The magic of translation

In 1992, Brian Morris, a school teacher by trade, bought a copy of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and, breaking all the rules of copyright, covered up all the English words and replaced them with Māori.

Te Anuhe Tino Hiakai became a solid favourite in his whare, along with many other classics he has translated since then. ‘They were great books in English,’ he says. ‘Why wouldn’t they be great books in Māori? Maybe even better books in Māori!’

 A few years later, in 2007, Brian was at the Bologna Book Fair when he came across the familiar illustration of a long, green caterpillar marching across a white book cover. His eyes went immediately to the text, but the title wasn’t in English. He stopped to chat to the agent, who boasted that the The Very Hungry Caterpillar had been translated into 28 languages.

‘Twenty-eight?’

The agent nodded.

‘But not into Māori?’

The agent shook his head.

And Brian thought: ‘Not yet’.

To continue reading this article, please head over to The Sapling magazine where it was first published during Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, 2017.