feel quite comfortable taking liberties with her dialogue, by the way, even more than I do with Giv. Imo it’s the only way to properly get across her character. Also a lot more fun. 😀
4. One of the things I’ve found interesting is how efficient Tanaka is with his descriptions. I think we all have a very strong sense of who the characters are, but actually if you look back we only have a handful of specific details so far. Off the top of my head…
Hair color: Tahmineh (black), Giv (赤紫 akamurasaki, which I’ve been translating as wine-colored), Elam (black), Farangis (black), Hildiger (赤黒い akaguroi, which I translated as auburn).
Eyes: Arslan (pretty much his sole physical descriptor, his eyes are constantly being compared to the night sky), Tahmineh (black), Giv (紺色 kon’iro, dark blue), Elam (black), Farangis (green), Afarid (black)
Skin: Dariun (suntanned), Tahmineh (“ivory”), Elam (“wheat”), Farangis (“porcelain”), Hirmiz (well, the red/white contrast of his face), Afarid (“shelled walnut”)
Generally speaking, it seems to me Tanaka mentions details only if they’re particularly striking or unusual (exotic Giv, exceptional beauty like Farangis/Tahmineh
and crossdressing Elam). It’s pretty clear black hair and eyes are the Parsian default. Kinda makes me want to see someone try a dark-haired Arslan… would he even be recognizable? lol
5. “presumptuous egotism”: So you know just how much of a self-righteous snob Hirmiz is, the exact phrase he uses is 増上慢 [zoujouman], which is a Buddhist term that isn’t totally obscure but I don’t think you’d normally expect to see in common usage…
6. On witty banter: I’m bad at it. Previously translated “phony artist”* as “travesty of an artist” in the first book as I didn’t realize it was going to become a permanent nickname and there was no particular reason for Hirmiz to think of him as a fake at the time. (The term can be reasonably interpreted as “incompetent artist”.)
* eta 6/27/2016: Decided to change this to “hack artist” (i.e. hack writer) because I think it’s the most accurate nuance. This has been weighing on me ever since the first book, with the following list of options I was weighing: hack, phony, dauber, artistic disgrace, etc. Most of the choices I came up with were either a bit of a mouthful or totally anachronistic (“poser” XD).
There’s also quite a bit going on with their very first exchange, some of which I’m not sure is deliberate or if I’m misinterpreting the subtext. Since it’s a little difficult to explain, I’ll just mention the two major ones:
- I settled on “tryst” for several reasons. For one thing, out of context, the most common usage of the term in question (つきあって) is probably “going out with” (as in dating), though technically it can also be used more neutrally (as can tryst).
- The “make it” wordplay is my terrible attempt at mimicking the way Narses seems to keep twisting Hirmiz’s own words around. (Hirmiz means it in the sense of “making a living”; Narses means it in the sense of “it’s hard to make it all the way out here”. orz)
7. bahaneh: Hilariously, the in-text translation for this is literally manzai (if you’ve consumed enough Japanese pop culture you probably know what this is, otherwise the wiki page is pretty self-explanatory). Pretty surreal seeing Hirmiz of all people talking about it, though to be fair there’s been a consistently theatrical theme going on with him… I’m told the actual primary RL meaning (of bahaneh) is something closer to “excuse.” XD
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Extremely bored readers may have discovered that I ninja-posted Tanaka’s (incomplete) bibliography from the afterword of the sixth volume*, with loosely translated titles. Although a lot of the academic texts look like they’re out of print, the literature he references all have existing English translations as well (Khosrow and Shirin, The Seven Princesses [alt: Seven Wives of Bahram Gur], Gulistan, Shahnameh), some in abridged form. Worth looking into if you’re a nerd like me.
* I bring this up now because it’s also in this particular afterword that he states (again), very emphatically, that ALL character names in Arslan have historical/cultural basis, specifically bringing up Narses (which apparently Japanese readers had been attempting to connect to “Narcissus” [“correctly” pronounced with a hard k anyway]) and Hirmiz (as I discussed in detail before, mistaken for “Hermes”). He then goes and explains “Narses” but doesn’t clarify anything about Hirmiz. -_- SHAKES FIST. Instead he hilariously starts complaining about how difficult it is to pick names that sound good in Japanese. /cry
Too bad none of his other afterwords (aside from the other two I’ve translated) are nearly as nerdy, aside from the additional mention of four other academic texts in volume 10…
He also explains his usage of “-kyou” in this afterword, which I’ve discussed a few times here as well, and his explanation was a relief to read, as it turns out I was interpreting it more or less correctly after all (“Sir” in the Arthurian sense). I’ll probably still be translating that as Lord every now and then when I think it works better, as with the one time it was used for Hojir, but I’m definitely reconsidering “Lord Silvermask.” Again. Not that I think “Sir Silvermask” is any better, but I’m starting to experiment with looser translations of the epithet (along the lines of “Green Knight” [and other Color Knights], “Fisher King“, “Fair Unknown“, etc.), and may end up changing it to “the Silver Mask Lord” or something along those lines.
Or maybe not, like I’ve joked about before, Hirmiz is basically a Darth Vader/Char clone, cheese is part of the package, hahaha.