RARA-AVIS: Re: B. Traven's Treasure of the Sierra Madre

From: Richard Moore ( moorich@aol.com)
Date: 05 Sep 2007

The reference in Traven's work to "tigers" never bothered me because I assumed it was a colloquial reference and, somehow to me, the word "tiger" fit better than "jaguar" as it carried with it a touch of the fable.

When I read Etienne's comment, I did a bit of research and discovered that in Central and South America the Jaguar is called "El Tigre" and most likely this is the name given the animal by the people living in the jungles of Chiapas, the southern Mexican state Traven visited often from the mid-1920s on and in which he set many of his stories.

In various references, "El Tigre" and "Tigre Americano" are listed as alternate names for the jaguar, much as "Mountain Lion" is used in the western United States for the Cougar (also known as the Puma and in Florida as Panther).

Richard Moore

> In TREASURE… there is even a gross error. One of common knowledge,
> if it comes not from a wrong translation. The story takes place in
> Mexico and in the early pages of the novel a local character fears
> to sleep in the open nature because of … tigers. And this is
> repeated many times. I found it in the English version as well
> Amazon where you can browse the first chapters). Tigers, that's
> Asia. It's a detail of course but it signals the care that was
> to the text… and IMO Traven, well travelled and having lived in
> Mexico, could normally not do such an error. But even if so, what
> about the rest of the chain: publishers, translators, revisers…?
> Also: you must know that in German, Tiger is only used for …tiger,
> and does not combined to other German words to name other animals…
> So far for zoology (see note hereunder giving further comment).
> But I admit that even under those conditions, I enjoyed the novel.
> *Tiger*: a very good explanation of what is a mistake in French
> (=tigre- and it names only one feline), is given by Richard Moore,
> after he read my comment on it. In Mexican Spanish the colloquial
> word "tigre" can be used to name the North American big cats:
> jaguar, under others. Then the use of the word in a Spanish text
> makes sense, and as I've already mentioned it, a lot of
> of Traven's texts were done from Spanish versions…
> On the other side, the big cat explanation was what I suspected
> I searched for German words which could derive from tiger
> (combination words -and there was none), hence my above remark
> German words. German was the mother language of Traven.
> But the conclusion remains that a lot of Traven's texts were often
> mistreated during translation.
> E.Borgers
> http://www.geocities.com/polarnoir

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