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A Search for Origins : Proper Names in The Story of Kullervo

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Title: A Search for Origins : Proper Names in The Story of Kullervo
Author(s): Sarre, Silvia
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Degree program: Master's Programme in Translation and Interpreting
Specialisation: Translation and Interpreting Communication
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2020
In this thesis, I examine the proper names found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s adaptation The Story of Kullervo and their relation to the source text, the Kullervo cycle found in the Finnish epic Kalevala. The main purpose of this study is to provide more insight into Tolkien’s early language creation and to determine the role Finnish and the Kalevala had in it. The Story of Kullervo is an informative source on the subject, since it is Tolkien’s first work of mythic prose and filled with invented proper names. In more detail, the aim is to determine how Tolkien’s version of the Kullervo cycle differs from the original regarding its proper names, where Tolkien drew inspiration for the new or alternative names he created, and whether any of these proper names are connected to Tolkien’s earliest Elvish language, Qenya. With its many changes to the plot, structure and nomenclature, The Story of Kullervo is no ordinary translation. The theoretical framework of this study is founded on the role proper names play in a narrative – the different functions proper names contain within themselves and with respect to the context their used in and the strategies established in the translation field for conveying their semantic content. I consider The Story of Kullervo to be an adaptation and keep this in mind throughout the thesis, touching on topics of adaptation studies and its relation to translation studies. I conduct my research through document analysis, the primary sources being the Finnish Kalevala and The Story of Kullervo from which I collect all proper names and epithets to be used as data. In addition, I try to determine whether the choices Tolkien made when constructing his nomenclature were affected by other works, such as W.F. Kirby’s English translation of the Kalevala and C.N.E. Eliot’s Finnish grammar, which Tolkien used when studying the language. Tolkien transferred some of the original names into The Story of Kullervo unchanged, although most of them he either modified in some way or replaced completely with inventions of his own. He also created several bynames for many of the referents. A little over half of these invented proper names can be connected to either Finnish or the Kalevala, whereas a little less than half are connected to the early version of Qenya. This division is not mutually exclusive, and some of the names contain both Finnish and Qenya elements. It is difficult to determine which came first, however: the proper names in The Story of Kullervo or their Qenya counterparts, or if the construction was somewhat simultaneous. The impact other literary works and mythologies had on his work is less notable, yet there are instances of this as well. Less than ⅕ of all proper names couldn’t be connected to any of the above-mentioned sources. Signs of Tolkien’s early language creation can certainly be seen in the nomenclature of The Story of Kullervo. His motivation for writing the short story was to bring out the beauty and magic of the Kalevala, a task in which he thought W.F. Kirby had failed. This is probably one of the reasons why Tolkien wanted to add some of his own distinctive features to the story and why he didn’t pay much attention to conventional translation practices.
Keyword(s): Tolkien The Story of Kullervo Kalevala Qenya proper names translation studies adaptation studies

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