This Little Piggy

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I came across ¡Pío Peep! Rimas Tradicionales en Español (Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes) and was immediately struck by the unique adaptations of the rhymes. They are clearly not straight translations and made me wonder what makes a rhyme work in two languages and what is lost and what is found in the process of adapting–especially when rhyme is a central part of the experience.

In Spanish, “El sol es de oro” is, although concise in both languages, very different in English.

El sol es de oro

El sol es de oro

la luna es de plate

y las estrellitas

son de hoja de lata.

Directly translated:

The sun is of gold

the moon is of silver

and the little stars

are of tin.

 

The English adaptation, on the other hand,

The Sun’s a Gold Medallion

The sun’s a gold medallion.

The moon’s a silver ball.

The little stars are only tin;

I love them best of all.

Clearly different.

One that was closest in translation was unfamiliar except for the form. This one seemed to be counted on the hand as the more familiar (to me at least) “This Little Piggy” is counted on toes.

Aquí puso la pajarita el huevo

Aquí puso la pajarita el huevo.

Éste lo agarró,

éste lo partió,

éste lo cocinó,

éste le echó la sal,

y este pícaro gordo

se lo comió.

 

Here the Bird Laid the Egg

Here the bird laid one round egg.

This one found it,

this one cracked it,

this one cooked it,

this one put salt on it,

and this fat rascal

gobbled it up!

from ¡Pío Peep! Rimas Tradicionales en Español (Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes)

  • What is lost and found in translation? How does this rob or enrich you or a character? What happens when we try to rely on literal translation?

Four calling birds, three French hens, a clutch of fairies, a swarm of mimes, a wreck of penguins, and one lost deer

It is not Halloween. No, Llano Park has not been overrun by fairies and deer. Mini Marcel Marceau here would speak Spanish should he need to speak.

Every stretch of the park is brimming with fantastic Lilliputian beasts. Perhaps it is the season, but I am certain I have interacted with the majority of the cast of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” but the pear tree is more mango.

I cannot help singing the whole inventory of presents for the five circles I complete. It is as if I am stuck on repeat. My whole life I have unabashedly belted out Christmas songs from my seat in the back of the pickup truck, to the horses as I waited for their troughs to fill, to an audience of cats and chickens, in my own little car, in the grocery store for an entire season. I would only karaoke Christmas tunes or Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer.” I do a mean “Private Dancer.”

Twelve Days of Christmas

–Frederic Austen

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me three French hens,
Two turtle doves, and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me five golden rings,
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me six geese a laying,
Five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves
And a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens,
Two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me eight maids a milking,
Seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds,
Three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings,
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me ten lords a leaping,
Nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying,
Five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves
And a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a leaping nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens,
Two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping, ten lords a leaping nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking,
Seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds,
Three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.

https://play.google.com/music/preview/T4xcsoiy7wqyrlvghtebxleixq4?lyrics=1&utm_source=google&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=lyrics&pcampaignid=kp-lyrics

See the Muppets and John Denver sing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDBMzGq1vhs

  • What “Private Dancer” (http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/tinaturner/privatedancer.html) and “Twelve Days of Christmas” have in common is of course the dancing )as the children were preparing to do); they also have fantastic lists. Consider the various “forms” of the list: the listicle; the list or sequential poem; the shopping, to-do, check, and wish lists; there are opportunities for (another list): brainstorming as well as character, conflict, and point of view development.

 

Good and Bad Children

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A child next to me throws himself to the floor and howls like a wolf. No reaction. He returns to the table and plays the silverware and car keys as drum, singing a song whose lyrics are a simple plea for water. His father is drinking a milkshake.

His mother speaks to his father as if they are conducting business, a hushed and serious transaction.

The bored boy’s drumming increases even as he is served orange juice. He also rehearses the noise of a train or wind through a cracked door.

He is certain he is alone in the restaurant. He is probably even more alone at home.

Good and Bad Children

— Robert Louis Stevenson

Children, you are very little,
And your bones are very brittle;
If you would grow great and stately,
You must try to walk sedately.

You must still be bright and quiet,
And content with simple diet;
And remain, through all bewild’ring,
Innocent and honest children.

These are the first two stanzas; see the rest at: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/good-and-bad-children/

  • Empathize with the screaming child (although you did not love her before this interaction).

 

Kids Say

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Photos: Drawings by children advocating against development on Mauna Loa, found at the Imiloa Astronomy Center, Big Island, Hawaii

I spent the afternoon with my seven-year-old friend Victor. We were standing near a fountain outside of the strip mall’s restaurant before lunch when he asked me for a penny to make a wish.

He peered into the water to see if others had deposited coins before him, but he was undeterred as he counted that his coin would be first. In fact, a budding mathematician, he liked his odds that fortune still remained for his petition.

Backing up to the base of the water feature, he tossed the coin and spoke his humble request: I choose freedom for all people.

Me too. And, if not, I wish those of us who are not free the power to mentally transcend the hours of our captivity.

And, this reminds me of Laetitia Pilkington’s “The Wish, By a Young Lady:”

I ask not wit, nor beauty do I crave,

Nor wealth, nor pompous titles wish to have;

But since, ’tis doomed through all degrees of life,

Whether a daughter, sister, or a wife;

That females should the stronger males obey,

And yield implicit to their lordly sway;

Since this, I say, is ev’ry woman’s fate,

Give me a mind to suit my slavish state.

Source: English Women’s Poetry, Elizabethan to Victorian (edited by R.E. Pritchard)

*A fragment of the story is in the air; you just need to listen for it. When Victor uttered this wish aloud, I was grateful for what he gave me and for the reminder of the poem above.

Palestina

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I’m in the capital of Oaxaca, one of the poorest states in Mexico. There is politics everywhere. A group is camping on the zocalo. There are signs demanding justice and public works. Teachers block the roads regularly. Another group parades weekly for animal rights. Until now, the exercise of politics I have witnessed is mostly local.However, I came across this almost altar in the street outside of Santo Domingo Church.The signs read:
Stop! No more death in Palestine; Stop the genocide in Gaza #FreedomForGaza; To the eyes of the world these last 6 days of genocide in Gaza, 10,000 displaced, 30 dead children.

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