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Histoire et mémoire

History, Memory and Translation: The Case of Hachette Jeunesse’s Ivanhoé

Siobhan Brownlie
p. 23-40


Cet article examine tout d’abord les aspects théoriques de la problématique de l’histoire et de la mémoire. Ces notions sont ensuite utilisées pour l’étude d’une version abrégée, en français, publiée chez Hachette Jeunesse (2009) du célèbre roman de Walter Scott, Ivanhoe (1819). Elle est comparée à trois versions en français et trois en anglais parmi lesquelles figurent des traductions intégrales et des adaptations. Deux aspects de cette traduction abrégée sont analysés : le greffage d’éléments non fictionnels en notes de bas de page et les modifications qu’on peut attribuer à des différences entre mémoire collective française et mémoire collective britannique. La thèse soutenue est que la version Hachette Jeunesse a une vocation didactique forte et que les nombreuses notes qui donnent des détails sur des points spécifiques culturels et historiques transmettent aux jeunes lecteurs la mémoire du roman mais aussi de la vie au Moyen Âge. Par ailleurs cette version omet ou minimise des éléments importants de la mémoire culturelle britannique (notamment le mythe du joug normand) ou des éléments qui ne correspondent pas à la mémoire culturelle française (par exemple la vision négative des Normands et des Français). L’étude montre que les traductions sont influencées par le contexte mémoriel dans lequel elles sont produites et développe l’idée que la mémoire peut représenter une force importante dans la rédaction des traductions et des adaptations.

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1The aim of this paper is first to provide a succinct discussion of issues in history and memory from a theoretical point of view before applying these ideas in the examination of a recent abridged French version in the Hachette Jeunesse series (2009) of Walter Scott’s well-known novel Ivanhoe which was first published in 1819.

Memory and history

  • 1 Some important works in the field of Memory Studies are: Nora, P., 1984, Les Lieux de mémoire, Pari (...)

2This study is located in the field of Memory Studies. The field of Memory Studies is concerned with the whole variety of ways of representing the past. Memory was conceptualized for a long time as the province of the individual mind, but in the 20th century it came also to be considered as a social phenomenon following the groundbreaking work of Maurice Halbwachs (1975 [1925])1. An individual’s memory is influenced by the social groups he or she belongs to, and memories are shared by people in groups of differing sizesfrom small groups in society to nations and the supra-national level. Various terms—such as collective memory, cultural memory, social memory, public memory, and national memory—highlight the social aspect of memory.

3Memory can be transmitted across time by various means. Our chief concern here is the written medium. The written medium as a means of transmission of memory comprises a wide variety of genres ranging from history books to tourist pamphlets, to newspaper articles, to novels, to children’s story books, and so on. Genres themselves, of course, have varied in form throughout history. It is interesting to note here that the field of Memory Studies recognizes no fundamental distinction between historiography and novels. Historical novels and historiography are two different ways, among others, of writing about the past (Erll, 2010a [2008]). They are fundamentally similar in that they both involve reconstruction, and poetic and narrative properties, as theorized strikingly by Hayden White (1973).

4However, historical novels and historiography are different in that they adhere to different norms and protocols. The historian today must follow accepted procedures regarding evidence, and use of sources. The genre of the novel allows much greater freedom whereby the novelist can be highly inventive. In this context we can distinguish fiction and non-fiction regarding the past. Non-fiction would be what historians consensually agree upon as having happened in the past. Fiction would be ideas imagined and invented about the past which would not meet the consensual agreement of historians. The boundaries between the two are, however, not entirely clear, since historians are continually proposing new hypotheses about the past sparked by the imaginative use of evidence (Arnold, 2000).

5The type of historical novel written by Scott is complex with regard to the fiction / non-fiction distinction in that it is hybrid. Ivanhoe features entirely fictional characters such as Wilfred of Ivanhoe along with characters from “historical reality” such as Prince John and King Richard I, the Lionheart. With regard to the historical characters, some facts given in the novel are historically accurate, whereas others are pure invention on the part of the novelist. Prince John was indeed plotting with the French king against Richard’s interests in his absence. However, Richard did not return disguised to England. In the novel, Richard wanders about England as a disguised knight undertaking various deeds of chivalry; this is pure romance (Tulloch, 2000). To my mind the greatest historical inaccuracy of the novel is the depiction of a highly antagonistic relationship between Saxons and Normans in England near the end of the 12th century. In actual fact historians agree that the two peoples had intermarried and integrated by that time, and that descendants of the Normans from the conquest of 1066 had adopted English identity by the end of the 12th century (see Thomas, 2003). Scott (1895 [1819]) himself, as expressed in his “Dedicatory Epistle” to the novel, recognizes that he may have made historical errors, but that what matters is to arouse the interest of the reader in the tale.

6Another complexity in the fiction / non-fiction nexus with regard to Ivanhoe is the desire of critics and commentators to read the novel as allegorical, as a historical fiction which is actually a disguised commentary on contemporary political reality at the time when Scott wrote the book. The novel is said, for example, to comment analogically on nineteenth century relations between the English and the Scottish in the construction of Britain (Worth, 1995, Morillo & Newhouse, 2000). In the end the novel is an indeterminable mixture of fiction and non-fiction.

  • 2 Lefevere (1992: 4-5) gives the following as examples of rewriting: editing and anthologization of t (...)

7To return to the topic of memory, both the Norman Conquest and Scott’s novel Ivanhoe are important elements in British memory as an iconic event and an iconic literary work. Our two items are part of actively circulating memory. In order for the memory of a past event or cultural item to remain in circulation, the event or item must be represented again and again over decades or centuries in the same or different media and genres (newspaper articles, photos, diaries, novels, films, web pages, museum display, historical re-enactment, etc.). Astrid Erll (2010b [2008]) refers to this as “remediation”. In Translation Studies a similar concept is referred to by André Lefevere (1992) as “rewriting”, but it is a narrower concept, since Lefevere’s focus is on literary texts, and he does not discuss other media or transmission of memory of historical events or eras2. Remediations will always involve transformation with regard to earlier representations, but there is also a certain sameness which allows recognition. What is known about a past event or cultural item is in fact a series of existent medial constructions. The amount of remediation becomes particularly significant when dealing with memory of famous long-distant events and cultural items.

8One type of remediation or rewriting is interlingual translation of texts. Translation is a very important means of creating transcultural memory, that is, creating shared knowledge of the past in different countries and cultures. This knowledge includes both knowledge of historical events and knowledge of cultural items. Ivanhoe was first translated into French by Jean-Baptiste Defauconpret, and along with Scott’s other novels in French translation was enormously popular in the 19th century. Indeed Scott was popular throughout Europe thanks to the vector of translation into the various European languages. Over time new versions were produced: more translations, adaptations, plays, films, such that a network of texts was created in a multilingual transcultural tradition (Pittock [ed.], 2006).

9Although shared transcultural memory operates, there remain strong national specificities with regard to memory. In the case of Ivanhoe, this is a work of literature which is important in the British canon of classic texts, and it represents a link in a long English and British chain of memory concerning the Norman Conquest. So its role and location in British culture is in fact quite different from that in the cultures to which the text was transported. An example of the impact of a different national memorial significance is found in the fact that in the French cultural system it is easy to find abridged versions of Ivanhoé for young people aged between 11 and 15 years old. In contrast, the English abridged versions I found cater to much younger children. The implication is that English-speaking youngsters from about the age of 12 would be expected to read the text in its integral form through respect for the book as an iconic classic in the culture.

10In this paper I will consider a popular abridged version of Ivanhoé by Armand Rio from the Hachette Jeunesse series (Scott, 2009). I will examine two specific issues regarding the Hachette Jeunesse’s Ivanhoé: firstly the grafting of non-fictional footnotes in the translation abridgement, and secondly modifications of the work which can be related to differences in national memory. The core work for the study will be compared not only with an early edition of Scott’s work (1895 [1819]), but also with a recent Penguin edition of the novel (2000), the Dover English adaptation for young children (1999), the first French translation by Defauconpret (1839), another French adaptation by l’École des loisirs (1990), as well as the first version of Armand Rio’s adaptation for the Hachette Bibliothèque verte (1952). Considering these various rewritings of Ivanhoe serves to highlight features of the text under study.

Addition of non-fictional notes

11In the original edition of Ivanhoe (1819), there were only a few footnotes by the author; in a subsequent edition (1830 reproduced in 1895), Scott added much longer notes. Contemporary editions of the novel contain a large number of notes (as well as introductions and glossaries), some from the author but most by the editor of the volume. Notes generally concern linguistic, literary and historical details and aspects of medieval life. The French translation by Defauconpret (1839) contained a modest number of notes, some from Scott and some added by the translator. Abridged English and French versions for a young readership do not necessarily contain any notes. The abridgement published by Les classiques abrégés de l’École des loisirs contains not a single note; nor does the Dover English abridgement. Our text, Ivanhoé for Hachette Jeunesse, contains 198 brief footnotes in a small book of 251 pages. Overall, it seems that the chain of rewritings of the original text allows addition of new layers, quite a lot of expansion and freedom of choice of paratextual content. The hybrid balance of fictional and non-fictional in the novel is weighted more towards the non-fictional side through such additions.

12The inclusion of a large number of notes in Ivanhoé for Hachette Jeunesse shows that the book has a strong didactic aim. Because the normal principle of an abridgement is reduction, the didactic aim must be particularly strong to override that principle and support addition of material. The footnotes are written specifically for this version of the novel for young French-language readers of about 11 or 12 years old. The first Hachette Bibliothèque verte adaptation by Armand Rio is longer and contains very few footnotes as compared with the Hachette Jeunesse edition. The earlier adaptation was probably aimed at an older audience. It seems that the inclusion of the large number of footnotes in the Hachette Jeunesse edition was the work of the editor.

13The largest number of footnotes in the text under study is in the category of definitions of unusual words or words beyond a 12 year old’s knowledge. For instance, such terms as grimoire, verrat, freluquet, and exhérédation are explained. In the Reference Texts n° 1, the various treatments of freluquet and its equivalents in the four French and three English versions are shown. In two abridged versions (École des loisirs and Dover), the section where the term appears is omitted.

  • 3 Le Petit Robert labels reliefs as an archaism in this usage of the term.

14A second category of footnotes contains explanations of archaic terms and expressions. Archaic terms are not simply present to reflect the fact that the plot is set in the Middle Ages, but because they reflect the style of Scott’s original, which contains a pseudo-archaic style of language, particularly in direct speech. An example in the Hachette Jeunesse text is les reliefs [de son repas]3 explained in a footnote as les restes. The corresponding terms in other versions are quite variable (see Reference Texts n° 2) and not necessarily archaic, although the original English refers to a medieval dish, pottage.

15The third category of footnotes in Hachette Jeunesse’s Ivanhoé provides historical and cultural explanations, which are generally linked to specialized vocabulary. The explanations are longer than the above categories of definitions of terms, but the footnotes remain brief.

16One of the most significant types of historical and cultural explanation concerns religion and religious practices. The reason that this domain is important is probably that religion does not play as important a role today for many people in society as it did in the Middle Ages. Memory in the form of certain traditional Christian practices has been passed down through the generations, but other organizations, roles, practices and objects have been abandoned or are rare, and may not be familiar to young people. Hence, Hachette Jeunesse presents the following explanations in footnotes:

Un anachorète : un moine ou ermite qui vit dans la solitude
Les chevaliers hospitaliers : un ordre qui accueille les voyageurs et les pauvres
Les commanderies : résidences des chefs militaires de certains ordres religieux
Un reliquaire : boîte contenant des os ou des objets sacrés ayant appartenu à un saint
Un bourdon : bâton de pèlerin

17The Reference Texts n° 3 and 4 display the treatment of anchoret and knights hospitallers in other versions. As usual, it is the French Hachette Jeunesse and the English Penguin editions which give explanations or synonyms in a note; for Penguin, this is either in an endnote or in the book’s glossary.

  • 4 The Hachette Jeunesse edition is abbreviated as HJ.

18Two of the main characters in the novel are Jewish: the beautiful and sympathetic Rebecca and her father Isaac. So there are also references to some Jewish terms, beliefs and practices which are footnoted. The novel portrays strong anti-Semitism in the Middle Ages. This provokes the longest footnote in the Hachette Jeunesse text4:

Au Moyen Âge, l’Église accusait non seulement les juifs d’avoir été autrefois responsables de la mort du Christ, mais de sacrifier des enfants, de pratiquer la sorcellerie, de communiquer avec le diable, d’empoisonner les puits, d’être à l’origine des famines et des épidémies, etc. Ces accusations fantaisistes permirent de justifier persécutions, exécutions légales et massacres de masse pendant des siècles dans toute l’Europe chrétienne. (HJ: 26)

19In Scott’s text there is no such explanatory footnote. An important influence on this footnote must be that today we have a strong memory of the Second World War, of the fate of the Jews at the time, as well as a sense of duty to pass this memory on to younger generations. This heightened awareness of anti-semitism was not a feature of Scott’s time in the 19th century. Across the seven versions displayed in the Reference Texts n° 5, apart from Hachette Jeunesse, the only other version which broaches the subject is the Penguin text, where the role of Jews in the novel is discussed in the Introduction.

20Another area which may be quite unfamiliar to young readers is social roles and professions in medieval England. A number of italicized English terms are transferred to the Hachette Jeunesse text and footnoted with an explanation: franklin, thane, yeomen, alderman, and outlaw in the following way:

À la merci des outlaws* ou des Normands.

Note : * Brigands, hors-la-loi (en anglais). (HJ: 20)

21Unfortunately, the brief explanations of franklin, thane, and yeomen are not entirely helpful. The definitions do not give a clear idea of social rank, and do not specify that these terms designate Saxons, which is important in terms of the novel’s central ethnic divide. Fuller explanations of the terms are given in footnotes in other versions with varying degrees of clarity and usefulness (see Reference Texts n° 6 and 7 for franklin and yeomen). For franklin, the original text itself contains a brief in-text explanation, inferior gentry, which is not taken up in the Hachette versions. Other adaptations for children (École des loisirs, Dover) tend to avoid these somewhat technical terms, thus producing a simplification of the text.

22A fairly popular category of footnoted items in the Hachette Jeunesse text comprises terms describing medieval combat, arms and armour. This reflects the importance of combat at the time which is carried over into the sport of jousting, highlighted in the novel. There are a whole series of smaller categories referring to various aspects of medieval life. Examples of footnoted terms from the combat category can be seen in section I and from other categories in section II below.

Haubert : longue cotte de mailles
Pertuisane : lance
Pavois : grands boucliers
Le cartel : défi entre chevaliers

Heraldry : champ de sable
Leisure and entertainment : cornes (pour boissons), ménestrels, marotte
Hunting : veneur, limier
Clothing : simarre, houppelande, bougran
Money : besants, shekel, sequins, nobles, marcs d’argent
Castles : poterne, barbacane, redoute
Food : stout
Transport : litière, palefrois

23The reference texts give haubert, champ de sable, and barbacane as comparative examples (Reference Texts n° 8, 9, 10). Translators and editors make different decisions: some seem to think the term by itself is sufficient even if the context doesn’t make the exact sense clear, others seem to think the term is understandable in context, and yet others that an additional explanation, a footnote or glossary entry, are required. For barbacane, as in the case of franklin earlier, Scott’s in-text explanation, outwork, is not taken up in Hachette Jeunesse, and a footnote is preferred. This may be due to the desire to produce a fast pace and a lean text for the body of the text, thus limiting in-text explanations. In young children’s books the technical term may be replaced by a simple more generic term, for example gate instead of barbican (Dover).

24Our final footnote category to be discussed is most interesting. Here the Hachette Jeunesse editor makes use of the footnote mode to point out Scott’s errors. Scott’s work actually contains various errors of historical detail, quite often anachronisms or factual errors. It should be noted that in the early 19th century, knowledge of the medieval period was slight, even among the well-educated. What the Hachette Jeunesse version does in two instances is to translate faithfully the sense of Scott’s text in the body of the French text, then point out the historical error in a footnote, as follows:

C’était le dernier rejeton* du saint roi confesseur.

Note : * Fils. Allusion à Édouard le Confesseur, roi d’Angleterre, qui d’ailleurs n’eut jamais d’enfant ! (HJ : 158)

Je vois briller quelque chose qui m’a tout l’air d’un morion.*

Note : * Casque des Espagnols… au xvie siècle ! (HJ: 205)

25None of the other versions signals Scott’s errors outright, which the Hachette Jeunesse version does through exclamation marks, as well as the footnote explanation (Reference Texts n° 11 and 12). The Penguin Scott quietly gives the facts about Edward the Confessor, but makes no particular comment on morrion. Other children’s versions avoid the problem by using generic terms, un casque (École des loisirs) and helmet (Dover).

26The correcting of Scott shows that the Hachette Jeunesse editor has a concern for historical accuracy; this contrasts with the earlier Bibliothèque verte edition which uses the same adaptation by Armand Rio without corrective footnotes. Hachette Jeunesse displays again its didactic aim: the adaptation of the novel is not just for the purposes of leisure and entertainment, but should also extend children’s vocabulary and their knowledge of life in medieval times. Unlike some other adaptations, Hachette Jeunesse retains and explains terms which relate to historical practices and specificities. This French adaptation acts as a means of passing on memory to young people, not only memory of this iconic novel and its famous characters, thus contributing to the on-going series of multiple remediations, but also memory of life in a time long past. It is the numerous footnotes adding non-fictional elements which play an important role here.

Modifications due to cultural memory

27Rather than additions, what is much more expected from an abridged version of a novel is omissions, since the primary objective of an abridged novel is to reduce the size of the original text. Scott’s Ivanhoe is a long novel as is typical of the 19th century. In the modern Penguin edition it comprises 401 closely printed pages. The Hachette Jeunesse edition of Ivanhoé totals 250 small pages with fairly large print.

28When thinking about what might be chosen for omission or reduction, it is likely that passages which don’t contribute to advancing the plot might be omitted or condensed. Further to this, I would like to argue here that, whether consciously motivated or not, some omissions in the Hachette Jeunesse text as well as modifications can be related to differences in national cultural memory. The adaptation downplays two themes which are very important in British cultural memory: the myth of the Norman yoke, and the question of reconciliation of races. The text also downplays a theme which does not accord with French cultural memory: a negative view of the Normans and the French.

29We shall first consider the myth of the Norman yoke. Used figuratively, the word yoke refers to something regarded as repressive or restrictive. Yoke was first applied to the Norman Conquest by medieval chroniclers. Mythologization of significant historical events is a characteristic of cultural memory. There are many definitions and ways of analyzing myths. What is adopted as the definition of “myth” here is the following: a wide-spread lasting belief which historians consensually would not consider entirely accurate. At the core of the myth of the Norman yoke is a highly negative attitude towards the Norman conquerors as oppressors. As early as the 13th and 14th centuries, English verse chronicles expressed the idea that the Normans had enslaved and impoverished the English with lasting effect. This can be considered historically inaccurate because despite the initial violence and harshness of the invaders, the Normans brought some benefits to England and its people. In the 16th and 17th centuries a strand of the myth developed in which the Normans are said to have put an end to an Anglo-Saxon golden age. In the 16th century English church reformers promoted the falsehood that prior to the Normans the ancient English church was free from Roman Catholic dominance. Further elements were added to the myth by political reformers in the 17th and 18th centuries who promoted the idea that the Normans had imposed a new tyrannical system of law and property, the feudal system. In the 19th century, the myth of the Norman yoke no longer had much political weight, but a racialized version of Normans versus Saxons was taken up dramatically by novelists (Scott, Bulwer-Lytton, and Kingsley) and historians (Thierry, Taine, and Freeman). It was Scott who led the way with his novel Ivanhoe in which he contributes a further aspect to the myth: the notion that the Anglo-Saxon common people continued to struggle against the tyrannical Norman military aristocracy for a number of generations. In the 20th and 21st centuries the myth is still present, perhaps most strongly in the numerous film and television versions of Robin Hood in which Robin defends the poor Saxons against the cruel Norman sheriff of Nottingham (Brownlie, in preparation).

30Very rapidly I have given some idea of the complex configuration of a myth, a multiple memorial construction of the Norman Conquest, developing over a period of nine centuries. The fact that the myth keeps coming back in transformed ways demonstrates its centrality to British cultural memory. Walter Scott’s book Ivanhoe contributed one link in the chain of the myth, in the memorial chain of inextricable non-fictionality and fictionality. The reason why “Normans versus Saxons” is a foundational theme in British cultural memory is that it is part of British identity (Worth, 1995), so naturally when we consider the French system and cultural memory, the myth of the Norman yoke and the novel Ivanhoe just do not play the same role.

31The central theme of long-lasting ethnic enmity is stated right at the start of Scott’s Ivanhoe as follows:

A circumstance which greatly tended to enhance the tyranny of the nobility, and the sufferings of the inferior classes, arose from the consequences of the Conquest by Duke William of Normandy. Four generations had not sufficed to blend the hostile blood of the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons, or to unite, by common language and mutual interests, two hostile races… (Scott, 1895 [1819]: I, 5)

32In the Hachette Jeunesse version this is what is said:

Depuis la conquête de l’Angleterre par Guillaume, quatre générations n’avaient pas suffi pour brasser le sang des vainqueurs avec celui des vaincus, ni pour fondre par la communauté de la langue et des intérêts deux races ennemies… (HJ: 7)

  • 5 For fuller passages, see Reference Texts n° 13.

33This is in the second paragraph of the book5 and no prior information is given about these issues. The vagueness of the text with no specific mention of who Guillaume is, and no specific mention of who the two enemy races are, is noticeable. The start of the French adaptation sets the tone for the rest of the book: there is less precision, interest and emphasis on the ethnic conflict in comparison with Scott’s text.

34In the Reference Texts n° 13 the other adaptations, Bibliothèque verte, École des loisirs and Dover, all do a better job of setting up the ethnic opposition than Hachette Jeunesse. It is noticeable that the normally sketchy and highly abridged English Dover adaptation is careful in explaining the ethnic situation, albeit briefly; this is no doubt due to the importance of this in not only British but English-speaking memory (the Dover text is published in the USA and Canada, as well as Britain).

35To return to the Hachette Jeunesse text, de-emphasizing the ethnic division is the result of omissions. There is omission of a number of comments and complaints by the narrator or by Saxon characters about the current disinherited status of the Saxons and the ill behaviour of the Normans. An entire chapter (vol I, chap. 22 in Scott, 1895 [1819]) which shows most directly the potential cruelty of Norman characters is omitted in the Hachette Jeunesse edition. In this chapter Front de Boeuf is about to torture Isaac over red-hot iron bars in order to exact money from him. Some dialogues in Scott’s original which contain spirited rhetorical exchanges, giving insight into ethnic relations, are omitted and replaced by a brief descriptive summary in the Hachette Jeunesse text. Such dialogues are very striking and memorable in the original text. Here is an example. In the Hachette Jeunesse text we find the sentences:

Ces Normands d’enfer nous volent tout. Ils ne nous laissent que l’air que nous respirons. (HJ: 10)

36This replaces a lengthy conversation between the Saxons, swineherd Gurth and jester Wamba, which links language and ethnic / class differences, as follows:

“Why, how call you those grunting brutes running about on their four legs?” demanded Wamba.
“Swine, fool, swine,” said the herd, “every fool knows that.”
“And swine is good Saxon,” said the Jester; “but how call you the sow when she is flayed, and drawn, and quartered, and hung up by the heels, like a traitor?”
“Pork,” answered the swine-heard.
“I am very glad every fool knows that too,” said Wamba, “and pork, I think, is good Norman-French; and so when the brute lives, and is in the charge of a Saxon slave, she goes by her Saxon name; but becomes a Norman, and is called pork, when she is carried to the Castle-hall to feast among the nobles; what dost thou think of this, friend Gurth, ha?”
“It is but too true doctrine, friend Wamba, however it got into thy fool’s pate.”
“Nay, I can tell you more,” said Wamba, in the same tone; “there is old Alderman Ox continues to hold his Saxon epithet, while he is under the charge of serfs and bondsmen such as thou, but becomes Beef, a fiery French gallant, when he arrives before the worshipful jaws that are destined to consume him. Mynheer Calf, too, becomes Monsieur de Veau in the like manner; he is Saxon when he requires tendance, and takes a Norman name when he becomes matter of enjoyment.”
“By St Dunstan,” answered Gurth, “thou speakest but sad truths; little is left to us but the air we breathe, and that appears to have been reserved with much hesitation, solely for the purpose of enabling us to endure the tasks they lay upon our shoulders. The finest and the fattest is for their board; the loveliest is for their couch; the best and bravest supply their foreign masters with soldiers, and whiten distant lands with their bones, leaving few here who have either will or the power to protect the unfortunate Saxon.” (Scott, 1895 [1819]: I, 13)

37With regard to other adaptations, the École des loisirs text contains a small part of this dialogue about swine / pork, and the passage is omitted from the Bibliothèque verte and Dover editions.

38In Scott’s work, the ethnic conflict, the Saxons’ angry or sad feelings about their depressed status, and pro-Saxonism are often elaborated in riddles, oaths, poems and songs. These items do not advance the story but add greatly to its atmosphere and emotion; they are omitted from the Hachette Jeunesse adaptation, as they are from other adaptations. Here is one of Wamba’s poems which is omitted (see Reference Texts n° 14):

Norman saw on English oak,
On English neck a Norman yoke;
Norman spoon in English dish,
And England ruled as Normans wish;
Blithe world to England never will be more,
Till England’s rid of all the four. (Scott, 1895 [1819]: II, 62)

39Even if adaptations must by nature involve omissions and may always tend to omit rhetorical items, there is still a choice of what is omitted and what is retained or reproduced in a simplified manner. In contrast to the Hachette Jeunesse version, the English Dover adaptation clearly maintains the ethnic division. This is done by using simple language such as repeated recourse to the terms Norman and Saxon to describe characters and events. Each side also plainly shows its opinion of the other with such phrases as Saxon dog! and Norman devil!

  • 6 Lukacs (1965: 32) points out that proposing “le juste milieu” in a reconciliation of extremes or ad (...)

40“Norman oppressors—Saxon oppressed” does not represent the whole story of the construction of the ethnic relation in the 19th century. Glorifying the Saxon king Alfred and associating him with Queen Victoria led to the movement of Saxonism, promoting the Anglo-Saxons as superior (Simmons, 1990). A third path was also depicted in the 19th century: reconciliation (Briggs, 1985). And this is the path shown by Scott at the end of Ivanhoe. His Normans and Saxons are reconciled and Scott promotes the notion of a strong and resilient English (and British) people being forged through this union6.

41Given the insistent Normans versus Saxons theme throughout Ivanhoe, this ending might come as a surprise to the reader, but there are in fact signs of complexity in the body of the work. This concerns chiefly the activities of the initially disguised King Richard who, at the end of the novel, is the major agent of reconciliation. Although supposedly on the “Norman” side, Richard is depicted as aiding and hobnobbing with the Saxons, the most remarkable episode of which is his forest meal with Robin Hood. Richard’s adventures in Ivanhoe may be pure romance, but they play an important role in the novel as a symbol of reconciliation in the country. Omissions in the Hachette Jeunesse version of Ivanhoé of details of Richard’s encounters and empathy with the Saxons, such as with Friar Tuck and Robin Hood, lead to the disappearance of preparatory signs of reconciliation, which is an important theme in the novel. The longer Bibliothèque verte adaptation contains some details of Richard’s spending time with Saxon friends; the École des loisirs version omits such references; and the English Dover adaptation contains the convivial scene where Richard shares a meal with Robin Hood. The retention of this scene in the short Dover adaptation signals the importance of the reconciliation theme for an English-speaking audience.

42Downplaying themes in the Hachette Jeunesse adaptation which are important for British memory and identity may occur because they do not have the same significance in the French environment. It could be considered that a further exemplification of the importance of differences in national memory is the omission in the Hachette Jeunesse adaptation of instances found in Scott’s text of the association of Norman conquerors with the French and French language in a negative light. In contrast to Hachette Jeunesse and other French adaptations, if we look at the English Dover adaptation, on the very first page there is no hesitation in creating a negative link between French and Normans: “the hard rule of the French-speaking Normans” (Scott, 1999: 1).

43In Scott’s original novel there are epigraphs at the start of each chapter. Chapter 8 Volume 2 (Scott, 1895 [1819]) features the attack by Locksley and his Saxon yeomen on the Norman castle of Torquilstone in order to free several Saxon characters who are unjustly imprisoned. The epigraph for this chapter is the beginning of a famous speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
---------------- And you, good yeomen,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture—let us swear
That you are worth your breeding. (King Henry V, III, sc. 1)

44The epigraph suggests a parallel between the Saxons attacking the Norman castle in Scott’s tale, and the English attacking the French in the besieged town of Harfleur, an historical event which took place during the Hundred Years War in 1415. Over the centuries there are numerous instances when the British bring up the Norman Conquest at stressful moments in Franco-British relations. In British cultural memory the Conquest tends to be associated negatively with the French of later historical periods. Naturally, French cultural memory is quite different on this point, and thus it is not surprising that a reference like Henry V’s speech is omitted in an abridged French version of the novel. This factor reinforces the general tendency to omit epigraphs in abridged versions (see Reference Texts n° 15).

45In my examination of aspects of the Hachette Jeunesse version of Ivanhoé, I have suggested that memory can be an important force in the accomplishment of translations and adaptations. The addition of footnotes and therefore the increase of the non-fictional component in the Hachette Jeunesse text revealed the desire to pass on to young people the memory of life in a distant time period as well as of the classic text itself. It is primarily through the explanation of specialized vocabulary that information about the past is transmitted in the footnotes. Translations and adaptations are an important means of creating transcultural memory, shared knowledge of the past and of cultural items. And yet concurrently different groups such as nations construct their identity as specific through their own cultural memory, and their cultural products such as literary works are embedded in this memorial specificity. A translation may well be affected by the fact that it is being produced in a different environment from the original text for readers in that new environment with its own and different national cultural memory. It is always difficult to pinpoint causes for transformations which take place through translation and adaptation, but issues of memory must certainly be taken into consideration as potential contributing factors. For Lefevere (1992), there are two constraints responsible for textual transformation in the process of rewriting: ideology and poetics. Perhaps a broader theory than Lefevere’s could be elaborated using the concepts of cultural memory and remediation, which would allow not only texts but other cultural products participating in re-iteration to be studied, and would encompass not only the memory of iconic texts and other cultural products but also the memory of past events, people and times.

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Versions of Ivanhoe

Scott, Walter, 1895 [1819], Ivanhoe, vol. I and II, London, Archibald Constable.

—, 1839, Ivanhoé, tr. Jean-Baptiste Defauconpret, Paris, Furne, Jouvet et Cie – Garnier Frères.

—, 1952, Ivanhoé, adapt. Armand Rio, Paris, Hachette, Bibliothèque verte.

—, 1990, Ivanhoé, adapt. Pierre Louisy, Paris, Les classiques abrégés de l’École des loisirs.

—, 1999, Ivanhoe, adapt. Bob Blaisdell, New York, Toronto, London, Dover Publications Ltd.

—, 2000, Ivanhoe, ed. Graham Tulloch, London etc., Penguin.

—, 2009, Ivanhoé, adapt. Armand Rio, Paris, Hachette Jeunesse.

Works cited

Arnold, John H., 2000, History: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Briggs, Asa, 1985, “Saxons, Normans and Victorians”, in The Collected Essays of Asa Briggs, vol II, Brighton, Sussex, Harvester Press, p. 215-235.

Brownlie, Siobhan, (in preparation), Memory and Myths of the Norman Conquest.

Erll, Astrid, 2010a [2008], “Cultural Memory Studies: An Introduction”, in Erll, Astrid and Nünning, Ansgar (eds), A Companion to Cultural Memory Studies, Berlin & New York, Walter de Gruyter, p. 1-15.

Erll, Astrid, 2010b [2008], “Literature, Film and the Mediality of Cultural Memory”, in Erll, Astrid and Nünning, Ansgar (eds), A Companion to Cultural Memory Studies, Berlin & New York, Walter de Gruyter, p. 389-398.

Halbwachs, Maurice, 1975 [1925], Les Cadres sociaux de la mémoire, Paris & La Haye, Mouton.

Lefevere, André, 1992, Translation, Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literary Fame, London & New York, Routledge.

Lukacs, Georges, 1965, Le Roman historique, Paris, Payot.

Morillo, John and Newhouse, Wade, 2000, “History, Romance and the Sublime Sound of Truth in Ivanhoe”, Studies in the Novel 32(3), p. 267-295.

Pittock, Murray (ed.), 2006, The Reception of Sir Walter Scott in Europe, London, Continuum.

Simmons, Clare A., 1990, Reversing the Conquest: History and Myth in 19th Century British Literature, New Brunswick & London, Rutgers University Press.

Thomas, Hugh M., 2003, The English and the Normans: Ethnic Hostility, Assimilation, and Identity 1066-c.1220, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Tulloch, Graham, 2000, “Introduction” in Ivanhoe, London etc., Penguin.

White, Hayden, 1973, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe, Baltimore, Maryland, John Hopkins University Press.

Worth, Chris, 1995, “Ivanhoe and the Making of Britain”, Links and Letters 2, p. 63-76.

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Document annexe

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1 Some important works in the field of Memory Studies are: Nora, P., 1984, Les Lieux de mémoire, Paris, Gallimard; Assmann, J., 1992, Das kulturelle Gedächtnis: Schrift, Erinnerung und politische Identität in frühen Hochkulturen, Munich, Beck; Hobsbawm, E. and Ranger, T. (eds), 1986, The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press; Levy, D. and Sznaider, N., 2006, The Holocaust and Memory in the Global Age, Philadelphia, Temple University Press; Rothberg, M., 2009, Multidirectional Memory, Stanford, Stanford University Press; and Erll, A. and Rigney, A. (eds), 2009, Mediation, Remediation and the Dynamics of Cultural Memory, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter.

2 Lefevere (1992: 4-5) gives the following as examples of rewriting: editing and anthologization of texts, compilation of literary histories and reference works, critical articles, biographies, book reviews, and translation. Rewriting is an important activity because it creates images of a foreign author, a work, a genre, or even a whole literature in the target culture.

3 Le Petit Robert labels reliefs as an archaism in this usage of the term.

4 The Hachette Jeunesse edition is abbreviated as HJ.

5 For fuller passages, see Reference Texts n° 13.

6 Lukacs (1965: 32) points out that proposing “le juste milieu” in a reconciliation of extremes or adversaries is also a tendency in Scott’s other novels.

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Référence papier

Siobhan Brownlie, « History, Memory and Translation: The Case of Hachette Jeunesse’s Ivanhoé », Palimpsestes, 24 | 2011, 23-40.

Référence électronique

Siobhan Brownlie, « History, Memory and Translation: The Case of Hachette Jeunesse’s Ivanhoé », Palimpsestes [En ligne], 24 | 2011, mis en ligne le 15 octobre 2013, consulté le 25 mai 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/palimpsestes.832

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Siobhan Brownlie

Siobhan Brownlie est maître de conférences en traduction et traductologie à l’université de Manchester. Elle est responsable du secteur traduction littéraire pour le master de traduction et d’interprétariat. Elle a publié de nombreux articles sur la théorie et la méthodologie de la traduction ainsi que sur la traduction du français vers l’anglais des romans des xixe et xxe siècles. Elle s’intéresse également à la mémoire et travaille actuellement sur une monographie intitulée Memory and Myths of the Norman Conquest.

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