Sonderling Sunday – Philosophy from Heidi

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at German translations of children’s books.


Today, in honor of Easter Sunday, I’m going to choose Chapter 14 of Heidi, by Johanna Spyri, where Heidi’s grandfather goes back to church.

The chapter is called Am Sonntag, wenn’s läutet, which is translated, “On Sunday When the Church Bells Ring.”

I’m going to skip the first bit. Heidi has come back from Frankfurt and is visiting Peter’s grandmother. Oh look! Already I’ve found a big difference. The English translation I found online says, “Turning the pages, Heidi found a song about the sun and decided to read that aloud.” The original German version writes out ten stanzas of this song about the sun! (Hmmm. Maybe I found an abridged version.)

Heidi makes a plan to buy fresh, soft rolls for the grandmother every day.

O juhe! Nun muss die Grossmutter gar nie mehr hartes, schwarzes Brot essen, und, o Grossvater, nun ist doch alles so schön, wie noch gar nie, seit wir leben!
= “O grandfather, now grandmother won’t ever have to eat hard, black bread any more. O everything is so wonderful now!”

und Heidi hüpfte hoch auf an der Hand des Grossvaters und jauchzte in die Luft hinauf wie die fröhlichen Vogel des Himmels.

Okay, this translation only says, “The child gave a bound, shouting:”
Google translate says: “And Heidi hopped up at the hand of the grandfather, and shouted into the air like the cheerful bird of heaven.”

Okay, forgive me but I love this next paragraph. Here it is translated into English.

“If God Our Father had done immediately what I prayed for, I should have come home at once and could not have brought half as many rolls to grandmother. I should not have been able to read either. Grandmama told me that God would make everything much better than I could ever dream. I shall always pray from now on, the way grandmama taught me. When God does not give me something I pray for, I shall always remember how everything has worked out for the best this time.”

Here is the original German:
O wenn nur der liebe Gott gleich auf der Stelle getan hätte, was ich so stark erbetete, dann wäre doch alles nicht so geworden, ich wäre nur gleich wiederheimgekommen und hätte der Grossmutter nur wenige Brötchen gebracht und hätte ihr nicht vorlesen können, was ihr wohl macht; aber der liebe Gott hatte schon alles ausgedacht, so viel schöner, schöner, als ich es wusste; die Grossmama hat es mir gesagt, und nun ist alles so gekommen.

This is going on in much more detail. (Yes, the English is abridged!) Heidi is going on about how hard she prayed. My rough translation of the last bit:
“But the dear God had already thought of it all so much, much more beautiful than I knew. Grandmama had told me, and now it has happened.”

It continues:
O wie bin ich froh, dass der liebe Gott nicht nachgab, als ich bat und jammerte!
= “O how glad I am, that the dear God did not give me what I begged and cried for!”

Aber jetzt will ich immer so beten, wie die Grossmama sagte, und dem lieben Gott immer danken, und wenn er etwas nicht tut, das ich erbete, dann will ich gleich denken: es geht gewiss wieder wie in Frankfurt, der liebe Gott denkt etwas viel Besseres aus.
= “But now I will always pray so, like Grandmama said, and always thank God, and when he doesn’t do something that I’ve asked for, then I will think: It is certainly like in Frankfurt, that God is thinking of something much better.”

You know what? I like that so much, and it so beautifully sums up what I’ve been thinking about my own life as I write Project 52 – I’m just going to stop there.

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