Detour to Vietnam

Detour to Vietnam

Last week I returned home from a 2 week vacation in Vietnam. It was a wild ride to say the least, and I mean that in a good way. The short of it is that the food was delicious, coffee was sublime; great, friendly people all around, with many wonderful sights (traffic is bad **** insane by the way). I knew very little Vietnamese, only a smattering of words, barely enough to get by. Luckily I traveled with some good friends and met with a very good friend who lives there and, by and large, they were my guides. You could say I was Frodo, fresh face, wet behind the ears and inexperienced when it comes to travel (this was my first time traveling abroad) and my friends were the ever helpful, and vastly more experienced adventurers like Gandalf and Aragorn (assuming lady versions of these heroes 😉 ).

The two sisters, both named Phương, were extraordinarily helpful showing me around this great country, well predominantly Hồ Chí Minh city. I couldn’t me more grateful for their help and hospitality. I would’ve truly lost and overwhelmed without them. But what does Vietnam have to do about Lord of the Rings? Not much in the grand scheme of things, but I did pick up some familiar books during my stay. 😉

The Lord of the Rings in Vietnamese
The Lord of the Rings in Vietnamese

I knew I had to obtain and bring home two very important things while I was in Vietnam. One was to get myself some coffee. The coffee in Vietnam is the best I’ve tasted bar none. It’s some strong stuff but it is counter acted with sweetened condensed milk. It’s the two bold flavors of bitterness and overbearing sweetness that make it a unique experience. Over here in the US we tend to drink mugs and mugs of coffee each day (at least I do), but in Vietnam, just one cup – or two if you’re feeling adventurous, about 6-8 ounces in size, is enough to get you going through the day. I snagged myself several phin filters and a large bag of Highlands Coffee (the second most popular brand in Vietnam, the other being Trung Nguyên). I do love me some coffee! One down, one more to go.

The second thing I needed was to get some of my favorite books in Vietnamese. I couldn’t find the Dresden Files, but I found the rest on my list, Harry Potter (I needed something easy to read) and The Lord of the Rings! As someone who is studying Vietnamese, I couldn’t be happier to snag these copies. You should’ve seen my excitement at the store.

The main title is very much as you expect, Chúa tể những chiếc nhẫn, roughly translates to “The Lord of the Rings”. It’s the subtitles that get a little off course, at least for the first book, The Fellowship of the Ring. I asked my good friend who lives in Vietnam to help me translate the titles of each book. Based on what she said, the first book, đoàn hộ nhẫn, roughly translates to “Ring’s Protectors”.

It’s a curious translation, and perhaps the biggest departure to the original title. Before I asked my friend, I did use some translators online and got mixed results, some came back with “union households rings” another said it was “group protections rings”. Out of the three, I say, Ring’s Protectors, sounds the best, and not to mention I trust the authority of my friend over an automatic translator any day of the week.

The next book, hai tòa tháp, roughly translates to “Two Towers”. Pretty spot on. I knew reading the title at the bookstore this was the second book in the trilogy. In Vietnamese, “hai” = two, so I can only assume the next words mean tower. That one is easy, at least for me. The last book, nhà vua trở về, roughly translates to “king returns”. 🙂

I’ve always found it fascinating to see popular books translated to other languages. It’s familiar, but also so exotic, fresh, and new again. And with LotR, it shows just how far reaching and influential these books truly are. I’m curious how the translation holds up.

I’ve only been studying Vietnamese for a few months now, so I’m still an absolute beginner. It’s going to be a long while before I can fully read LotR in Vietnamese, but I might as well grab them while I was in the country. And just look at the book covers! I love the design. Very sleek. Not to mention, the whole lot (including the 1st Harry Potter) cost me just shy of $22. How could I pass that up?


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