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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Aren't I Handsome?
by Mario Ramos
Age Range: Under_5
A very vain Big Bad Wolf decides to take a walk through the forest to show off. On the way, he encounters other fairy tale creatures and asks them how they think he looks. Whilst Snow White, Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs all tread carefully when the Wolf asks them who they think is the most handsome, what will happen when he interrupts a game of hide and seek to ask Baby Dragon?
Both Zero to Ten Aren’t I Handsome and Gecko Press I Am So Handsome have published fabulous, differing translations of Mario Ramos’s clever twist on the fairy tale. Both versions are amusing and thoughtfully translated; Ramos has a wonderful turn of expression and Gecko and Zero to Ten translators seem to have enjoyed making sure that this comes across in English. Red Riding Hood becomes a ‘Little Wild Strawberry’ and the Three Little Pigs are ‘Little Butterballs’ or ‘Bacon Bits’. The surprising, comic images are guaranteed to make adults and children laugh out loud, as will the wonderful illustrations of the cheeky Wolf strutting his way through the wood, especially when he meets his match! Whilst both translations are cleverly worded, some descriptions and spoken phrases seem to fit the tone and the flow of the story better in the Zero to Ten translation. In this version, the way Wolf talks sounds more in keeping with how an English author might have written and looks like less of a translation.
This simple story is also wonderful for reading aloud and sharing, as there’s lots of speech and the story reads like a fairytale, a genre just made for telling to others. The telling of the story is also the main difference between the two translations. Both are funny, vivid and use some wonderful vocabulary, introducing some longer but still easy to understand words. The Gecko Press translation also follows the fairy tale model of telling a story that happened once upon a time, whereas Zero to Ten’s Aren’t I Handsome? tells the story as it happens. Gecko’s translation seems to follow a well established, familiar pattern in storytelling and although some of the spoken parts are perhaps phrased better in Zero to Ten, overall the Gecko Press version seems the better translation into English. The story seems to read more easily and naturally in English and as the story is a sort of play on traditional fairy tales, the past tense setting just seems to suit the story better, emulating the original tales from which the characters came. This might really make a difference to the young readers the story is aimed at, fitting in with and apparently deliberately copying a genre they are already familiar with.
Abby Phillips (2011)