Monday, 18 January 2010

Two different endings

It is strange when you watch a movie based on your favourite book and have to realize that the ending was changed. It’s even stranger when you read a book in two languages and there are two different endings to the same story. This is the case with “The Jewel of Seven Stars” by Bram Stoker.

Years ago, I read the German version of the novel, published in paperback by Bastei-Luebbe (a well-known German publisher who also still publishes a host of pulp magazines). It was published under the title “Die Sieben Finger des Todes” (the seven fingers of death) and had a happy ending. Well, the ending was happy insofar as most people survived and the evil Egyptian queen was dead. Not a happy ending for Tera, but for everyone else.

Some years later I bought the English version (you can see the cover of this edition on the left of the first paragraph, I wasn’t able to find a picture of the cover of the Bastei-Luebbe edition online). I read it and found a completely different ending: apart from the storyteller himself (whose diary forms the novel) nobody survived. Not Tera, not the other three people taking part in the ‘experiment’ of bringing her back from the dead. At first, I thought I had not remembered the end of the story correctly (although I usually keep in mind the plot and the ending of every story I’ve read or seen). So I checked the German paperback which I still have in my possession. I was right about the different endings.

I put it down as a strange idea of the German publisher and ignored the fact that they had, for some reason or other, given the story a different ending. But I was reminded of this fact this Saturday, while I was not even expecting it.

I have bought a couple of audio dramatisations lately, among them also a version of “The Jewel of Seven Stars” (this time with the German title “Das Amulett der Mumie” – the amulet of the mummy). On the whole, the version is quite good, but it features the same ‘wrong’ ending as the novel from Bastei-Luebbe. It seems as if the producers of this dramatisation have only checked this novel and thus not used the ‘real’ ending. I can hardly blame them for not reading the English version as well – you can hardly expect two versions in two different languages to have a different ending, too.

So I’m wondering about it again, now. Why did they change the ending in the German version? Okay, so the original did not have a happy ending, but so do a couple of other horror novels. While you can basically expect the main characters of a romance novel to have their happy end, a story about death, murder and magic does not have to end happy.

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