Japanese mix-up turns Snow White blue and leaves mainland publishers feeling grumpy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 December, 2010, 12:00am

So, let me get this straight. Snow White has sex with her father and the Seven Dwarfs. After she eats the poisoned apple and dies, Prince Charming falls in love with her decaying body. Despite this perverse storyline, the professional translators for two large mainland publishing firms still thought they were rendering into Chinese the classic tale from the Brothers Grimm. I know the subject matter of some of the brothers' tales was often grim - hence their name - but really, could the translators be so ridiculously daft? Or was it rather a deliberate act of sabotage?

According to a Global Times report, China Friendship Publishing and China Media Time had to pull their Chinese collection of the Grimms' fairy tales from the children's section of mainland bookstores after realising the mistake. Their translators were apparently using a Japanese-language pornographic rendition of the classic tale rather than the original German. One of the publishers gave the absurd explanation that they couldn't get a German edition, so they used what they thought was an authentic Japanese version.

This reminds me of a similar faux pas made by the sinology section of the world-renowned Max Planck Institute in Germany two years ago. On the front cover of a special edition on China, MaxPlanckForschung ran what was captioned as a classical Chinese poem. That turned out to be a nightclub recruitment ad for 'busty ladies and lusty housewives'.

I guess we Chinese have no excuse to laugh at those linguistically challenged Germans any more.