September 19, 2019

Red hair and redheads

In her translation of Anne of Green Gables, Muraoka Hanako titled the novel Akage no Anne (「赤毛のアン」). The kanji ke (毛) can refer to fur, wool, down, as well as hair, while kami (髪) specifically means the hair of the head. So a strand of hair on your head is kami no ke (髪の毛).

Anime characters aside, actual human red hair (of the scarlet variety) is very rare in Japan. So while common hair colors like black (黒髪) and white (白髪) use kami, the ke (毛) in akage sets it apart from the norm.

The popularity of Akage no Anne after its publication in 1952 was such that subsequent translations have followed suit, and akage (赤毛) has come to mean "redhead" and all its related synonyms.

By comparison, the manga and anime Snow White with the Red Hair (「赤髪の白雪姫」) uses akagami. The association of akage (赤毛) with Anne Shirley is so pervasive that Sorata Akizuki (or her publisher) likely wished to avoid any confusion between the two literary redheads.

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Hanako and Anne
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Snow White with the Red Hair

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# posted by Anonymous Lehst
2/07/2020 10:58 AM   
fascinating. thanks for the trivia