Translate Bloodborne to Transcend the Hunt

The pale-faced moon picked out this moment

To peek out from behind a cloud

— Prychynna by T. Shevchenko (Translated by John Weir)

On February 15 at 4:19 PM, the work chat of SBT Localization reported: MAL’OPUS is planning on translating a graphic novel based on the Bloodborne universe. The team that at the time was, obviously, working their way through Baldur’s Gate or slowly finishing work on the previous project, The Art of God of War, all suddenly felt a ripple of excitement. The new project caught the eye of many with its high-quality graphics and rich universe.

As soon as the selected team saw the text and became fully acquainted with the material though, our interest turned into infatuation as we realized what we had gotten ourselves into. And that’s how we started out transcending the Hunt.

Bloodborne is a PS4-exclusive adventure role-playing game, a spiritual successor of the Souls game series, notable for its gothic setting and hardcore gameplay. Its protagonist is the Hunter, who makes use of fire and steel to make his way through the slums of Yharnam – a city devastated by a mysterious plague. He makes every effort to find the precious Paleblood and transcend the Hunt while facing his own demons and being lost between reality and illusion.

The graphic novel series, whose first volume was released in the fall of 2018, does not cover the events of the game, Quite the contrary, it helps expand and fill its universe, revealing non-player characters and complementing the game world. The author for the script is Ales Kot, a Czech-American writer and screenwriter, while the illustrating was done by Piotr Kowalski, who also worked on the graphic novels for The Witcher and Dark Souls.

Our first task was to evaluate the style and register used to write the works and by which the universe exists. Bloodborne’s language is epic and elevated, archaic and poetic. And those were the tones that we have decided to stick to when translating, thus tending to use more poetic, expressive, and outdated words and phrases. We aimed at making the language refined and mysterious, a little alien and hostile, yet engrossing.

Into play came archaic words like “лічниця” and complex nouns like “блідокров” and “золокрів’я”. Additionally, unlike ordinary word “кров” (blood), we declined “блідокров” using the old model, and, hence, over Old Yharnam hangs a moon of the color of “блідокрови”, not “блідокрові”.

Besides that, the Bloodborne universe, especially its first volume, has an obvious internal system of symbols that had to be meticulously and consistently rendered into Ukrainian. The Hunter’s goal — to transcend the Hunt — was translated into Ukrainian as “звершити лови”, where the word “звершити” is directed upwards and conveys the original meaning of initiation completion, elevation above all that is profane, reaching the pinnacle, and setting foot on a new, superhuman level. We also chose “лови” over “полювання” for reasons of poetry and brevity since the bubbles are finite. Regrettably, it appeared impossible to convey the word row “Hunter, the Hunt, to hunt” with common root words in Ukrainian (since the respective “Ловець,” “лови” and “ловити” did deviate from the meaning and sounded less obvious), which is why we now have “Мисливець,” “лови” and “полювати”.

Another stumbling block for us was the unmarked grammatical gender of English verbs. The fact is that the protagonist of the first volume of the graphic novel, that is, the nameless Hunter, isn’t quite a character, but, in fact, a sexless creature. Similarly, the mysterious Paleblood child does not have pronounced sex, but is instead uncle Djura’s nibling, or “небожа”. However, our team has been taught by Baldur’s Gate to have no fear of uncertain genders, so we managed to deftly rearrange the sentences keeping up the said uncertainty; while deviation from the usual standard syntax added the oddness and atmosphere characteristic of the original work.

The first volume The Death of Sleep tells, as the name suggests, the story of the main character’s (his or her) wanderings in between sleep and awakening. In fact, the text distinguishes between the concepts of a dream, sleep, awakening, and nightmare, which we have consistently translated as “марення,” “сон,” “пробудження”, and “жахіття.” We had to rearrange the constructions or turn verbs into nouns in some places; however, integrity comes above all.

The graphic novel itself is striking. Both graphics and narration are impressive — the graphic novel engrosses you and you can’t let go. Its spirit reminds one of the short novels for The Witcher, however, it is more disturbing, piercing, and lonely. The readers should get ready for the bloody slasher scenes, landscapes inspired by Gothic painting, as well as poignant reflections on choice and purpose.

However, if you don’t have a yen to delve into cramped mazes and bizarre illusions, the novel may leave the impression of “quite fascinating, but totally confusing.” Well, do consider this — but even that will not get in your way of enjoying the atmosphere and the artwork. As well as the text and its translation.

Both here and generally, the graphic novel got a tasteful, atmospheric, and authentic translation. You can evaluate our work by ordering the graphic novel on the website of MAL’OPUS publishing house.

What’s next? At least there are three more graphic novels in the series. There are as well a few other projects, such as an art book for Horizon Zero Dawn, as well as an art book and a graphic novel for Far Cry 6, as announced by MAL’OPUS reps at ComicCon. So, let’s look forward to the ukrainianization of new worlds!

Roman Hardashuk

(translated by Anastasia Rantiuk)


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