Research article
Issue: № 3 (7), 2016


The article considers axiology of children’s literature intersemiotic translation (fiction texts transforming into cartoons). The source text pragmatic potential can be kept or transformed due to some axiological strategies used by text translators. Translation of the fiction text into the semiosphere of cartoons suggests using different axiological linguistic strategies, such as alienation, adaptation, etc. When the text of “Winnie-the-Pooh” by Alan Alexander Milne was translated into Russian by Boris Zakhoder, the dominant axiological linguistic strategy was adaptation. Fyodor Khitruk, the author of the Soviet cartoon series about Winnie-the-Pooh, used both alienation and adaptation in his translation of the Zakhoder’s target text into the semiosphere of cartoons. It depended on the pragmatic potential of diverse semiotic codes used in the texts translated.

The article deals with axiological interpretation of fiction texts (children’s literature, in particular). The texts under consideration are Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne [10], their different translations from English into Russian, English and Russian cartoons screened the Milne’s texts. The objects of the research are a fiction textand a cartoon text. The aim of the article is to describe axiological strategies used by translators of the text into different semiospheres (different languages semiospheres as well as the semiospheres of art and cinema). E. Neiva assumes the society is shifting from signs to values nowadays in any cultural semiosphere [11, p. 71-73]), and this assumption goes well with the idea of necessity to evaluate the various versions of the translated texts functioning in another language semiosphere. We show diverse interpretations of one and the same text translated into different semiospheres when translators use absolutely different axiological linguistic strategies to gain a definite pragmatic effect.

The texts of A.A. Milne (1882-1956) became popular in the fields of linguistics, literary theory, and theory of translation recently. Being published at the beginning of the 20th century, Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928) were adapted to Russian audience (VinniPukh i vse-vse-vse ‘Winnie-the-Pooh and all-all-all’) by Boris Zakhoder (1960). Fyodor Khitruk shot the most popular, and now the precedent in Russian culture, series of Soviet cartoons about Winnie-the-Pooh based on this adaptation in 1969-72 (VinniPukh ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’, VinniPukhidyot v gosti ‘Winnie-the-Pooh Goes Visiting’, VinniPukh i den’ zabot ‘Winnie-the-Pooh and the Day of Concerns’). But though the texts of Zakhoder’s adaptations were precedent for the Russian, the postmodernist translators wanted to play their interpretation game in remaking the classics. VadimRudnev published his intellectual bestseller VinniPukh i filosofiyaobydennogoyazyka ‘Winnie-the-Pooh and Everyday Speech Philosophy’ (first in 1994), the full text of Milne’s translation into Russian with specific semiotic and psychoanalytic commentaries [4]. There appeared more new translations of the texts mentioned, which were actually provoked by VadimRudnev’s interpretation and research works.

Translation of the texts about Winnie-the-Pooh into the semiosphere of cartoons has some semiotic specificity. Umberto Eco distinguishes three semiotic codes: iconic, linguistic, and sound. The first code is “based on the processes of visual perception.” The second one is of the used language. The third one “includes all soundsof the music range and the combinatory rules of the tonal grammar” as well as noises [7, p. 10-12]. This article discusses the first two codes of the cartoon language [see also: 1; p. 11]. Drawn Soviet cartoons by Eduard Nazarov and Fyodor Khitruk were intended for the mass audience of children. In these cartoons, the characters act at the background imitating a semi-professional children’s drawing, but the characters themselves are drawn carefully and in details, they are dynamic and exist at the center of the picture. So, it is possible to say that stylistics and semiotic structures of Milne’s texts diverse interpretations are not absolutely identical due to different semiotic codes of culture semiospheres and pragmatic intentions of illustrators. Maximal conventionality of Ernest H. Shepard’s illustrations to the first English publications of Winnie-the-Pooh could be the answer to the deliberate rejection of many writers of the Milne’s epoch to add any illustrations to their children’s books: they thought it restricted children’s imagination. Such a view was brightly shown in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien (e.g., Tree and Leaf).

Suggesting a cartoon “an independent art with its special language, but not as a kind of a photo-cinema” [2, p. 323]; [3, p. 293] lets us to discuss some important oppositions in the context of which we should interpret the cartoon language. The opposition of art and photography as “artificial” and “natural”, and, thus, a picture and cinema as a moving photography gives us the possibility to see the animated cartoons as a specific semiosphere which synthesizes almost all means of expression in culture: a moving picture, a sound, and a verbal text [9;p. 11]. The highest degree of conventionality of the cartoon language gives more playing abilities for the verbal text transformed into the cartoon text. “The original characteristic of the animated cartoons language is that it operates with the signs of the signs: the things which pop up at the screen before the spectators’ eyes are the pictures of the pictures. If the movement doubles the illusion of a photograph, it doubles the conventionality of a drawn picture, at the same time. The characteristic feature of a cartoon is its orientation to the picture with the most precisely expressed specificity of a language: to a caricature, children’s drawings, fresco” [2, p. 324]. Such changes of a verbal language with the help of visual and musical codes, projected onto the screen with the highest degree of conventionality, lead to the crucial changes of the source text structure.

The cartoon versions of the Milne’s texts by the Disney Studio were released gradually: Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966), Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968), Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore (1983), etc. At first, the authors of the cartoon series preserved the structure of the source texts and created the main characters images according to the Ernest H. Shepard’s illustrations, only in their color version. But after some time they added new characters to the narration (the cartoon text looked precisely like the book narration with the pages and heroes jumping from page to page), the space and time borders of the text were broadened. American authors of Winnie-the-Pooh cartoons were not intended to restrain the action time, and the series were quite long. It was made to follow the source text by A.A. Milne in its screen cartoon version, but the main criterion of an effective cartoon has been lost: the cartoon was no longer an amusing show, because being amusing in the animated cartoons means being short and dynamic.

This paradox of a cartoon language was considered as one of the main points by Fyodor Khitruk, the author of one of the best Soviet cartoons about Winnie-the-Pooh based on the Boris Zakhoder’s adaptation of the Milne’s texts. The research works in the history of Russian animated cartoons touched only the main ideas of Khitruk as a cartoonist and cartoon director, but the detailed analysis of his works in the cartoons about Winnie-the-Pooh is not been given yet [2; p. 6].

The texts by Milne were changed much when being adapted by Boris Zakhoder into Russian [1]; [5]; [8], and their translation into the language of cartoons demanded new transformations. The conflict between Khitruk and Zakhoder because of these transformations was appreciated in a bad way by Zakhoder, and led to the break of the friendship between two masters of Soviet culture. These changes were connected to the text structure: from the very extensive verbal text of Zakhoder’s translation there were chosen only three chapters, seemed to be the most interesting stories about Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends. It was those stories (presenting the first, second, sixth, and partly fourth chapters from Winnie-the-Pooh) which became the basis of the cartoon narration. Khitruk appreciated dynamic plot and amusement (an attraction, a wonder for the children’s audience) as two basic characteristics of a successful cartoon [6, p. 7-13]. We see his choice of the most amusing and funny episodes from the Pooh and his friends’ adventures as pragmatically correct and time-proved in Russian cultural audience.

There were some changes in number and functions of the text protagonists and background characters acting in the cartoon space. The narrator of the Milne’s text and its adaptation by Zakhoder remains only in the form of a non-diegetic voice by V. Osenev. But his main functions are changed: in the source and target texts he is merged with the Christopher Robin’s fatherwho, in fact, tells the stories about a teddy bear to his son. In the cartoon by Khitruk he became the all-mighty demiurge narrator who addresses the whole spectators’ audience. This semiotic change happens when the close, intimate space of communication between Christopher Robin and his father disappears at the moment Christopher Robin is no longer the inner text addressee.

As for other characters of the Zakhoder’s adaptation, many of them have some new functions in the Khitruk’s cartoon when they act in the events where Christopher Robin as a superhero (“supercharacter” [4, p. 37-38]) had acted. In the Khitruk’s cartoon Piglet’s functions are broadened: he became the main friend of Winnie-the-Pooh, he – instead of Christopher Robin – should shoot at Pooh “Cloud” to save him from the wrong bees (cf. the notion to the English cartoon translated into Russian: “Winnie-the-Pooh flies after honey and meets bees. And instead of Piglet there is Christopher Robin here”). Piglet with Winnie-the-Pooh goes visiting Rabbit and – instead of Christopher Robin again – helps Pooh to get out from the “tight place”. Thinking out as many comical situations as possible, Khitruk makes a pragmatically effective decision: giving to a sanguine Pooh such asthenic, and a bit depressive character, he solves a lot of problems at once. When we compare the effect from shooting with a large gun by Christopher Robin and by a tiny frightened Piglet, it produces the comic effect. This effect was not planned in the adaptation by Zakhoder and can be appreciated as the cartoon director pragmatic success. Joining together the fictional acting space of the fourth and the sixth chapters of Zakhoder’s adaptation seems reasonable, too, because of the necessity of events concentration at the very short period of cartoon time. The same characters are acting there, and the protagonist of both chapters is Eeyore. So, the story about the successfully found Eeyore’s tail at his birthday is joined together, though the narrative logic of the source text has been lost. Considered as a free interpretation, this pragmatically effective Khitruk’s strategy is reasonable from two main points of the cartoon success – dynamism of its plot and amusement it gives to the audience. Elimination of one of the text main characters, Christopher Robin, makes the cartoon text a universal one (the sign, which shows the cartoon belongs to the English culture, was almost hid). Moreover, this elimination lets other characters to execute Christopher Robin’s functions and solve the problems together, without the superhero.

Appreciating animated cartoons as a “rightful and complete form of communication” [6, p. 22-23], the Russian director of Winnie-the-Pooh cartoons has created a unique work of intercultural communication, though his interpretation of the Milne’s texts and Zakhoder’s adaptation is a debatable one. The first Russian adaptation of the Milne’s texts was controversial, too. Coming from Disney’s cartoon making traditions, Eduard Nazarov and Fyodor Khitruk went their own way in showing cartoon characters as the main element of a screen picture, as well as it used to be done by Disney [6, p. 14-17]. But the main difference between the version by Khitruk and the Western cartoon versions is Khitruk’s keeping to the verbal text fragments in the fiction cartoon space: it does not only entertain and amuse, it teaches the children’s audience.

We can see the dynamic development of text meanings when its significance fits to the audience wishes. The text becomes acute, and generates many interpretational versions, including intra- and intersemiotic translations. It happened to the Milne’s texts about Winnie-the-Pooh in different semiospheres where diverse interpretations of these texts exist now.


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