Wild things

So I guess everyone saw today's Google Doodle, celebrating the 85th anniversary of Maurice Sendak's birth. Good times. It reminded me of something I meant to blog about a while ago: the Japanese translation of Where the wild things are.

Wild thing is the key term, and the translation used is kaijū 怪獣, usually rendered "monster" (the characters individually mean something like "uncanny beast"). To be honest, I am not crazy about this as a translation. I'm not accusing the translator (the legendary Jingū Teruo 神宮輝夫) of dropping the ball, exactly — I certainly don't have an alternative proposal ready. But I feel like the word kaijū introduces a qualitative difference that wild thing doesn't. I don't have a statistical analysis to back this up, but I feel like it's pretty rare to use the word kaijū metaphorically at all. Wildness, on the other hand, is something we all have in equal or lesser measure, depending on the day. (And of course the wildness in this book is famously based on reality.)

Similarly, wild rumpus becomes kaijū odori, "monster dance." This just doesn't do it for me at all. The whole point of a rumpus, surely, is that it does not have the constraints of a dance. Come on.

Check out the final exchange between Max and his former subjects, just before he departs:

But the wild things cried, "Oh please don't go ― we'll eat you up ― we love you so!"
And Max said, "No!"
かいじゅうたちは ないた。「おねがい、いかないで。おれたちは たべちゃいたいほど おまえが すきなんだ。たべてやるからいかないで。」

「そんなの いやだ!」と、マックスは いった。


But the wild things cried, "Oh please don't go ― we love you so much we could just eat you up ― we'll eat you, so don't go!"
And Max said, "I don't like the sound of that!"

It's interesting that Jingū felt the need to make the link between love and eating clearer. I feel like the whole middle third of his version of the wild things' line could be dropped and the children of Japan would still get the idea. Max's response, too, is more like something a real child would say, completely different in tone from the simple, rhyming "No!" of the original.

(Note that none of this stopped Kaijūtachi no iru tokoro from becoming one of Japan's favorite children's books.)

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Plus, does naku cover this sense of "cry"? The wild things aren't necessarily crying in the wet-eyes sense.


I also find "怪獣踊り" a poor translation. Kaiju is acceptable, if not very good, but the whole point of a rumpus is that it's out of control. Odori looses the whole sense of it.

Why not use some of the great Japanese onomatopoeia words? There's got to be some sort of とぐとぐ or めつべつ or something that means "sound of giant animals stomping around in a wild rumpus."


Naku can also be the "cry" of bird song and the like. 鳴く instead of 泣く.


"Loses" not "looses."


Good list here:


How about こつかつんルンバ? Yes, rumpus → rhumba is a stretch, but I like the effect of it.


There is a qualitative difference: now the title reads "where the monsters are".

A 怪獣 is a frightening beast like Godzilla. A "wild thing", as we learn in the story, is powerful and untamed but not unfriendly, like a Chinese dragon. Is there a problem with 野生もの?


野生 is wildlife, but does it have the connotation of "wild behavior"?


Sure: 野生児, 野生の思考 (Lévi-Strauss), etc.


I'm gonna get super nerdy and say that I prefer 野性 if we're going that route. (Although it wouldn't matter in a book that uses no kanji.) But overall I would prefer a wholly native Japanese expression. Is "abarembo" too cute? "Arakure" maybe?


narenai-mono for "untamed things" ?

from nareru (to be tame or domesticated)

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