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Translating children’s literature and fairy tales

Fairy tales are a genre that is marked by its international dissemination and cultural appropriation. Arabian, German, French, Danish, Russian stories, and tales from all over the world contribute to an international canon of children’s literature. But in their journey from oral transmission to written texts or films, and from one language to another, these stories undergo many changes, adapting them to the historical moment and to what is considered appropriate for children. What is a sensitive issue in one culture is of less concern in another cultural and linguistic environment. Karen Seago’s research analyses these culture-specific changes in the translations of Grimms’ Fairy Tales into English, relating them to national identity, gender politics and the emergence of a body of texts aimed specifically at children’s education and entertainment. In Shifting Meanings: Translating Grimms’ Fairy Tales as Children’s Literature. for example, Seago shows how religion, respect for authority, sexuality and violence emerge as problematic topics which are omitted or fundamentally changed in translation. Constructing the Witch. traces the representation of curse in Sleeping Beauty from the norns of Nordic myth to the ‘wise woman’ of the Grimm brothers and the witch in English translation, while Aspects of gender in translations of “Sleeping Beauty. shows how nineteenth century gender politics shape the female and male characters in English translations of the fairy tale to conform to notions of femininity and masculinity. This research informs specialised literary translator training and Seago has given masterclasses at the Chartered Institute of Linguists on children’s literature translation and lectures for the Prince’s Teaching Institute, The Prince’s Trust.

More about this research

  • Topics: translation