Mudcat Café message #743788 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #49293   Message #743788
Posted By: CapriUni
07-Jul-02 - 10:29 AM
Thread Name: BS: German 'Catters? Help with translation
Subject: German 'Catters? Help with translation
Hello! I am currently working on a private project of collecting and illustrating my favorite folktales, and one of the stories I want to include is Das Meerhäschen, from the Brothers Grimm (an English version can be found here).

Here's my problem: The translated title I most often seen for this story is "The sea-hare" But I had no idea what a "sea-hare" is... looking it up in the American Heritage Dictionary I discovered that, in English at least, a sea-hare is a kind of primative marine snail with a shell about 10 times too small for its own back.... Which hardly makes sense, since the hero of the story allows himself to be changed to a sea-hair and sold as a cuddly pet to a haughty princess, and primative marine snails do not make very cuddly pets.

Ralph Manhiem titled the story The Mongoose in his 1977 translation, so he probably thought "Sea-hare" didn't make much sense, either... But I have no idea whether the translation is legitimate, or if he just made it up...

So, if anyone knows: What, pray tell, is "Das Meerhäschen"? Is it, in fact, a mongoose? or a bunny rabbit with a fish's tail, or an ordinary bunny that lives by the sea, or... what?

Now, so that this thread isn't complete BS: I've often thought that this story (by whatever title) is a second cousin, at least motif-wise, of the Child Ballad "The Two Magicians", in that the princess/proud lady puts a challenge to her suitor before she will have sex with him, and that challenge takes the form of hide-and-seek with metamorphoses... (I prefer this version from Buchan's Ballads of the North of Scotland to the one in Child).