Tag: Aku Ankka

Teräsmies, Aku Ankka and Others – Unfamiliar Names of Familiar Characters

It was a late gloomy evening in Helsinki. Winter didn’t want to give up, and the weather outside was depressing. I was at the language course. The lesson seemed to last forever, and all of us were tired. To mobilize our remaining energy, the teacher started showing us pictures from the Finnish Spider Man comic books, explaining that Finnish Spider Man’s name is “Hämähäkkimies” (“hämähäkki” – spider, “mies” – man).

By then, I already knew that Donald Duck comic books, for some reason, were wildly popular among Finnish kids, and that’s Donald’s Finnish name is Aku Ankka. Again, it’s a direct translation trick: “ankka” is “duck” and “Aku” stands for “Donald”. In Russia, for example, most superheroes and folk tales characters also have their names translated, but Disney crew and characters from children novels keep their English names transliterated to Cyrillic. So, Pocahontas, for example, is still Pocahontas, it’s just spelled differently – Покахонтас.

I got interested in the topic, and researched it a bit further. Turned out that in Finland almost all characters of kids cartoons and books have Finnish names. I was thinking that maybe this is done so that kids could actually pronounce names and could understand peculiar features of particular heroes. I found the book on how modern authors revise and revive folktales – “Folktales Retold: A Critical Overview of Stories Updated for Children” by Amie A. Doughty.

Apparently, I was right in my guesses. Fairy tales don’t usually mention specific countries or cultures and character names are often quite basic. This is why authors try to make these stories more country specific. Translation of names or giving names to supporting characters is one of the methods to achieve this goal. There is one more thing about Finland though that I need to mention. Not all names are translated in Finnish adaptations, and even within the same story there might be a mix of original and translated names. For example, in “Peter Pan”, Wendy turns to “Leena”, Captain Hook to “Kapteeni Koukku”, Tinkerbell is “Tiikerililja”, but Peter Pan is still good old Peter Pan.

Overall, it seems that the approach to translation of names is not unified. I guess it also depends on who works on a particular performance/play/cartoon/movie/book.

Anyway, I hope by now you are ready to meet some locals 😉 You can play a game – read the Finnish version first, and try to guess who it is without looking at the answer 🙂

Kissanainen – Cat Woman

Teräsmies – Superman

Salama – Flash

Lepakkomies – Batman

Ihmenainen – Wonder Woman

Vihrea Lyhty – Green Lantern

Hämähäkkimies – Spider Man

Herra Fantastinen – Mister Fantastic

Kapteeni Amerikka – Captain America

Musta Leski – Black Widow

Rautamies – Iron Man

Hessu Hopo – Goofy

Ankka – Daisy Duck

Aku Ankka – Donald Duck

Roope Ankka – Scrooge McDuck

Tupu, Hupu, Lupu – Dewey, Huey and Louie

Tuhkimo – Cinderella

Paavo Pesusieni – SpongeBob SquarePants

Puss in Boots – Saapasjalkakissa

Teini-Ikäiset Mutanttininjakilpikonnat – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Tiku ja Taku – Chip ’n’ Dale

Mikki Hiiri – Mickey Mouse

Risto Reipas – Christopher Robin

Nalle Puh – Winnie-the-Pooh

Ruusunen – Sleeping Beauty