The Big Six Translations of Harry Potter
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the most translated of all seven Potter books, having been translated into over eighty languages. For some languages, the translations continue through the remaining six Potter books, but some do not. These translations can be found all over the globe, from Greenland to Indonesia to Brazil and soon to New Zealand with their publication of a Te Reo Maori Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone translation. These translations sometimes feature unique cover art only found on that one translation while others have the well-known and beloved covers from either the U.S. or the U.K. books. To some, seeing Harry Potter printed in another language is a short conversation topic or something to point at while browsing an international airport’s bookstore, to others, these translations are something to be snapped up and collected in their quest to “have them all.”
Collecting Harry Potter translations is not a new phenomenon. I have met Harry Potter translation collectors who have been collecting for the past fifteen years, mostly using their travels or traveling friends as means to slowly grow their respective collections. I have met others who use their creative sourcing skills to acquire books from around the world. However, over the past few years Potter translation collecting has been gaining in popularity within the mainstream Harry Potter collector and fan base. I think this is mostly due to popular collectors, such as The Potter Collector, on Instagram and YouTube showing off their exhaustive and beautiful collections. Excitingly, this momentum does not look to be slowing down. Quite frequently, I receive emails from Potterheads around the world wanting to begin their own Harry Potter translation collection and wanting to know where to start. It is at this point that I reply that eBay and Amazon will be their best friends. I also inform them about “The Big Six” Potter translations.
The phrase, Big Six, was coined a few years ago by Peter, the aforementioned Potter Collector, and the phrase quickly took hold within the Potterhead collecting community. It is not uncommon for me to receive emails from hopeful new and long-time collectors alike asking for help in finding just one of these elusive Potter translations. In these emails, I have often read comparisons between hunting these six books and horcruxes – they are elusive, often hidden in some of the most far-flung and strangest places, and they’re captivating.
Not surprisingly, the Big Six is currently comprised of six Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone translations: Asturian, Greenlandic, Gujarati, Macedonian, Malayalam, and Nepali. Originally, when Peter coined the phrase, the Big Six included the Faroese Philosopher’s Stone translation, Harry Potter og Vitramannasteinurin in place of Malayalam. However, the Faroese publisher reprinted the first book in softcover and illustrated editions, making this translation easier to find than the Malayalam Philosopher’s Stone translation, which many collectors have discovered, is all but impossible to locate, let alone purchase. It is important to note that this Big Six list is based on the difficulty in acquiring a translation only, not a specific edition of that translation. For example, there are quite a few editions of the first Russian translation and several of these editions are quite hard to find, but the first edition of that translation is quite easily found. Just type in “Harry Potter in Russian” into an eBay search, and you will find quite a few listings for not only the first Russian translation but also the second. Editions of French, German, and Spanish translations are very easy to find as well. On the opposite end of the spectrum sit the Big Six where you can hunt with specifics like ISBN and book titles and pull up only a handful of entries on Google. These six books are exceedingly hard to find in the countries from which they come and even more so outside of them. Searching for these six books takes a great deal of patience, time, and luck.
The Asturian translation, Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal, translated by Jesús González Rato and published by Trabe, is a translation out of the Asturias region in Spain. Only the first book has been translated into Asturian. While the publisher is still around, the likelihood of books two through seven being published is quite slim. Also, Asturian speakers have access to the Potter books via the ubiquitous Spanish translations. The book features beautiful cover art that loosely resembles that of the much more easily found Spanish translation. The publisher has confirmed only 700 copies were produced, making this book almost as rare as the hardcover first print, first edition Philosopher’s Stone. In fact, during my search for this translation, I was told by quite a few people in the Asturias region that this book did not exist and/or that they had never seen nor heard of it.
The Greenlandic, or Kalaallisut, translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter ujarallu inuunartoq, was published by Atuakkiorfik Greenland Publishers and translated by Stephen Hammeken. Like Asturian, only the first book was translated, and it is more than likely going to stay that way. A few years after this translation’s publication, the translator died. A few years after that, the publisher shuttered its doors. Importantly too, Greenlanders have access to the Potter books via the Danish and English books. From the few native Greenlanders I have spoken with about this translation, it looks to have been done well and sold out fairly quickly. However, while the book was popular in Greenland when it was released, the only print run was more than likely 1,000 copies or less. From my research, Greenlandic books rarely have print runs as high as 1,000 copies, with exception being for a predicted bestseller. Most of the Greenlandic books are limited to just a few hundred prints or fewer. The remote location and limited internet access of the country from which this book hails help make this translation extremely hard to find. The Greenlandic translation may be the most well-known of the Big Six – it is certainly the one that I am asked about the most. Interestingly, of these six, this translation is usually the easiest for collectors to find. That said, easy is relative; this book usually takes quite a lot searching around and luck to find.
The Gujarati translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, હેરી પોટર અને પારસમણિ, was published by Manjul and translated by Harish Nayak and Jagruti Trivedi. Only the first book was published in this language. The Gujarati translation comes from the Gujarat area of India. If you are translations collector, you will likely know that India has six Harry Potter translations, with four of them being fairly easy to find and the other two being in the Big Six. You may also know that Manjul publishes all six of those Potter translations and that they look fairly similar, all bearing the Mary GrandPre cover art. I am not sure on the print run of the Gujarati translation, but from talking with a few locals and collectors, I believe there are one or two print runs of around 1,500 copies each. With potentially 3,000 books floating around, it is easy to think this book would be easier to find, but it is absolutely not. Gujarati is the sixth most widely spoken native language in India with approximately 55.5 million speakers as of 2011. Interestingly though, while there are a lot of native speakers, there do not seem to be as many native readers. With the exception of two native speakers, the people I talked to read in other Indian languages, but not in Gujarati. While Manjul is still printing some of their other Potter translations, they currently have no plans to reprint this one.
The Malayalam translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, ഹാരിപോട്ടർ രസായനക്കല്ല്, is also published by Manjul as stated earlier and is translated by Radhika C. Nair. Books one and two were published in this language, and both books are extremely hard to find, but mainly due to quickly increasing demand, only the Philosopher’s Stone translation is on the Big Six list. Here again, I am not sure how many books were made, but I have heard from fellow collectors that think there were two print runs of around 1,500 books each. Again, however, there are many millions of speakers. India has approximately 45 million native speakers of Malayalam. From my own personal experiences, Malayalam seems to be similar to Gujarati in that there are more speakers than readers. And like the Gujarati translation, locating a Malayalam Philosopher’s Stone translation takes quite a bit of poking around and even more luck.
The Macedonian translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Хари Потер и Каменот на мудроста, which was published by Publishing House Kultura and translated by Blagorodna Bogeska-Ančevska is now actually the first Macedonian translation. A few months ago, a new Macedonian Philosopher’s Stone translation from a different translator and publisher was released. Shortly thereafter, there was some talk among translation collectors about whether or not the first Macedonian should remain in the Big Six. Ultimately though, the first Macedonian translation is still just hard to find as before the publication of the new one. Additionally, all seven books were published in Macedonian, but not all by the same publisher. Books one through five were published by Publishing House Kultura and the last two were published by Mladinska Kniga Skopje. Interestingly, the first five books were published in softcover only and feature the original Bloomsbury cover art and the last two were only published in hardcover and feature the Mary GrandPre covers from Scholastic. I am not sure how many of the first Macedonian translations of Philosopher’s Stone were made. At some point in production, the cover was darkened significantly, so there are at least two print runs. Both covers are equally rare and sought after.
The Nepali translation, ह्यारी पोटर र पारसमणि , was translated by Shlesha Thapaliya and Bijaya Adhikari and published by the now defunct Sunbird Publishing House. Again here, I am not sure how many books were printed, but it is again likely fewer than 1,000. Honestly, I feel 1,000 is a generous number. Sunbird Publishing House was formed by five women who wanted to combine their professional talents to help improve falling literacy rates among the poorer Nepali youth. After much consideration, the women thought that Nepali children and teenagers would enjoy reading the Potter books. The women also hoped that having Harry Potter translated into Nepali would also encourage native Nepali writers to write for their youth. After writing to J.K. Rowling about their idea, Rowling responded positively and the rights were purchased for a nominal royalty. The book was sold around Kathmandu but was ultimately aimed at the youth in Nepal’s interior villages. This factor along with a probably very low print run and the difficulty for outsiders to access parts of Nepal even via the internet has made this book extremely hard to find. Importantly, this book is the only authorized Nepali translation of Harry Potter. There are unauthorized versions of books one through three found in Nepal and their covers are different. Unauthorized versions of books four through seven are rumored to exist as well.
While these Big Six books typically take a great deal of time and effort to locate, collecting Harry Potter translations is one of the most fun and fulfilling things I have ever done. I have met some of the best people and found and connected with Potterheads from all over this beautiful planet. If you are thinking about joining me and many others in our quest to have all the Harry Potter translations, I hope you do! We really have fun!
If you’d like to hear what Harry Potter sounds like all over the world, check out www.thebookthatlives.com. You can follow Carly on Twitter on @AllPrettyBooks and Instagram on @AllThePrettyBooks and visit her website, a great resource for Harry Potter fans and collectors: www.alltheprettybooks.net