Several people have mentioned to me that the title of Legend of the Galactic Heroes is based on a rather "interesting" translation. What would be a more accurate translation of the original title (銀河英雄伝説 Ginga Eiyū Densetsu)? I've also heard that it is based on a German title, that was then translated to Japanese, and then to English - I don't know if that is true, though.


Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu is a series of Japanese novels written by a Japanese person, and is not, to the best of my knowledge, materially based on any previously-existing work.

The 110-episode OVA series (which is probably what most viewers are familiar with) was given the alternate title "Heldensagen vom Kosmosinsel". I don't speak German, but various discussions on the internet suggest that "Heldensagen vom Kosmosinsel" is not valid German. A look at de.wiktionary.org suggests that "Kosmosinsel" is not even a word, or perhaps is a compound noun meaning "cosmos island" (which is not idiomatic for "galaxy"; that would be "Galaxie").

Given this, it looks like the producers of the OVA figured that it would look cool to have a faux-German title (in Gothic font, too!), ran "銀河英雄伝説" through Babelfish (or maybe through some dude who'd had a year of German at university), and got out "Heldensagen von Kosmosinsel". It's probably the case that the translation went Jap -> Ger (badly) and Jap -> Eng, rather than Ger -> Jap -> Eng.

I'm not sure why you've been hearing that that "Legend of the Galactic Heroes" is an "interesting" translation of 銀河英雄伝説 (ginga eiyuu densetsu), though. 銀河 ginga means "galaxy"; 英雄 eiyuu means "hero"; and 伝説 densetsu means "legend".

It's a bit contracted to omit particles, as titles often are, but the meaning is clear - this is a densetsu about the ginga eiyuus, i.e. a legend about galaxy heroes. Hence, Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

Note: in the comments, @Krazer correctly points out that an alternate parse of ginga eiyuu densetsu is as "eiyuu densetsu about the ginga", i.e. "Heroic Legends from the Galaxy". Now that I think about it, I'm not really sure which parse is actually better, in terms of the show.

  • If we draw from both sources we can infer that 銀河(Milky Way/Galaxy) 英雄伝説 (heroic [legendary] tales) can also potentially mean: "Heroic Tales/Legends from (the) Milky Way/Galaxy."
    – кяαzєя
    Nov 10 '13 at 18:51
  • @Krazer Good catch. I've incorporated that into the answer.
    – senshin
    Nov 14 '13 at 5:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.