Translating Peter Rabbit (hieroglyph edition)

Skip ahead to the translation here.
I’ve added some notes about this to my Posterous

I’ve been learning Egyptian hierogylphs for nearly a year now at the Egypt Exploration Society in London. So far I’ve only translated texts provided by my course tutor that have been either texts from monuments or specially written texts to practice things we have learned.

The other week I was at the British Museum and saw the book, ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit (hieroglyph edition)’, and thought it would be fun to transliterate it, then translate it back into English.

As I’ve only been learning hieroglyphs for a year, I’m bound to make some a lot of mistakes.

The books I am using to help me with translating are:
1. ‘How To Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs’ by Mark Collier and Bill Manley– this is a good starting point to learn heiroglyphs. It doesn’t have a complete sign list, but I use it for the odd thing like pronoun lists or verb forms.

2. ‘A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian’ by Raymond O. Faulkner – You can’t do without this if you’re doing hieroglyphs.

3. ‘Egyptian Grammar’ by Alan H. Gardiner– again, this is a requirement for doing hieroglyphs.

Another good book to have to learn hieroglyphs, but one I am not using to translate, is ‘Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs’ by James P. Allen.

Before I get to translating the book, I will very, very basically explain just a little bit about how hieroglyphs are translated.

Ancient Egyptians used hundreds of different hieroglyphs during the Middle Egyptian period (this went up to thousands later on). There are three different roles that hieroglyphs have. The first is as a phonetic representation of the sounds of 1-, 2- or 3-consonants (Egyptians didn’t write vowels) in order to make up words; the second is as an ideogram, so the hieroglyph of a face with a line under it would mean ‘face’ rather than simply the phonetic sound ḥr (which are the consonants in the the word for face); the third is as what’s called ‘a determinative’ – it clarifies what is being said.

The first thing one needs to do is transliterate the hieroglyphs into alphabetic symbols representing the different sounds. The ‘alphabet’ used for this is as follows:
3 – English sound ‘ah’
ı͗ – English sound ‘ee’
y – English sound ‘ee’
ˤ – English sound ‘ah’
w – English sound ‘oo’
b – English sound ‘b’
p – English sound ‘p’
f – English sound ‘f’
m – English sound ‘m’
n – English sound ‘n’
r – English sound ‘r’
h – English sound ‘h’
ḥ – English sound ‘h’
ḫ – English sound ‘kh’
ẖ – English sound ‘kh’ (like the German ‘ich’
s – English sound ‘s’
š – English sound ‘sh’
ḳ – English sound ‘k’
k – English sound ‘k’
g – English sound ‘g’
t – English sound ‘t’
ṯ – English sound ‘ch’
d – English sound ‘d’
ḏ – English sound ‘dj’

In order to read the transliterated words aloud, Egyptologists insert an ‘eh’ sound between the consonants so the little face symbol above ‘ḥr’ is pronounced ‘hehr’/’hair’.

After transliterating, you need to translate, which involves picking out the individual words. As ancient Egyptian didn’t use spaces between words nor punctuation, sometimes this can be rather difficult. This is why you need sign lists and dictionaries. As I am only providing a literal translation, I’m not even going to get involved in grammar or verb forms etc, which also isn’t the easiest. (Update 11/06/12: I am now attempting a translation into readable English.)

OK. Onto the translation.

I will only show the cover and the first page of the book (copyright, schmopyright), but will provide as much of a transliteration and literal translation (without punctuation etc) of the entire book as I can. If anyone finds any mistakes, let me know (via Twitter).


Line 1: sḏdt n
Tale of
Line 2: ptr sẖˤt
Peter hare


Line 1:
wn pw sẖˤt nḏst 4 irw rn sn
Be this is Lives this/it hare small 4 (unknown) (shape?) names their

Line 2:
m fw3psy mw3psy
with(?) namely Fwapsy Mwapsy

Line 3:
sd mḥw ptr wn sn ḥnˤ
Tail of Linen Peter be they together with

Line 4:
mwt sn ḥr ṯs ẖr mnyt n
mother they upon sandbank under root of

Line 5:
cš ˤ3 wrt
cedar tree great great

Update June 10th
Line 1
ḥḏ n rf t3 ḥḏ-n-t3 ḏd.n sẖˤt i3t (det. ‘old’) (det. ‘woman’)
Dawn (thus?) land said/spoke our hare old woman

Line 2
i mr-w 3 (det. ‘family’) (det. ‘woman’) di (det. ‘woman’) šm tn
Oh! My love Loves (unknown) (family of woman?) please go you (pl.)

Line 3
r š3 r w3t tn r pw im n tn
to country to road you that speak(?) (utterance? intent?) this is there (when?) together not you(pl.)

Line 4
nswt(?) šm r ḥrt-š in s3 grgr
but go to garden in Son of Gregor

Update June 11

Line 1
ir-n tw st3w r itf-tn
‘born of/whom made’ them crimes to/at/concerning father your(pl)

Line 2
im rdi n(y)-sw ḥm.t s3 grgr
when placed he belong to wife son of gregor

Line 3
m t srf
in bread warm

Update June 12

Line 1
3s irf tn m ir dw.t
hasten (so)too you(pl.) with/from take action(?) evil

Line 2 nbt mk w r prt
lady/mistress See! I to go

Update June 13

Line 1
ˤḥˤ n ṯ3i n s sẖˤt i3t
stood up (to?) (past tense. doh!) took up/seized snatched (to?) her(?) Old (female) Rabbit (Mrs Rabbit?)

Line 2
mnḏm šwyt s šm n s
basket sunshade go (she?)

Line 3
ẖr nhwt r pr rtḥy in
carrying/under(?) protection(?) trees to house baker fetch

Line 4
n s t p3t m wnšty 5
bread loaf in/from/namely(?) plum/raisin/currant 5

Update June 13

Line 1
ist rf wn fw3psy mw3ps
(encl. part.) (encl. part.) lives/content(?) Fwapsy Mwaps

Line 2
y sd mḥw m sẖˤt nḏs
y Tail of Linen with/from/in rabbits small

t(det pl.) nfr (det ‘says’) sn h3 n
beautiful marvels say(?) descended

Line 4
sn r w3t/w3i tn r in nt bnrt
They towards road/start you(?) to get/fetch (belonging to) dates.

Update June 18

Line 1
iw ms ptr m bin (det small) wr.t sḫ
Surely/Indeed Peter in/with/as bad (det small) great(very)
Line 2
s (det movement) in.f r š n s3 grgr
hurry/flee (by him? can’t quite get what in.f means) to garden of Son of Gregor
Line 3
ḥr ˤwy

UPDATE 18th June
My (attempt at a) translation into English directly from this text, not from the original book- “There live four small hares. Their names are Fwapsy Mwapsy Linentail and Peter. They live together with their mother upon a sandbank under a very large cedar tree.

In the morning, the old woman (Mother Rabbit?) said, “Oh! My loves, please, go to the country or to the road, but you must not go to the garden of Son of Gregor. When your father committed crimes there, he was placed into warm bread by the wife of the Son of Gregor (Mrs. Son of Gregor). Hurry along and stay away from the evil woman (out of trouble?). I am going.

Mrs Rabbit stood up, grabbed her basket and sunshade. She traveled under the protection of the trees to the bakers to fetch bread and 5 raisin loaves.”

Fwapsy Mwapsy Linentail- little, beautiful (marvelous?) hares- went down the road to fetch (their?) dates. Peter – a very bad little one – hurried immediately to the garden of Son of Gregor

I will continue update this with the transliteration, literal translation and “readable” translation of the rest of the book as and when I do it.

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