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1.10When to use ‘du’, ‘Sie’ and ‘Ihr’

The everlasting problem of translating English ‘you’ into the familiar ‘du’ and the more distanced ‘Sie’ in German is present throughout the whole of LOTR as the many characters travel from one place to another and constantly meet people. In some instances even the more official ‘Ihr’, which today is only usual for conversations with Royalty, appears. Carroux and Krege handle this entirely different from one another, depending upon the situation or the feel of the character speaking.

T 50When Otho loudly demanded to see Frodo, Merry bowed politely.
‘He is indisposed,’ he said. ‘He is resting.’
‘Hiding, you mean,’ said Lobelia. ‘Anyway we want to see him and we mean to see him. Just go and tell him so!’
C 66Als Otho lauthals nach Frodo verlangte, verbeugte sich Merry höflich.
»Es paßt ihm nicht«, sagte er. »Er ruht sich aus.«
»Versteckt sich, meinst du«, sagte Lobelia. »Jedenfalls wünschen wir ihn zu sehen und gedenken ihn zu sehen. Geh nun und sag ihm das!«
K 59Als Otho lauthals mit Frodo zu sprechen verlangte, machte Merry eine artige Verbeugung:
»Er ist indisponiert«, sagte er. »Er pflegt der Ruhe.«
»Er versteckt sich, wollen Sie sagen«, sagte Lobelia. »Jedenfalls, wir müssen ihn sprechen, und wir werden ihn sprechen! Gehen Sie und sagen Sie ihm das!«

A rather difficult scene. I believe, that Krege gets Merry’s position right. He is somewhat making fun of the Sackville-Bagginses. Carroux’ ‘Es paßt ihm nicht’ is too colloquial to translate ‘He is indisposed’. Merry comes from a family socially higher than the Sackville-Bagginses, although possibly not as highly renowned in Hobbiton. He is, however definitely younger than Otho and Lobelia, which would justify them calling him by the familiar ‘du’ rather than ‘Sie’.

I will not go into too much detail and try and find out who starts calling whom ‘du’ at what time, but rather compare Carroux and Krege with one another considering what people call each other, that have not met before.

Krege’s Farmer Maggot calls Sam, Frodo and Pippin ‘du’, Carroux’ calls them by the much more formal ‘Ihr’. Starting on page C 145, after the dinner, he calls them ‘du’.

Strider calls Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin ‘Sie’, but uses ‘ihr’ and ‘euch’ in the plural form.

C 239»Sie kommen aus Mordor [...] Aus Mordor, Gerstenmann, wenn Euch das was sagt.«
K 226»Sie kommen aus Mordor [...] Aus Mordor, Gerstenmann, wenn dir das etwas sagt.«

Carroux has Strider call Barliman Butterbur ‘Ihr’, although he calls him by his first name ‘Gerstenmann’ A possible misunderstanding.

Both Carroux and Krege have Glorfindel call Frodo ‘du’ without ever having met him before. A possible indication for the fact that Elves do not, in general, regard others highly. Krege’s Glóin calls Frodo ‘du’ as well right from the moment on when he introduces himself.

Frodo calls Elrond ‘du’ in Krege’s version and ‘Ihr’ in Carroux’. The same applies to Aragorn talking to Boromir and Celeborn talking to Aragorn.

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