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I'm comparing the original English of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" with the Spanish translation on Wikisource.

For the most part it's very good, but I noticed this mistranslation:

Original:

The boys thought that this happy circumstance would turn suspicion in the right direction; but they were dis-appointed, for more than one villager remarked: "It was within three feet of Muff Potter when it done it."

Translation:

Los dos muchachos pensaron que aquella feliz circunstancia encaminaría las sospechas hacia donde debían ir; pero sufrieron un desengaño, pues varios de los presentes hicieron notar «que ese Joe estaba a menos de una vara cuando Muff Potter cometió el crimen».

That last part should be something more like:

«que el cuerpo estaba a menos de una vara de Muff Potter cuando sangró».

I know my clumsy stab at it is wrong; I'm trying to say Muff Potter was within three feet of the body when it bled a little. Here is the passage in more context (the entire paragraph):

Injun Joe helped to raise the body of the murdered man and put it in a wagon for removal; and it was whispered through the shuddering crowd that the wound bled a little! The boys thought that this happy circumstance would turn suspicion in the right direc-tion; but they were disappointed, for more than one vil-lager remarked: "It was within three feet of Muff Potter when it done it."

Joe ayudó a levantar el cuerpo de la víctima y a cargarlo en un carro; y se cuchicheó entre la estremecida multitud... ¡que la herida había sangrado un poco! Los dos muchachos pensaron que aquella feliz circunstancia encaminaría las sospechas hacia donde debían ir; pero sufrieron un desengaño, pues varios de los presentes hicieron notar «que ese Joe estaba a menos de una vara cuando Muff Potter cometió el crimen».

What is a better translation than that given («que ese Joe estaba a menos de una vara cuando Muff Potter cometió el crimen»), which doesn't accurately convey the meaning, and my clumsy attempt?

6

I agree. The Wikisource translation is wrong. The superstitious belief that a corpse would bleed in the presence of the murderer is known as cruentation.

Cruentation (Latin: "ius cruentationis" or "Ius feretri sine sandapilae") was one of the medieval methods of finding proof against a suspected murderer. The common belief was that the body of the victim would spontaneously bleed in the presence of the murderer.

In Spanish, cruentación has another meaning, but this word is used sometimes in this way.

As the corpse bleeds when Injun Joe helps to raise it, the kids hope that this would be interpreted as a proof against him. But, to their disappointment, the crowd thinks is due to the presence of Muff Potter within three feet of the corpse.

I think a better translation would be:

Joe ayudó a levantar el cuerpo de la víctima y a cargarlo en un carro; y se cuchicheó entre la estremecida multitud que ¡la herida había sangrado un poco! Los dos muchachos pensaron que aquella feliz circunstancia encaminaría las sospechas hacia donde debían ir; pero sufrieron un desengaño, pues varios de los presentes hicieron notar que «Muff Potter estaba a menos de una vara cuando sucedió».

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    Cruentacion is a very very uncommon word, i am native and i didn't know it. I would said: "el cuerpo estaba a menos de una vara de Muff Potter cuando se desangró" – amchacon Jul 17 '16 at 18:49
  • I changed the translation in wikisource to amchacon's take on it; thanks to both of you! – B. Clay Shannon Jul 18 '16 at 4:21
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    @amchacon "Desangrarse" implica perder mucha sangre, y aquí se dice que la herida solo sangró un poco; además, son las personas y no las heridas las que se desangran, por lo que no creo que sea correcto. – JMVanPelt Jul 18 '16 at 4:31
  • @JMVanPelt Efectivamente. Lo que dice el texto no es que Muff Potter "se desangró" sino que la herida sangró un poco. "It done it" está entre comillas (es una expresión literal de lo que dijeron algunos) porque es una incorrección del habla popular por "it did it". Este "it did it" sustituye a "the wound bled a little": por eso he utilizado "sucedió". En español se entiende perfectamente que "lo que sucedió" es que "la herida sangró un poquito". – cdlvcdlv Jul 18 '16 at 8:27
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    I prefer @cdlvcdlv's version: if the original just says it done it, why should we be more specific in the translation and say cuando sangró? Much better use the unspecific sucedió. – Gorpik Jul 18 '16 at 10:14

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