All of you Alcott fans who happen to be native English speakers do not take it for granted that you can read the author´s words the way she intented them to be read. I recently had an interesting discussion with a fellow Finnish book blogger about Little Women and the special place it has in our hearts (he is one of the two men who I personally know that have read Little Women) but also the frustration that badly translated sentence can cause for the reader not to mention the abridged versions or the ones where the translator has taken artistic liberties. In worst cases bad translation can completely turn the meaning of the scene upside down. This is something that happened to me when I first time read the Little Women II.
I am a Finn and in Finland we take national pride how equality has such an important value in our culture and in the society. This is one of the many reasons why I have always been very found of Jo´s dear professor. Friedrich Bhaer is just as tupsy-turvy as Jo but most importantly Jo and Fritz share similar ideas of equality and it´s importance in a relationship. We can not expect nothing overly graphic from Alcott. When Jo and Friedrich spent more time together in New York, she becomes fixated on him both physically and intellectually in away she never did with Laurie or anyone else. Friedrich also becomes more found of Jo each passing day. They are both very stubborn in totally different ways and it is difficult for them to express how they truly feel. Most of the time that Jo spends in New York is told from Jo´s point of view and the focus of narration is on Jo´s developing romantic feelings towards ”her professor”. When Friedrich arrives to Concord tables are turned and now it is Friedrich who is, rather openly, fixated on her.
I was 17 when I read Little Women II (also known as Good Wives) for the first time and there was something in the proposal under the umbrella that always bothered me and now after a decade later I found out that it was a translation error. In this beautiful scene Friedrich tells Jo that he is traveling to the west to provide education for his nephews Franz and Emil and Jo is heartbroken because he is leaving and they finally reveal their true feelings for one another. They both agree to work hard to build their life and future together. As a symbol of this Jo takes some of the parcels he is carrying. In the Finnish translation that I´ve read Friedrich gives Jo the title of ”professorin rouva” which literally means ”professor´s wife”. I found this very strange. There is all this talk about them being equal to one another and then this. I´ve come to known Friedrich as a man who mends his own socks, has re-build his life in a foreign country and as someone who has managed to raise two young boys by himself. He is not possessive over women, especially not over Jo who he has utmost respect (and heart full of love). Basically Friedrich is like Jo, someone who doesn´t think that marriage should be a goal of one´s life but an union between two people based on love and trust. Neither they represent the traditional role of men and women of the time and their marriage is going to be unique because of that.
I recently read Little Women I and II for the first time in English and in the English version Friedrich gives Jo a German title of Professorin. I happen to speak German and I know that Professorin doesn´t mean professor´s wife. It is not even close to it. It means a female professor. By giving this title Friedrich makes Jo equal to him and Jo is delighted because as a woman (and coming from a poor family) she has not been allowed to continue to higher education. Little Women II takes place in 1870-1880´s and during that time women were allowed to participate on university lectures and exams but they were not allowed to matriculate or graduate until 1920´s. Friedrich´s attraction to Jo is as well both physical and intelligent. He knows she is very well-read, has a sharp mind, her interests hardly fit within the domestic phere and she can achieve many great things if she wants to and he is more than willing to support that. I nearly missed all of that because of a translation error which completely changed the meaning of his words.
Apparentally the Finnish translation I used to read was done way back in 1921 and it definitely looks like I should get myself an updated version. Even if you are married to your soulmate relationships always require compromises. Little Women II does excellent job showing different types of marriages between equals. Jo wants Friedrich who doesn´t want to change her, has good work-morals and challenges her intellectually. Laurie wants someone who he can admire and who admires him and someone who fits into his world and Amy is perfect for that. Meg and John are the most traditional couple. He is the provider and she takes care of the home and children and that is their agreement.
Check out my previous Little Women article as well:
Quest of Friedrich Bhaer (and why my inner Jo loves him)
Thoughts on TeamLaurie and TeamBhaer
Little Women: Symbolism of the Umbrella
Little Women 1970 Amy and Laurie Romance
Little Women 1933
You can also find me on instagram @fairychamberart
As always I would love to hear your thoughts. Have you read abridged or strangely translated version of Little Women or it´s sequels or any other books? What do you think about the equality aspect of Jo´s and Fritz relationship? (I´d say #relationshipgoals)
Artist and Illustrator. Folklorist , anthropologist, mythology enthusiastic. Keen traveller. Gryffinclaw. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea and period dramas.
Please keep the comment section civil, respectful and connected to the topic at hand. Thank you. Spammy/rude/passive-agressive comments will be blocked and reported.