H.C. Andersens eventyr findes i mindst 20 forskellige engelsksprogede udgaver, og hver gang der kommer en ny udgave, kritiseres de tidligere, og det hævdes, at NU har vi fået den helt korrekte udgave af den verdensberømte digters eventyr.
Et typisk eksempel er den prisbelønnede amerikanske oversætter Tiina Nunnallys udsagn i forordet til hendes oversættelse fra 2004:

“I was introduced to the stories of Hans Christian Andersen long before I learned Danish and discovered how poorly the previous English translations have represented his work.“

Det er imidlertid et åbent spørgsmål, hvorvidt det er korrekt, at de nye oversættelser er mere tro mod Andersen end de gamle. Jeg bringer her syv eksempler på oversættelsen af de første to sætninger i H.C. Andersen eventyr Skyggen fra 1847.

Den originale sætning lyder:

I de hede Lande, der kan rigtignok Solen brænde! Folk blive ganske mahognibrune; ja i de allerhedeste Lande brændes de til Negre,

Oversættelser af linjerne i kronologisk orden:

In the hot countries the sun burns very strongly; people become quite mahogany brown, and in the very hottest countries they are even burned into negroes. (H.W. Dulcken, 1864-89).

In very hot climates, where the heat of the sun has great power, people are usually as brown as mahogany; and in the hottest countries they are negroes, with black skins. (Miss Henry B. Paull, 1869).

It is in the hot countries that the sun burns down in earnest, turning the people there a deep mahogany-brown. In the hottest countries of all they are seared into negroes (Jean Hersholt, 1942-47).

On the shores of the Mediterranean the sun really knows how to shine. It is so powerful that it tans the people a mahogany brown; (Erik Christian Haugaard 1978).

In the hot countries the sun really burns. People get as brown as mahogany, and in the hottest countries they get burned black. (Frank & Frank 2004).

In the hot countries the sun is certainly scorching! People turn as brown as mahogany. Why, in the hottest countries of all they’re even baked black. (Tiina Nunnally 2004).

In the hot countries the sun can really scorch you! People can turn as brown as mahogany, and in the hottest countries they can be baked black. (Tatar & June Allen 2008).

H.C. Andersens negre er pist væk i de moderne oversættelser – også i Tiina Nunnallys egen. Jeg har spurgt Tiina Nunnally, hvorfor hun har undladt at oversætte ordet negre til negroes, og hun forklarede mig, at det var et krav fra det amerikanske forlag. Hvis ordet negroes stod i bogen, ville den ikke blive købt af nogen amerikanske biblioteker, og den ville også risikere at blive kritiseret i pressen