Bathrobe's Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation
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The Sphinx's Riddle (Book 4)

 

This is the riddle that the sphinx posed to Harry in the maze during the third and final task of the Triwizard Tournament. It would be too much to ask for this riddle to fully make sense in a foreign language, given that each clue but the last yields a part of the pronunciation of the English word 'spider', but at least one translator comes close.

English

First think of the person who lives in disguise,
Who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies.
Next, tell me what's always the last thing to mend,
The middle of the middle and the end of the end?
And finally give me the sound often heard,
During the search for a hard-to-find word.
Now string them together, and answer me this,
Which creature would you be unwilling to kiss?

In the English, Harry ponders the three clues as follows:

  1. First guess 'imposter', changed to 'spy'
  2. Pass
  3. 'Er'

Despite the missing 'd' (the last thing to mend, middle of middle, end of end), Harry manages to move from 'spy...er' to 'spider', an animal he wouldn't want to kiss.

Chinese (Mainland)

The sphinx (斯芬科斯 sīfēnkēsī) asks the following riddle:

先想想什么人总带着假面,
行动诡秘,谎话连篇。
再告诉我什么东西总是缝缝补补,
中间的中间,尾部的尾部?
最后告诉我想不出词的时候
哪个字经常被说出口。
现在把它们连起来,回答我,
什么是你不愿意亲吻的动物?
Xiān xiǎng xiǎng shénme rén zǒng dài-zhe jiǎmiàn,
Xíngdòng guǐmì, huǎnghuà lián biān.
Zài gàosu wǒ shénme dōngxi zǒngshì féng féng bǔ bǔ,
Zhōngjiān de zhōngjiān, wěibù de wěibù?
Zuìhòu gàosu wǒ xiǎng-bu-chū cí de shíhou
Nǎ-ge zì jīngcháng bèi shuō chū kǒu.
Xiànzài bǎ tāmen lián qǐlái, huídá wǒ,
Shénme shì nǐ bú yuànyi qīnwén de dòngwù?
First think which person always wears a mask,
With actions secret, and a pack of lies.
Then tell me what thing is always darning and mending,
The middle of the middle, the tail of the tail?
Finally, tell me when [you] cannot think of a word
Which letter (word) is often spoken out.
Now, string them together, answer me,
What is the animal you do not want to kiss?

The verse is largely arranged into rhyming couplets.

The Chinese translator has a five-part footnote explaining the mechanics of the word play as Harry fields his guesses.

1. Imposter -- English for 骗子 (piànzi 'swindler').
2. Spy -- English for 间谍 (jiàndié 'spy').
3. Middle -- English for 中间 (zhōngjiān 'middle').
4. Er -- English for (è, an interjection in Chinese, similar to 'uh' in English).
5. Spider: English for 'spider'. This is an English riddle. 'Spi' has the same pronunciation as 'spy'. The middle letter in 'middle' and the last letter in 'end' is 'd'. Add 'er' to get the answer to the riddle. The answer to the riddle is hinted at in the third sentence because a spider looks like it's 'mending' when it is weaving its web.

The answer that Harry gives in the Chinese version is:

"spider! 蜘蛛!"

(Note: 蜘蛛 zhīzhū means 'spider')

 

Chinese (Taiwan)

The sphinx (人面獅身獸 rénmiàn-shīshēn-shòu = 'man's face lion's body creature') asks the following riddle:

首先設想一名偽裝身分的人,
他買賣機密,說的話沒有半句是真。
其次,告訟我最後才能改善的事物為何,
是最中之中還是最終之終?
最後再告訟我當你苦苦沈吟,
搜索字眼時所最常發出的聲音。
現在把它們連在一起,回答我這個疑問,
有哪種生物你死都不願去親吻?
Shǒuxiān shèxiǎng yīmíng wěizhuāng shēnfen de rén,
Tā mǎimài jīmì, shuō de huà méi yǒu bàn-jù shì zhēn.
Qícì, gàosu wǒ zuì hòu cái néng gǎishàn de shìwù wéi hé,
Shì zuì zhōng zhī zhōng háishì zuì zhōng zhī zhōng?
Zuì hòu zài gàosu wǒ dāng nǐ kǔkǔ chényín,
Sōusuǒ zìyǎn shí suǒ zuì cháng fāchū de shēngyīn.
Xiànzài bǎ tāmen lián zài yīqǐ, huídá wǒ zhège yíwèn,
Yǒu nǎ-zhǒng shēngwù nǐ sǐ dōu sǐ bù yuàn qù qīnwén?
First, imagine a person with a disguised identity,
He trades in secrets, what he says not even half a sentence is true.
Next, tell me what is the last thing that can be improved,
Is the most middle of middle, the most end of end?
Finally, tell me when you ponder hard,
Searching for words, the most commonly uttered sound.
Now string them all together, answer me this question.
What kind of animal you would rather die than kiss?

The Taiwanese translator also for the most part manages to arrange the verse into rhyming couplets.

Harry's answer is:

"一隻蜘蛛(spider)!"

(Note: 一隻蜘蛛 is yī-zhī zhīzhū means 'a spider')

Rather than give hints in a footnote, the Taiwanese translator simply gives English words in parentheses as Harry unravels the answer.

  1. "一個間諜(spy)?"
  2. (Pass)
  3. "「呃」(er)!"
  4. "『間諜(spy)......呃(er)......間諜......呃...... 』"

Line 4 is interesting in that 'in the middle' and 'at the end' are rendered using homophones (i.e., 最中之中 zuì zhōng zhī zhōng 'in the middle of the very middle' is pronounced the same as 最終之終 zuì zhōng zhī zhōng 'at the end of the very end'). However, this does not provide any real hint at getting the letter 'd' and merely looks mysterious.

 

Japanese

The sphinx (スフィンクス sufinkusu) asks the following riddle:

最初のヒント。変装して生きる人だれだ
秘密の取引、嘘ばかりつく人だれだ

二つ目のヒント。だれでもはじめに持っていて
途中にまだまだ持っていて、なんだのさいごはなんだ?

最後のヒントはただの音。言葉探しに苦労して、
よく出す音はなんの音

つないでごらん。答えてごらん。
キスしたくない生き物はなんだ?

Saisho no hinto. Hensō shite ikiru hito dare da
Himitsu no torihiki, uso bakari tsuku hito dare da

Futatsu-me no hinto. Dare demo hajime ni motte ite
Tochū ni mada mada motte ite, nanda no saigo wa nanda?

Saigo no hinto wa tada no oto. Kotoba-sagashi ni kurō shite,
yoku dasu oto wa nan no oto

Tsunaide goran. Kotaete goran.
Kisu shitaku nai ikimono wa nanda?

The first hint. Who is a person who lives in disguise
Who is a person who trades in secrets, and tells only lies

The second hint. Everyone has at the start
still has in the middle, what is the end of what?

The final hint is just a sound. Struggling to find words,
The sound [you] often make is what sound?

Put them together. Answer.
What is the creature [you] do not want to kiss?

Harry's answer is:

"スパイダァー!蜘蛛だ!"

(スパイダァー!蜘蛛だ!: Supaidā! Kumo da! 'Supaidaa. It's a spider!')

Despite the odds, the Japanese translator actually manages (although with some difficulty) to have the three clues spell out スパイダー supaidā, which is how the English word 'spider' is pronounced in Japanese.

  1. The first clue yields スパイ supai ('spy'), which is a familiar word in Japanese. Harry gets this one correctly.
  2. The second clue yields da (the syllable) -- the first sound in だれでも dare demo ('everyone'), a sound in まだまだ mada mada ('still'), and the final sound in なんだ nanda ('what'). Harry passes on this.
  3. The third yields アー ā (the sound). Harry gets this one correctly.
  4. The fourth yields the sense, 蜘蛛 kumo.

The problem, of course, is that the clues add up to スパイダー supaidā not 蜘蛛 kumo, so you wouldn't arrive at the correct answer unless you knew English! Harry does very well to go from スパイ......アー supai...ā to スパイダァー supaidāa in Japanese. (Note that it is written スパイダァー supaidaā in the Japanese translation, to show how アー ā is 'added on'.)

 

Vietnamese

The sphinx (Bà Nhân) asks Harry the following riddle:

Trước tiên hãy nghĩ đến cái người sống trong sự trá hình,
Kẻ thỏa thuận trong bí mật và chỉ nói dối mà thôi.
Kế đến hãy nói cho ta biết cái gì luôn luôn là điều tu sửa cuối cùng
Ở giữa cái giữa và cuối cái cuối?
Và cuối cùng hãy cho ta cái âm thanh vẫn thường được nghe
Trong suốt cuộc tìm kiếm cái từ khó tìm được.
Bây giờ hãy xâu chúng lại với nhau, vá trả lời ta điều này,
Sinh vật nào mà trò không muốn hôn chút nào?
First let's think of people living in disguise,
Who deal in secrets and lies only.
Next, tell us something that is always the final repair
The middle of middle and the end of end?
And finally give us the sound that is often heard
When searching for the word hard to find.
Now let's string them together, and answer me this,
Which creature do you not want to kiss?

Harry's reply is:

"con nhền nhện!"

(con nhền nhện = 'spider')

The Vietnamese translation is the weakest of the four because Harry quite inexplicably moves from the intermediate clues:

to the correct answer nhền nhện in Vietnamese. The English passage is simply translated into Vietnamese, with no explanation of how gián điệp + ơ is supposed to add up to nhền nhện.

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