10 Of The Most Translated Books In The World

Unsurprisingly, children’s books and fairy tales dominate the list.
10 Of The Most Translated Books In The World

In the United States, only about 3 percent of published texts are books in translation. The number is far higher in other countries, but for the most part, an author getting a book translated is a pretty big deal. Getting translated into over a hundred languages? You have to be pretty famous to get that far. So becoming one of the most translated books of all time takes some talent.

Here, we compiled a list of 10 of the books that have been spread the furthest. We’ve excluded religious texts, though it’s worth noting that the Bible is the most translated text in the world by a huge margin.

10. Pippi Långstrump
By Astrid Lindgren

Original Language: Swedish
Estimated Number of Languages: 70

Pippi Långstrump, better known in the United States as Pippi Longstocking, is a fitting start to the list. The book is one of many children’s books that have been translated a huge number of times. Pippi Longstocking is about a young girl who engages in regular childhood activities, except her father is a buccaneer, she has superhuman strength, and she also has a pet monkey named Mr. Nilsson. It’s a charming series of books which are still widely read 70 years after publication.

9. Kon-Tiki Ekspedisjonen
By Thor Heyerdahl

Original Language: Norwegian
Estimated Number of Languages: over 70

Of all the books on this list, Kon-Tiki Ekspedisjonen — or The Kon-Tiki Expedition — is the biggest outlier. It’s not a beloved children’s book, nor is it a novel that changed the course of literature. It’s the true story of Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 journey from Peru to Polynesia, which he did with a small crew on a ship that was really little more than a raft. Heyerdahl embarked on this trip because he wanted to prove that Polynesia may have been settled by South Americans who sailed over, as part of a project to show ancient civilizations were more connected than anyone thought. This book became a best-seller, but it’s much lesser known today.

8. Harry Potter
By J.K. Rowling

Original Language: English
Estimated Number of Languages: 80

Despite being the newest book on this list, it probably comes as no surprise that Harry Potter has been translated into so many different languages. The story of a boy wizard and his friends fighting against evil defined the last few decades for many, many young readers. The book just recently added its 80th translation — Scots — and the number will likely continue to grow.

7. Les Aventures de Tintin
By Hergé

Original Language: French
Estimated Number of Languages: 115

The Adventures of Tintin is a Franco-Belgian comic series that ran between 1929 and 1976, and it followed the adventures of Tintin, a reporter, and his dog Snowy. The worldwide appeal of the book could be explained in part because the story itself is worldwide, with Tintin traveling the globe and encountering many different countries. Hergé is noted for using a lot of factual research in the series, and a lot of Tintin is written to accurately represent various cultures and people. This is not without some controversy over the representation of Africans, however, as well as some Nazi sympathy in some of the earliest stories.

6. Astérix le Gaulois
By René Goscinny, Albert Uderzo and Jean-Yves Ferri

Original Language: French
Estimated Number of Languages: 115

Astérix le Gaulois, or The Adventures of Asterix, is another Franco-Belgian comic series that happens to also have exactly 115 translations — though it’s slightly less famous than Tintin in the United States. This comic did get its start in Tintin magazine, so there are clear links between the two. The series has been going since 1959, and it follows the exploits of a Gaul warrior who helps his village deflect invading Roman forces in 50 BCE. It’s most famous in central Europe, which is often the target of the humor in the comics, but has been translated for readers around the globe.

5. El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha
By Miguel Cervantes

Original Language: Spanish
Estimated Number of Languages: over 145

Don Quixote is a widely lauded novel published in two parts — part one in 1605, part two in 1615 — and it is the oldest text on this list. While the number of translations could be attributed to having a 300-year head start on most of the other books here, excitement for the novel started shortly after publishing. The first English translation was put out in 1612, before part two of Don Quixote was even out. This book is often credited with creating the “modern novel,” and it’s mandatory reading for anyone who’s interested in literature, no matter what language they speak.

4. Andersen’s Fairy Tales
By Hans Christian Andersen

Original Language: Danish
Estimated Number of Languages: over 160

It’s hard to overstate the impact Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales have had on global culture because the stories have become so ubiquitous. The most famous, including “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Princess and the Pea,” have become shorthand for the morals they teach. And then there are those that have been adapted into movies, like The Little Mermaid. Andersen wrote a huge number of fairy tales in his life, and they have traveled all over the world.

3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
By Lewis Carroll

Original Language: English
Estimated Number of Languages: 174

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has captivated audiences both young and old since it was published in 1865. While it is ostensibly a simple story of a girl who gets lost and falls into a magical world, the book is filled with complex math problems and wordplay that captivates people long after they’ve stopped identifying with 8-year-old Alice. The work has inspired countless adaptations and spinoffs, up to and including the most recent Tim Burton franchise.

2. Le Avventure di Pinocchio
By Carlo Collodi

Original Language: Italian
Estimated Number of Languages: over 260

Today, more people have probably seen the Disney movie Pinocchio than have read the book it’s based on. But Le Avventure di Pinocchio, published in 1883, has been read by people from all around the world. The story of the marionette who becomes a boy through a series of adventures has inspired a huge number of movie adaptations. Even in 2018, there are three different Pinocchio movies in the works.

1. Le Petit Prince
By Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Original Language: French
Estimated Number of Languages: 300

Le Petit Prince, or The Little Prince in its English version, is the most beloved children’s book of all time, and it has the translations to prove it. The story of the pilot who crashed his plane into the desert and runs into a little prince who travels the planets has now captivated several generations’ imaginations. The simple art style, fantastic stories and ruminations on human nature have made it the most-translated non-religious text in the world.

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