[DWJ] Monthly Read-Along - Charmed Life
liril at gmx.net
Sat Nov 3 15:20:20 EDT 2012
this post got longer and longer, because reading Charmed Life (in
English) I more or less noticed that I didn't reread it, but actually
read it for the first time.
Whilst I knew before that the 1981 German translation ("Wir sind aufs
Hexen ganz versessen", Cecilie Dressler Verlag - "We're mad about
witchcraft") I read as a kid was "abriged", i.e. missing some scenes,
only now did I find out how far these changes went. Some of them seem
randon, some seem to aim at making the book "softer" and some -- and
that is rather disturbing -- take away important bits of Cat's
development, and that makes me feel I have come to new insights about
the book because I finally read the real book as it was written by
DWJ... (BTW, there has been a new translation around 2001)
CL (the 1981 translation) was one of my favourite childhood books, one
of the few books available in the library that I made my parents buy as
a present because I had to have it myself, one of the children's books I
kept in my bookshelves (and didn't move to the attic). So when I wanted
to reread CL before, I took my old and well-loved copy. For this reread
however I finally got the original for the Kindle.
Actually, I had found out about (some of) the missing scenes earlier,
when I listend to the (also abriged...) audio book (read by Tom Baker --
there seems to be another one), but I didn't realize the extent of the
changes. When I listened to the audiobook (more than 10 years ago, oh
my), I asked the list about the scenes.
In the list archives I found my post from March 2001
"What was very odd, was that Tom Baker was suddenly reading something I
didn't remember: the scene in church, when Gwendolyn makes the stained
glass saints move. I thought it was very funny, and that it was even
stranger that I didn't remember it as I liked it. So I looked it up in
my old German edition, *and it's not there!*.Also missing: the whole
part in which Cat and Janet try to run away, are found by Millie and the
following meeting with Mrs Sharp."
The cutting of the Stained Glass Saints Scene made some "retcon"
necessary, because without this scene there is no reason not to take
Janet to church on the next Sunday when Cat an Janet are left at the
castle and get the dragon blood and enter the garden. Therefore the
translation has to explain why she stays with Cat when the rest of the
familiy goes to church...
By comparing the versions I found out that not only scenes, but
sometimes just sentences were "cut"*. Prior to the Stained Glass Saints,
the translation also left out the scene were Gwendolyn turns Julia's
skirt into snakes. As the main motivation for Julia to take revenge on
Gwendolyn/Janet is missing, most of the stuff Julia does to Janet later
was also cut (turning the stew to mud, trying to strangle her with the
curtain, turning the marmalade to worms). Also cut are: The chestnuts
that are suddenly ripe**, the skewer that conveniently lies "by his
(Cat's) LEFT HAND", Julia warning Cat "Don't you interfere" when the mud
is stew again as soon as it is in front of Cat. Consequently, whilst
Euphemia gets turned into a frog and back and the mirror floats, in the
old translation it is much harder to notice that Cat seems to do magic
as soon as Gwendolyn is gone. This time, I noticed, which in turn gave
new meaning to Chrestomanci saying to Cat: "And witchcraft will out. No
one who has it can resist using it for ever".
With these additional scenes and bits there is more preparation for Cat
taking his powers back in the end. We also see more of Cat taking care
of Janet, and her "clinging" to him, which may also be part of the
reasons for him gradually changing. He even notices it himself: In the
(also cut) scene with Mrs Sharp Cat wonders "how much he had changed
inside -- and how he had -- enough to know all this".
In the final explanation scene, there are also some cuts. Here, the
translation seems intend to "soften" the situation by taking out
references that confirm how worried everybody (including Chrestomanci)
was and is about Cat's powers, e.g. Chrestomanci looking vaguely in
Cat's direction and Cat noting this means he is "vary wary indeed" and
also later the sentence "Everyone, even Chrestomanci, went tense."
However, I find with these parts included, the motivation and the
reasoning behind Chrestomanci and the other adults not talking to Cat
earlier make more sense.
BTW, the only person who doesn't tense is Janet, who also noticed Cat
doing magic when he himself possibly didn't. I noticed more similarities
between her and Cat, and a stronger bond between them. This may go some
way to explain why Janet seems quite alright with staying (which is one
thing I must admit I found a bit disturbing as a kid, given that she
seems to be fond of her parents...)
So, after finally reading the "real" CL, I like it even more. It was
wonderful to discover the real story in which, I find, some things just
make more sense. Some (also mostly new) things I found a bit odd: The
references that witches aren't supposed to like churches, Millie (!)
calling Gwendolyn "ungodly child", Will Suggins claiming Sunday's a bad
time to be at witchcraft -- I never had the impression that the magic in
CL had any "connection" to theology. However, if you look at the quoted
sentences more closely, the narrator doesn't confirm those notions to be
true, so maybe those are only referenced as superstitions.
Some new things were just wonderful, and so I'll finish my monster post
with the little dragon hypnotizing Janet (also cut):
"I fetch him animals from the abyss -- old golden creatures, things with
wings, pearl-eyed monsters from the deep sea, and whispering plants from
Isn't that, quite literally, magic...?
*This sounds a bit obsessive, but I know the translation rather well,
and I found many of the missing sentences crucial...
** I was so excited when I spotted this neat bit, which is even
confirmed by Janet in the end when she contradicts Chrestomanci when he
says Cat still did no magic: "There were some fabulous horse chestnuts,
and he kept stopping Julia" (also cut, of course...)
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