From Dragons to Zombies, how entertainment tackles localization for the good and bad, Part I

In Uncategorized on June 1, 2016 by mstevensrev

Game of Thrones is a cultural phenomenon, impacting the world globally where passionate fans are engulfed in a world of ancient battles, mystical characters, political struggle, and most importantly dragons. So much of what they do is excellent from a story telling perspective and if you are a fan, the episode on May 22nd was one of the best stories to have experienced. If you have not yet watch and do not with to have it spoiled please stop reading now.


For those who have seen it, the backstory of the character Hodor was revealed. A giant of man with a strong gentle heart that physically cares for the crippled son of a ruler, Hodor can only speak one word, which is “hordor”. He has become a fan favorite and even inspired Game of Thrones as told by Hodor. This past episode we learn at Hodor’s death that he was actually saying, “Hold the door.” A picture of the martyrdom he would face, giving his life for Bran Stark.

A wonderful story, and yet a complete failure when it comes to translation, as Hodor only works in English as a shortened version of “hold the door”. The fail comes in that all the translations of Game of Thrones translated the character’s name as Hodor, rather then localizing it in that language for this event. Localizing characters name is a practice in the book, just this one key instance was a complete fail and set up a horrific situation for the translator working on this show. The entire play of language was lost in every language but English, that is what I would call an opportunity lost. For the international fans, this is a big disappointment.

Tomorrow I will follow this up with what one company (Skybound) is doing to make sure such failures do not happen with their content…

Translation is like a woman. If it is beautiful, it is not faithful. If it is faithful, it is most certainly not beautiful.

-Yevgeny Yevtushenko


One Response to “From Dragons to Zombies, how entertainment tackles localization for the good and bad, Part I”

  1. […] a week ago, I was discussing the Game of Thrones Hodor failure just before I attended the Fast Company LA Innovation conference with a co-worker and client. The […]

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