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July 26, 2011

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Harry Potter casts spell in Tibet

THE magical world of Harry Potter has quite a bit in common with Tibetan beliefs and several translators are dedicated to bringing the boy wizard's stories to Tibet's children. Ji Shaoting, Chunla and Yan Yuanyuan cast the spell.

Expelliarmus!" Norgy Puchunggal cries, repeating the spell cast by Harry Potter as he translates J K Rowling's books about the boy wizard from Chinese into Tibetan.

"I'm addicted to the Rowling's magical world, which has some elements in common with our Tibetan religious world," he says.

"But Tibetan magicians can curse their enemies without seeing them face to face, whereas Harry needs to use his wand," says the head of the Tibetan editing office of the Tibetan Youth Newspaper in China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

Norgy Puchunggal was hooked when he read his first "Harry Potter" book in 2003 .

"At that time, there were few people in Tibet who even knew about Harry Potter. A colleague recommended that I read the book to my daughter," he says.

"I couldn't put it down," says the 40-year-old editor, who compares the series to "Outlaws of the Marshes," one of China's four great novels.

And once he starts translating, it's also hard to stop because he has already entered the book's magical world.

It took nearly two years to translate "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," the first book in the series. He completed the second book, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," in just one year.

He tries to make the Tibetan versions as attractive as the original English-language editions. He uses cover art that retains some of the English title.

Tales of the boy wizard are not the only young people's books and media he enjoys. He likes the Chinese animation "Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf" and the American TV animation series "SpongeBob SquarePants" about underwater adventures.

Norgy Puchunggal calls the Harry Potter books "very deep and sophisticated compared with other children's books. They express concepts like loyalty among friends, courage and the need for a positive spirit in the face of adversity."

He has not only read all seven fantasy novels, but also seen all the films. He's looking forward to the final movie, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows II," but he's sad that it's the end of the Potter era.

"For people like me who have read the books very carefully, the movies are not as good as the books, because many of the details that make the books so fascinating are missing from the films," he says.

His translations are mainly a labor of love and he earns very little from his work.

During a business trip to Shanna, a relatively wealthy region in southern Tibet, he found that many urban parents didn't want to purchase the books because they didn't think they were relevant to their children's studies and hence, would not help them get ahead.

The books were also too expensive in poor areas, selling for around 29 yuan (US$40.20).

To reach more readers, Norgy Puchunggal is currently working with the Tibet Youth Foundation, hoping to find sponsors who will help provide free books to children in poor areas.

There are many editors and translators like Norgy Puchunggal who have dedicated themselves to translating Chinese and overseas works into Tibetan. Dreling Wangdu has translated the works of Shakespeare, while Phunnor (who uses one name like many Tibetans) introduced the children of Tibet to "Grimm's' Fairy Tales."

"We often get together and talk about translating and sometimes we have arguments over how to translate a specific word," Norgy Puchunggal says. "That's because we are so passionate about our works."


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