To Kill a Mockingbird To Kill a Mockingbird question

German translation of To Kill a Mockingbird
Elke Woll Elke Jul 28, 2014 05:02AM
Hi there,
I'm wondering if there is anybody here who has a German copy of the book. The German title is "Wer die Nachtigall stört" - totally inept but I do understand the problems in translating the title. Anyway the title makes the references in the book - "It's a sin to kill a mockingbird" - impossible. Therefore, I would like to know who these passage are translated:

"but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" Atticus addressing his children, p. 119 in my edition (377 pages in all)

"Mockingbrids don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens [...] That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird. (ibid.)

"He likened Tom's death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children" (p. 323)

"Well, it'd be sort of like shootin' a mockingbird, wouldn't it?" (p. 370)

If I have no luck here, I think I have to do some serious poking around next time I'm in the public library.


I think that the translation of a mockingbird into a nightingale is more a translation of the feeling that folks in europe have for the nightingale (in folklore, it is the bird with the loveliest voice, who stops singing when imprisoned), it is beloved for its song. The mockingbird is a ubiquitous bird in the much of the southeastern US,it is found in every backyard and is beloved for its singing. It is an innocent soul much like Tom is and the question is "to kill" or not to kill "a mockingbird". Do people hunt nightingales?

This is something I have been wondering as well, when I read the book. Not so much that I did not know what the English words meant, but why would the translator go for this version of the title.
Being German, I've never heard of a "Spottdrossel" other then in US adaptations (namely this book and the Hunger Games). So changing that to a nightingale makes sense. But the books plot and twist need the saying the way it is in English.
I would also like to know if different translators used different book titles; the way "Crime and Punishment" has lots of different titles in German (translated: Guilt and Atonement (most common); Crime and Punishment; Transgression and Rebuke; Roadion Raskolnikov).

Elke Woll Hi Daniel,
as far as I know "Wer die Nachtigall stört" is the only title in German and there is only one translation of the book. The 1962 film with Gr
Jul 30, 2014 03:04AM · flag
Elke Woll I don't seem to be able to comment on my own question - so I'll do it here. Our library doesn't have the book (which I think is pretty dismal). But I ...more
Jul 30, 2014 10:08AM · flag

Judith (last edited Jul 28, 2014 11:38PM ) Jul 28, 2014 11:36PM   0 votes
It might be possible to translate the bits you want on Google....for free. Just type in "English to German language translation" and an appropriate page should pop up.

Hope this helps.

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