The Prince and the Pauper

The Prince and the Pauper
王子和穷孩子

based on The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

LEVEL 1 (300 unique characters)

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During a chance encounter, two nearly identical boys, one a poor beggar and the other a prince, decide to exchange places. The pauper, now living in the royal palace, is constantly filled with the dread of being discovered for who and what he really is while the Prince, dressed in rags, lives on the street enduring hardships he never thought possible. Both children soon discover that neither life is as carefree as they expected.

Adaptation Notes

Mark Twain’s classic novel, The Prince and the Pauper, has been the subject of countless retellings, but has never been done in such a uniquely Chinese way before. In order to put the focus on the story in our adaptation, we set our version of the story in a fictional Chinese kingdom in the remote past. We never say exactly what year or dynasty it is, and the character names used, while sometimes inspired by real historical figures, are not straight out of the history books. The characters have been given authentic Chinese names as opposed to transliterations of English names, which sound foreign in Chinese. The location of the story, a city called 西京 (Xījīng), is also fictional.

Some elements of the story have a certain relationship to actual Chinese history, however. For example, although (Sòng) is the name of a historical Chinese dynasty, we chose it for the king’s name in our story precisely because there was no famous Chinese emperor with that surname. As for the name 宋知远 (Sòng Zhīyuǎn), we borrowed the given name from the actual historical emperor 刘知远 (Liú Zhīyuǎn).

One challenge in adpating this work was the title, The Prince and the Pauper. The word “pauper” means “beggar,” and can be translated as 乞丐 (qǐgài) in Chinese. However, this word is both formal and also contains two low-frequency characters, so it’s no good for a graded reader. The more colloquial option, 要饭的 (yàofàn de), also means “beggar,” but is so informal that it is not suitable for a book title (but it does appear in our book). Thus, we decided to go with 穷孩子 (qióng háizi), meaning “poor child,” a less literal translation of the English “pauper.”

Finally, our Chinese staff would like to make it clear to the reader that the hairstyle of the prince in our story does not conform to the actual historical royal hairstyles of ancient China. (Sometimes you just have to go with design choices that look a little cooler.)

  • 宋知远 (Sòng Zhīyuǎn) – Edward Tudor, Prince of Wales
  • 李小朋 (Lǐ Xiǎopéng) – Tom Canty
  • 李大 (Lǐ Dà) – John Canty
  • 周兵 (Zhōu Bīng) – Sir Miles Hendon
  • 白老师 (Bái Lǎoshī) – Father Andrew
  • 雨平 (Yǔpíng) – Lady Edith
  • 老国王 (Lǎo Guówáng) – King Henry VIII

Study Resources

The Prince and the Pauper

“对了,我还没问你叫什么?”王子1一边吃,一边问。

“李小朋。”小朋还在吃,他觉得很开心,但是也很不好意思2

“在3里,总是有人一直跟着我,看着我。”王子1说,“我说话做事都要很有礼貌4,我觉得这样的生活56。你每天都去要饭,但是你的生活5听起来很有意思。”王子1说完就不吃了。

王子1没想到7你会觉得我的生活5有意思。不过,我也不太明白你怎么会不喜欢8王宫9生活5。我一直很想住在王宫9里,过一天王子1生活5。”然后,小朋又小声说:“我知道这是不可能10的。可是,如果能让我穿11一下你的衣服12也好啊!”

“你想穿11我的衣服12?来吧!”王子1觉得这样做很好玩,“那我也穿11上你的衣服12吧!”

小朋开心死了,马上13就跟王子1去了他的房间14王子1仆人15都不要进来。

知远王子1穿11上了小朋的16衣服12,小朋穿11上了王子漂亮17衣服12。他们长得真的太18了!如果他们不告诉19别人,没有人会知道谁是真王子1,谁是要饭的。

  1. 王子 (wángzǐ) n. prince
  2. 不好意思 (bùhǎoyìsi) adj. embarrassed
  3. (gōng) n. palace
  4. 礼貌 (lǐmào) n.; adj. manners; polite
  5. 生活 (shēnghuó) n. life
  6. (lèi) adj. to be tired
  7. 没想到 (méi xiǎngdào) phrase to not have imagined
  8. 喜欢 (xǐhuan) v. to like
  9. 王宫 (wánggōng) n. the royal palace
  10. 可能 (kěnéng) adv. maybe, possibly; possible
  11. 穿 (chuān) v. to wear
  12. 衣服 (yīfu) n. clothing
  13. 马上 (mǎshàng) adv. immediately (lit. “on horseback”)
  14. 房间 (fángjiān) n. room
  15. 仆人 (púrén) n. servant
  16. (pò) adj. beat-up, run-down
  17. 漂亮 (piàoliang) adj. pretty
  18. (xiàng) v. to resemble, to be like
  19. 告诉 (gàosu) v. to tell

Greatest Level 1-story of Mandarin Companion so far. The story is really compelling, especially considering its limited vocabulary. I can recommend this book to anybody who’s learning Chinese, even if you are not a beginner anymore.

B. Rauh