A week or so ago, Crown of Gold asked in a comment on a previous post how one would translate the words of House Baratheon into Dothraki. The words are: “Ours is the fury.” I might’ve responded to the comment directly, but the question is actually much more complicated than one might think.
Starting just with the English, “Ours is the fury” is an instantiation of what appears to be a rather bizarre (or at least crosslinguistically rare) construction. I think an English speaker has the sense that “Ours is the fury” means something fundamentally different from “The fury is ours”, but it’s hard to characterize that difference. As I see it, it’s not simply a difference in focus. It’s kind of like in the first one, the idea is that the fury is inherent in who we are—it’s part of what defines us (here, the “us” is House Baratheon, of course). In “The fury is ours”, it sounds like we just obtained it—or purchased it.
Personally, I always think of Captain Planet. When he said, “The power is yours!“, it always sounded to me like he was either giving us the power, or informing us that we now had the power (and perhaps always had it). Had he said, “Yours is the power!”, it would have been something quite different—more of a reminder that we have it within us to put an end to pollution and poaching and the like.
(By the way, I invite English speakers to comment on what they think the difference between these two might be. Do you get my sense, or something different? Or do they sound the same to you?)
Anyway, so before translating it into Dothraki, I needed to figure out what the heck it means in English. And since I was on IRC at the time, I asked ingsve and Qvaak what they thought. It turns out in Swedish and Finnish, there’s no equivalent for “Ours is the fury” (you’d translate it as “The fury is ours”). Part of that has to do with the fact that neither language actually has a distinct possessive pronominal form. English, on the other hand, has a full complement of them, as shown below:
|Possessive Adjective||Possessive Pronoun|
|1st Person Singular||my||mine|
|2nd Person Singular||your||yours|
|3rd Person Singular (Fem.)||her||hers|
|3rd Person Singular (Mas.)||his||his|
|3rd Person Singular (Ina.)||its||its|
|1st Person Plural||our||ours|
|2nd Person Plural||your||yours|
|3rd Person Plural||their||theirs|
Like Finnish and Swedish, Dothraki also makes no distinction between the possessive adjective and the possessive pronoun: All there are are the pronouns in the genitive (or the ablative, as the case may be [no pun intended (but enjoyed, nevertheless)]). Even so, there are situations in which a genitive pronoun will be interpreted as a possessive pronoun. Consider the two sentences below:
- Hazi hrazef anni. “That’s my horse.”
- Hazi anni. “That’s mine.”
However, you can’t turn that around:
- #/? Anni hazi. “Mine is that.”
Okay, that sentence may be infelicitous for other reasons, but this one makes sense in English:
- #/? Anni athhajar. “Mine is the strength.”
I can’t even characterize how bizarre that looks… I can’t say for certain that it’s ungrammatical, but it just doesn’t look or sound right. So one couldn’t translate “Ours is the fury” straight up into Dothraki (the way you can, more or less, in Spanish).
In order to try to approximate the flavor of the original, then, I had two ideas: (1) Fix it so that the word order could be preserved, or (2) try to translate the sense I get, regardless of word order and lexical items. So instead of giving “the” translation, Crown of Gold, I’ll give you two. Not sure which is best (interlinears given in lieu of translations, as we know what the translation is):
- Kishaan athostar. /1PL.ALL fury-NOM/
- Athostar dothrae mra kisha. /fury-NOM ride-3SG in 1PL.NOM/
I think each translation has its own merits. The first preserves the word order and simplicity of the original English, but it implies the same thing that “The fury is ours” implies, in my mind—that is, the fury is somewhere outside of us, and it’s coming to us.
The second should be somewhat familiar, as it parallels Daenerys’s quote from A Game of Thrones: Khalakka dothrae mr’anha, “A prince rides inside me”. She’s referring to her unborn child, of course, but I thought that it really accurately describes the sense I get from “Ours is the fury”. I think it works! Though I did just think of a possible alternate:
- Athostar dothrae kishi. /fury-NOM ride-3SG 1PL.GEN/
So literally, this would be something like “Fury rides with us”, or “Fury rides beside us” (reminiscent of that scene from Tombstone). I think that’s a pretty good approximation of “Ours is the fury” done Dothraki-style!
Sorry for the late response, Crown of Gold, but that one made me think quite a bit. It was a good one! Always nice to work through a new translation. Oh, and as for athostar, it derives ultimately from ostat, which means “to bite”. It’s an animalistic type of anger which I thought better suited the English word “fury” than any other term referring to anger. “Fury” itself is kind of an odd word as it exists in English. It doesn’t just mean “anger”: it implies violent action. That’s what I got from athostar (which has been around for a while), so I thought it’d work for this translation.
Thanks for the question, zhey Crown of Gold!
Update: Matt Pearson suggested an alternate for the first translation that uses the ablative, instead of the allative:
- Kishoon athostar. /1PL.ABL fury-NOM/
That’s another option to consider. I think it sounds even more aggressive than “Ours is the fury”—more like, “Mess with us, and taste our wrath!” What do you think?