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“Jetzt bist du in Deutschland, Däumling.”Nils Holgersson on Foreign Soil – Subject to New Norms

  • Isabelle Desmidt

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An introductory Tale: The introduction of Nils Holgersson in Germany

The German words in the title are taken from the first German version of Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige (Nils Holgersson’s wonderful journey throughout Sweden, Selma Lagerlöf, 1906-1907), the Swedish children’s book that tells the story of the fourteen-year-old Nils Holgersson, who, transformed into a gnome and accompanied by a domesticated goose, joins a flock of wild geese on their journey through Sweden. In the first German version of the book, i.e., the first edition of Pauline Klaiber’s translation (1907-1908; 3 volumes), Nils Holgersson’s nightly excursion with the stork Ermenrich on Easter Saturday is said to end in Pommern, Northern Germany. [1] In the Swedish original, however, this is not the case. Sir Ermenrich takes Nils Holgersson to a remote beach, but it is never said where the beach is situated. To be sure, in the chapter concerned the mythical city Vineta, which is often linked to Pommern, [2] rises up from the sea. Yet in the Swedish original neither Germany nor Pommern is explicitly mentioned; Vineta might just as well appear on the Swedish side of the Baltic. This change of scene, which in accordance with Göte Klingberg’s terminology could be called localization, illustrates how the intended reading public may influence the translation process, for localization reflects the wish “to pay regard to the understanding and interest of the intended readers” (Klingberg 1986: 14). Most likely, Vineta’s exact location was named explicitly to oblige the German reading public with a visit of Nils to their own country.

Clearly, taking into account the target text readers may lead to different kinds of changes. In the first German version, Nils Holgersson’s journey was not only made more appealing to the German readers, but also less frightening. Several passages in which Nils is said to be afraid of the dark, were deleted. [3] Consideration was even given to the target text buyers, the parents, as also Nils Holgersson’s insolent behaviour and thoughts at the beginning of the journey were moderated. Nils does not enjoy being away from (his chores at) home as much as in the Swedish original, [4] he does not object to the leading goose Akka when she asks him for help, but is “proud” instead, [5] nor does he help the other animals to show off, but understands their suffering. [6] Apparently, the translator and/or editor feared that these originally brazen thoughts and actions would stop adults from buying the book. They ascribed another pedagogic view to the German culture than the one the Swedish culture displayed in the original. Whereas Nils in the Swedish original is allowed to express his inner feelings, to be brutal as well as afraid, in the German translation Nils is exposed to a more traditional pedagogic view, which demands obedience and politesse. The most striking example in this regard can be found in chapter seven, in which Nils is reminded of one of the geography lessons at school. In the Swedish original Nils remembers the subject matter of that particular lesson because the teacher told such a nice story, whereas the German text comes up with a hard-handed teacher, who threatens to beat the children up if they do not listen carefully. [7]

Finally, also the addition of a new paragraph in chapter eighteen, in which the geese and Nils fly over some of the interesting sights of the region, can be seen as an adaptation towards the target culture. In the German text one more sight is added: the statue of Viktor Rydberg in Jönköping, the Swedish poet who might be seen as an exponent of the German ‘myth’ of Sweden at that time. As Mette Rudvin pointed out, myths, i.e., stereotypical images of a country, have a great influence on translation; they influence the choice of texts that will be translated (mostly texts that are in keeping with the myth and by which the myth consequently is consolidated) as well as the way in which they are translated. Rudvin has inquired into the myth of Norway as it is held in the English-speaking world and found that this myth, according to which Norway is the land of nature, has led to the addition of descriptions of nature in the translation of Norwegian children’s literature into English. The addition of the paragraph on Viktor Rydberg in the first German version of Nils Holgersson can be read in a similar way. The addition can be seen as an influence of the German myth of Sweden, according to which Sweden, apparently, was the land of folk literature. Rydberg was a folk poet indeed and a researcher of German mythology. [8] Furthermore, he made a “brilliant” translation of Goethe’s Faust and was even as such very well known in Germany. [9] He could, obviously, not be left unmentioned in the German version of Nils Holgersson.

A variety of norms

Receivers (readers and buyers) can be seen as one of the norms that determine the translation process of a target text. This category can be considered as falling within Andrew Chesterman’s accountability norm for instance, a norm that requires the translator to “act in such a way that the demands of loyalty are appropriately met with regard to the original writer, the commissioner of the translation, the translator himself or herself, the prospective readership and any other relevant parties” [10].

As the accountability norm shows, receivers are not the only parties involved in the communication process. When analysing translations and trying to explain why the source text has been treated this or that way, many more norms come into the picture. Next to the accountability norm, Chesterman does indeed distinguish other norms, namely the communication norm, according to which translators try to “optimize communication” [11] and the relation norm, which requires “an appropriate relation of relevant similarity” [12] between source text and target text. And apart from these three sets of norms, which are subsumed under the so-called professional norms, Chesterman also discerns expectancy norms, i.e., the expectations of the target language readership “concerning what a translation (of this type) should be like” [13]. Gideon Toury’s norm typology even calls attention to the norms that precede the translation act, the so-called preliminary norms. These norms have to do with translation policy and determine the texts to be translated and the language to translate from (whether the translation will be direct or indirect, i.e., through an intermediate language/translation). [14] Because they influence the choice of texts to be translated, myths therefore can be said to function as preliminary norms.

Since the cultural turn in Translation Studies, norms have increasingly become an object of study [15] and several norm typologies have been suggested. [16] Nowadays it is generally agreed that translations are (part of) a complex social activity and are constrained by different kinds of norms. If one wants to see the entire picture, contextualization is called for. In this regard, the translation of children’s literature is a rewarding field of study. Norms play a role in every translation process, as well as in (re)writing in general, but are of particularly current interest in children’s literature. For as Shavit puts it “more than any other literary system,” children’s literature “results from a conglomerate of relationships between several systems in culture” (Shavit 1994: 4), such as literature, education, pedagogy as well as economics, and each of these systems imposes its own constraints (norms) on the text. To meet all of these norms is not easy, as some of them might collide. One can indeed wonder if it is possible to combine the literary (artistic) and the economic (artistic and reasonably priced illustrations) or if a style can be both literary and adapted to the cognitive development of the child.

As for the translation of children’s literature, the situation is even more complex, given that two conglomerates of systems come together. The translator should not only take into account his/her own norm system, i.e., the norm system of the receiving culture, but also the norm system that is displayed in the source text. If these source text norms differ from the target culture norms, the translator is faced with the question whether s/he will give priority to the norms of the source text or to the norms of the target culture. What then will the appropriate relation of relevant similarity between source text and target text (cf. Chesterman’s relation norm) look like?

Research has shown that the translation of children’s literature tends to prioritise the norms of the target culture. Following Denise Von Stockar’s terminology, one can say that translators of children’s literature tend to strive for conculturality (the other culture is brought closer to one’s own culture), whereas the translation of adult literature is characterised by a far-reaching disculturality. [17] The same tendency was in fact revealed in my study of 52 German editions of Nils Holgersson, covering all the new and/or revised editions that were published between 1906-1907 (publication of the Swedish original) and the year 2000 (up to and including December 1999). [18] Of all the norms that were found to have influenced the translation process, in general ‘allegiance to the Swedish original’ did not gain the upper hand.

In what follows I will go into some of the results of my research so as to further discuss and illustrate the way in which and the extent to which translation of children’s literature is (or can be) subject to norms. The norms I will deal with are:

  1. Preliminary norms: directness of translating (directly from Swedish or through another language/version?).

  2. Literary and educational norms: is priority given to literary entertainment or to the educational aspect of the book?

  3. Pedagogical norms: taking into account the young reading public (e.g., through shorter versions, by retelling the story).

  4. Business norms: translation and publication as ‘business’ (e.g., economical considerations, copyright).

The first norm set is called ‘preliminary’ in keeping with Toury’s terminology and likewise involves the same question of (in)directness. The other labels are my own. As Translation Studies has no generally accepted or commonly used norm terminology and classification (yet), I wish to present my research following my own classification. What really matters is that the factors are clear to the reader, regardless of terminology or classification.

Preliminary norms

If one wants to study a translation in relation with the original, it is important to know the source text that was used, for the ‘source text’ does not necessarily coincide with the ‘original.’ As Toury puts it:

Being a text in its own right, a translation can easily function as a proper source text in spite of its derived nature, and it is this text that should be compared to the target one which is found to have proceeded from it.

Toury 1995: 75

Thus a translation may be indirect and stem from an intermediate translation. This was found to be the case for the translation of Nils Holgersson into German by Mathilde Mann, who did not translate from the Swedish original but from the Danish translation by Ida Falbe-Hansen. To be sure, in the so-called ‘preliminary data’ (i.e., cover, title page, colophon; see Lambert & Van Gorp 1985: 52) neither the source text nor the source text language is mentioned. In the first edition of Mann’s translation, published in 1916, as well as in the reviewed (extended) second edition, published in 1919, one can only find a reference to Mann as the German translator (“Deutsch von Mathilde Mann”). In the third edition from 1931, in which still another selection of Mann’s translation is offered, one can even read that the text was translated from Swedish (the colophon now states: “Aus dem Schwedischen übersetzt”). But this information is incorrect. Mann had lived in Copenhagen for several years and both spoke and wrote Danish far more fluently than Swedish. Her letters to Lagerlöf were exclusively in Danish and she is alleged to have admitted to Lagerlöf that she translated from Danish. These facts, in combination with striking similarities between Mann’s and Ida Falbe-Hansen’s text, made Kerstin Weniger conclude that Falbe-Hansen’s translation of Gösta Berlings saga in all probability was the source text for Mann’s translation. [19] And the same conclusion can be drawn with regard to Mann’s translation of Nils Holgersson. Mann’s translation, just like Falbe-Hansen’s, does not include the chapter on “The giant butterfly” [20]; both texts talk about “Niels Holgersen” (instead of “Nils Holgersson”), the goose girl “Aase” (“Åsa”), her brother “Mads” (“Mats”) and the stork “Sir Longleg” (“Hr. Langeben” and “Herr Langbein” respectively instead of “Herr Ermenrich”); the titles are very much alike (apart from the Danish word “lille,” i.e., “little”: Lille Niels Holgersens vidunderlige rejse med vildgaesseneNiels Holgersens wunderbare Reise mit den Wildgänsen) and so are many minor constructions and formulations in the text (for some examples, see the table below; by way of comparison Pauline Klaiber’s translation is also rendered). These similarities can hardly be purely accidental.

Mann’s translation was not the only indirect version in the corpus. In fact, indirectness turned out to be the rule rather than the exception, for it was found that only five of the 52 versions proceeded directly from the original Swedish text. The other versions stem from an intermediate version, which in most cases turned out to be an already existing translation in the same target language. Mann’s translation, for instance, was re-edited in 1931 (with another selection of chapters than in 1916 and 1919), in 1960 (same selection as the 1931 edition, but published by another publisher and thus ‘a new edition’ on the German book market and part of the corpus) and in 1983 (same story as the 1960 edition) [21], and Pauline Klaiber’s translation was the source text for no less than 29 other new and/or revised German versions of Nils Holgersson. Thus, a translation cannot only function as the source text for another interlingual translation, but also as the source text for what could be called ‘intralingual rewriting,’ rewriting within the same language. This rewriting can be a matter of ‘copying,’ i.e., re-editing without any changes, as well as of ‘adapting,’ i.e., revising. This adapting in its turn can take different forms. Whereas the first edition of Klaiber’s translation in one volume from 1909 has 504 pages, the ‘Klaiber version’ edited by Reclam in 1951, for instance, has 95 pages, the Klaiber version that was published by Deutscher-Taschenbuch-Verlag in 1961 has 217 pages and the Klaiber version that is part of Lagerlöf’s collected works as edited by Nymphenburger Verlagshandlung in 1980 and 1998, has 367 pages. [22] ‘Rewriting,’ be it interlingual or intralingual, can therefore be seen as a prototype category, ranging on a cline between prototypical ‘copying’ (for interlingual rewriting one could hold on to the word ‘translation’) to prototypical ‘adapting.’ [23] One version can be closer to the pole of ‘copy’/’translation,’ another version can be closer to the pole of ‘adaptation’; the difference between copy/translation on the one hand and adaptation on the other is not absolute; it is a difference of degree.

Other versions in the corpus were translated from a Swedish rewriting (adaptation) of the original and still others were based on a Japanese-German television serial (and can be said to be ‘intersemiotic’ rewritings). In any case, directness was not the rule, and one can wonder why. Most likely, this has to do with the other norms that come into the picture when translating/rewriting, particularly the business norms. I will come back to this later, when I deal with these business norms.

Table 1

Some similarities between Fable-Hansen’s and Mann’s translation

(in comparison to the Swedish original and Klaiber’s translation)

Some similarities between Fable-Hansen’s and Mann’s translation(in comparison to the Swedish original and Klaiber’s translation)

-> See the list of tables

Literary and educational norms

To issue a German version of Nils Holgersson, one does not only have to decide whether or not the version will be direct or indirect (preliminary norms), but also to what extent one will remain true to the obvious educational bias of the original. Nils Holgersson was written in order to provide the first year in primary school, i.e., the nine-year-olds, with a new textbook on national geography and consequently incorporates a large amount of geographical subject matter. The book informs pupils about a wide variety of topics, ranging from the fauna and flora in the various regions of Sweden to the country’s professional and folk traditions. True, Lagerlöf, who was asked to write the book, did not merely provide a textbook. [24] Besides views of reality and knowledge, she also included moral education and literary fantasy and amusement, offering the reading public a geographical textbook, a travel book full of suspense as well as a ‘Bildungsroman’ (finally, when he returns in the autumn, Nils has even changed morally) all at the same time. But in spite of all the exciting adventures, the book is padded out with geographical facts, facts that can be expected to lead to changes during the translation/rewriting process, because they may be considered of less (no?) interest to non-Swedish readers. The geographical subject matter is indeed ‘pure’ Swedish; it is the ‘robinsonade,’ characterized by a combination of travel story and Bildungsroman, that is an international and popular genre. [25]

The German versions in the corpus have corroborated this expectation. All 52 versions appear to delete sections of the Swedish original and the majority of these deletions do indeed concern the geographical aspect of the book. The chapters that have been left out the most, for instance, are chapters in which Nils does not play an active role. He is a passive observer/listener of an event/story with which Lagerlöf primarily wanted to impart geographical facts to the Swedish readers. One of these chapters is “The five messengers.” [26] In this chapter, Nils flies over the region of Västerbotten and Lapland and is reminded of a story he once (over)heard. Five birds were sent to the region of Västerbotten and Lapland to see whether it would be a suitable habitat for their species. The first bird was out to find forests, the second bird looked for plains, the third one had to find sea, the fourth one was looking for inland seas and the last one for mountains. When they returned, each of them was burning with enthusiasm because they had found what they had been looking for. At first, dissension arose between them, as they all were convinced that only one of them could be right. But then, they understood that everyone was telling the truth and that they were dealing with a very rich and varied region.

Lagerlöf included several such stories to explain what a region looked like or how a region came into being, and many of them can be found in the ‘top ten’ list, as it were, of deleted chapters. This is also the case for chapters such as “The tale of Myr-Kersti” and “In Medelpad” (in which the region is described) as well as “The legend of Uppland,” “The stairs with three steps” and “The legend of Västergötland” (in which the origin of the region is explained). [27] All these chapters have been left out completely in the above-mentioned Reclam and DTV version, for instance. Such chapters include many geographical facts, which apparently were found to be redundant or irrelevant for the new reading public. On the German book market, Nils Holgersson did not (primarily) need to function as a textbook, but as literary entertainment. Literary norms were given priority over educational norms.

Pedagogical norms

The numerous deletions of typically geographical passages cannot only be attributed to considerations of (assumed) irrelevance for the German reading public, but also to (assumed) inappropriateness because of the level of difficulty. The original text may also have been considered too difficult for the new reading public: too many geographical facts, too long and/or a style that was not suitable for children.

The German versions of Nils Holgersson, especially those that were published after 1960/1970, show an interest for the cognitive and emotional development of the child. Innovative psychological and pedagogic insights that were gained in the period between the two world wars by researches such as Piaget and Bühler, were put into practice then. [28] Earlier versions of Nils Holgersson, such as Reclam and DTV, had – apart from the deletion of larger passages and/or entire chapters – tried to maintain Lagerlöf’s original style. From the sixties and seventies on, however, one can find versions that rephrase or even retell (parts of) the original text. This is the case, for instance, with the beginner’s reader by Monika Trittibach-Andres (Elk-Verlag, 1985), which combines reading text with blanks exercises, and in her direct translation for the publishing house Dressler (1991) Angelika Kutsch not only deleted larger text parts, but also many minor words and phrases, thus giving rise to a style that is more condensed and easier to read. Indeed “readability,” as Myriam Du-Nour puts it, had become “a central issue” (Du-Nour 1995: 327). Deletions, she argues, “had to do mostly with the assumed reading ability of children” (Du-Nour 1995: 338).

Not coincidentally, the Nils Holgersson picture books were also published after 1960/1970. These books too have a more simplified style, and in addition they take into consideration the young reader’s cognitive and emotional development by including numerous pictures that both amuse and facilitate reading. Two of the German picture books were found to go back to a Swedish picture book: the first German Nils Holgersson picture book, published in 1962 and illustrated with black-and-white pictures from the Swedish movie, and a later one from 1989, colourfully illustrated by the Swede Lars Klinting (see the pictures below).

It should be stressed that the influence of pedagogical norms is especially prominent in, but not restricted to post-war publications. Some of the changes that were found in the first German Nils Holgersson from 1907-1908, such as the deletion of brutal and frightening passages (see introductory tale), can indeed be seen as a sign of the influence of pedagogical norms too. They have nothing to do with readability, but are also exponents of the target culture’s pedagogy. The source text was adapted to fit the target culture’s view on what is (not) appropriate for children and children’s literature.

Two German picture books, stemming from a Swedish source

-> See the list of figures

-> See the list of figures

Business norms

In the eighties several picture books were published in the wake of the Japanese-German television serial. [29] The publication of these picture books cannot only be seen as evidence of the influence of pedagogical norms on the translation/rewriting process, but also as evidence of the influence of business norms. As the television serial was very successful, the publication of new versions of Nils Holgersson was considered opportune. Nils Holgersson was expected to sell well and many new versions were brought onto the market. This wave of publications not only included picture books, but also re-editions (rewritings) of already existing translations – on the cover of the 1983-edition of Mann’s translation there is even an explicit reference to the serial and its popularity [30] – magazines, LP versions, cassettes and videos. Publishing is unmistakably a business. Publishing houses may have good intentions with regard to promoting good literature, but they are also – and above all – out to make a profit and to keep the company going. [31]

The business factor ‘profit’ has also played its part in the dominance of indirect versions in the corpus, for rewriting an existing translation is usually cheaper than making an entirely new one. [32] Furthermore, profit has undoubtedly also contributed to the dominance of shortened versions in the corpus, as the costs are likely to be lower if one only wishes to publish a selection of an existing translation; the smaller the selection, the lower the price.

The fact that most German versions were found to go back to one particular translation, namely Klaiber’s, has to do with the business factor ‘copyright.’ Nymphenburger Verlagshandlung owns the translation rights to Nils Holgersson and publishes Klaiber’s “only rightful translation” in German, as the publishing house puts it. [33] According to European copyright law this means that Nymphenburger, at least in theory, decides who may use Klaiber’s translation and who may retranslate Nils Holgersson for as long as the European copyright applies, i.e., until 2010 (70 years after Lagerlöf’s dead). [34] Undoubtedly, Nymphenburger has asked, and will continue to ask, a higher price for the permission to retranslate than for the permission to use the existing translation, thus encouraging indirectness and avoiding unwelcome competition from any new translations. To avoid unnecessary competition, Nymphenburger was even found to have encouraged shortened versions, while reserving the publication of a complete version of Klaiber’s translation mainly for itself; only a few publishing companies, whose editions had a well-defined and restricted reading public, were allowed to publish the complete translation, too. [35]

Yet, paradoxically, the factor ‘copyright’ has not only led to indirect versions. During the nineties the transition from German copyright law to European copyright law led to the publication of two new, direct translations: the translation by Angelika Kutsch (Dressler, 1991) and the one by Gisela Perlet (Altberliner, 1994). In accordance with the German copyright law, Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige became generally accessible 50 years after Lagerlöf’s dead, thus in 1990, which made it possible for Kutsch and Perlet to make a new direct translation from Swedish. In 1993, however, the European Union imposed a new directive: by June 1st 1995 at the latest, all European member states were to have introduced the same European copyright law of 70 years and Nils Holgersson was to fall under copyright law again. The translations by Kutsch and Perlet got round this European copyright law: by 1993, when the new European directive was imposed, the translation by Kutsch was already published and for the period between 1993 (directive) and 1995 (deadline for the introduction of the European law) a transitional provision was approved, allowing translators such as Perlet to finish and bring out their newly started translations. [36]

Business norms may also take the shape of cooperation and mutual agreements between publishing companies. In 1953, for instance, the Swiss publishing house Die Arche was allowed to issue a new and complete edition of Klaiber’s text, because Nymphenburger had distributed Arche-books during World War II. [37] Cooperation was also the reason why in 1992 the publishing house Ullstein re-edited one of Nymphenburger’s (shortened) editions of Klaiber’s translation. At that time, Nymphenburger and Ullstein belonged to the same publishing concern. So to use Nymphenburger’s text was the most logical move for Ullstein to make. [38]

Another typical business norm is time pressure, which played a prominent role in the publication of the picture book illustrated by Lars Klinting. This picture book goes back to a Swedish source text (cf. above) and was to be published simultaneously in five languages in order to keep the lid on production costs and sales prices. [39] So there was very little time to get the translations ready. The German publishers dealt with the unrelenting deadline in a remarkable way: the text of the 1962 picture book was used and inserted into the layout of the new picture book. It should be noted that the German picture book from 1962 also went back to a Swedish source text (cf. above) and that in Sweden this 1962 picture book had indeed been the source text for the Klinting picture book. So the use of the older picture book was not illogical in itself. The Swedish Klinting book, however, is very different from its source text. The Klinting book had to replace the older picture book, which was found to be out-of-date, and is therefore a thoroughly revised version. [40] This is not the case in German. Apart from some minor changes, the older text is retained in its entirety. A comparison of the German Klinting book and the Swedish Klinting book reveals two very different texts.

Finally, business norms were found to enter the picture when translations/rewritings were adapted to fit into an existing series or an existing publishing policy. When the Reclam publishing house started a new series of (classical) children’s books in the nineties, for instance, only a shortened version of Nils Holgersson could be considered. As students were the main target group of this series, the sales price had to be lower than 20 DM, and only a shortened version would guarantee this low price. [41] In 1951 an even more shortened version was needed to fit Nils Holgersson into Reclam’s ‘Weltbibliothek’ (cf. above: only 95 pages), a series with which Reclam only wished – and still wishes – to give an introduction to ‘world literature,’ thereby hoping to encourage the reader to reach for a more complete version afterwards. Nils Holgersson also had to be shortened so as to be part of Arena’s series of classic children’s books (‘Arena Kinderbuch-Klassiker’). All the books from the series needed to have more or less the same size and a complete version of Nils Holgersson, the post scriptum says, “would have easily filled several volumes of the classic children’s book series.” [42]


The examples discussed above lay bare some of the norms that influence the translating/rewriting of children’s literature. As for Nils Holgersson, each translator, rewriter and publisher is faced with the question whether, how and to what extent s/he will take into consideration the source text’s size and its specifically Swedish subject matter. Will s/he prioritise the source text or the target readers? Will s/he try to meet the commercial requirements? And what is his/her attitude towards the existing tradition of translations and rewritings? These questions indicate the norms that the translator, rewriter and publisher are led by, and it is this specific combination and hierarchy of norms that determines the way in which a book ultimately is translated or rewritten.

It is hard to discover which norm (or norms) constitutes (constitute) the top of this hierarchy. Some periods may show a common tendency – for instance the tendency to pursue readability – but there are always several norms active at the same time, which makes it hard to predict the specific outcome and to discover the specific hierarchy. Furthermore, following one norm can lead to different results and, conversely, one and the same result can be obtained in several ways. [43] The fact that most German versions of Nils Holgersson are shortened, for instance, does not mean that all translators, rewriters and publishers have followed exactly the same norms. The decision to publish a shortened version may stem from a wish to stress the literary (entertainment instead of education), a wish to take into account the cognitive and emotional development of the young reader (‘readability’) as well as from a wish to lower the production costs and/or sales price. It might just as well be that all these considerations played their part simultaneously to varying degrees.

Norms were indeed found to interact in most versions in the corpus. To use Nymphenburger’s text was not only the most logical move for Ullstein, but also the cheapest one. [44] The use of an already existing picture book for the Klinting book had certainly not only to do with the factor ‘time pressure,’ but also with the factor ‘profit,’ as time is money. And the changes in the first edition of Klaiber’s translation, as discussed in the introductory tale, were not only monitored pedagogically, but also economically. This conclusion can be drawn from the fact that most changes with respect to the brutal and frightening passages were removed in 1909, when Klaiber’s translation was published in one volume. In 1909, one year after the publication of the first edition, the passages are as brutal and frightening as in the Swedish original. This sudden removal of earlier changes makes it unreasonable to argue that only pedagogical norms played a role in 1907-1908, as pedagogical norms usually do not change dramatically in one year. Most likely, in 1907-1908 the translator and/or publisher did not want to support the modern pedagogical beliefs that are displayed in the Swedish original (a child may express its inner feelings) so as not to jeopardise the sales of the book. A more traditional pedagogical view (a child has to be polite; it should not be afraid of the dark) was promoted instead. Once the introduction of Nils Holgersson to the German book market had proved successful, the changes were no longer necessary and omitted. Or rather, the most striking changes were omitted. Other changes, such as the addition in the introductory quotation, were left untouched. Apparently, the revision in 1909 was rather cursory, which was plausibly due to economical pressure as well.

Clearly, the web of norms that determine what a translation ultimately looks like, may be very complex. Besides the above-mentioned norms, one should even consider the fact that all kinds of coincidental factors may influence the translation/rewriting process too. One of the direct translations in the corpus, for instance, came into being thanks to a chance encounter between two Jewish publishers, the Dutchman Querido and the German Fisher, who in the turbulent post-war times circumvented Nymphenburger’s copyright and co-published a new translation of Nils Holgersson (translation by André Foelckersam).

The influence of extratextual factors surely makes translation studies all but easy. Background information is often hard to obtain, especially when conducting historical research: versions have disappeared, archives are inaccessible or poorly structured, publishers and translators cannot be contacted anymore. The results of my study of Nils Holgersson in German, as presented here, are therefore not absolute. New evidence may be adduced, new arguments may be put forward. The story of Nils Holgersson in Germany is open to completion and, if necessary, to correction. The story has not ended yet – if only because new versions are published every day. This, I find, makes translation studies and norm studies intriguing.

Parties annexes