I'm currently reading Harry Potter und der Gefangene von Askaban to improve my German. In the English version, Harry gets on a Wizarding bus called "The Knight Bus" after running away from home. This is a pun in English, as "knight" sounds like "night". The translators usually make an effort to either preserve any puns they come across, or if they are untranslatable will add a new one.

In the German version, the Knight Bus is called "der Fahrende Ritter". I understand the meaning of the German translation, "the travelling knight".

However I don't understand the joke - can anyone help?

  • 2
    A better pun had been Trachtbus (night busder Nachtbus), because knights are wearing funky medieval costumes – »die Tracht«.
    – Janka
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 23:10
  • 26
    @Janka I never met "Tracht" being used for the garement of a knight. (I don't know about cosplay; speaking here about real knights in the real past). "Tracht" is typically used for the traditional clothing of "ordinary" people, e.g. villagers. Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 5:04
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    You don't understand the joke because it was lost in translation. Tofro's explanation is correct, but "Der Fahrende Ritter" has about no fun element at all. I presume the translator wanted to stay with the "knight" theme instead of inventing a new pun, like "Der Nacktbus" (rhymes with "Nachtbus" = "Night Bus"). Well - kids would not be concerned about "The Nude Bus", but their parents might be.
    – Klaws
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 14:29
  • 6
    @Klaws I'm lost a bit in how the "Nacktbus" would in any way be funny or even connected to the story. I find the pun that got used in the German translation even a little bit more funny than the English original. But that's probably a matter of taste.
    – tofro
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 15:42
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    @Janka That pun wouldn't've worked because the German word "Tracht" has nothing to do with the armour a knight would wear.
    – user17009
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 16:42

1 Answer 1


fahrender Ritter (travelling knight) used to be a standing expression for knights travelling through the country and offering their knightly services on their way to anyone who paid for them (in gold, kind, or even courtly love).

Today, "fahrend" would be literally understood as driving - which is the main pun here as the bus is driving as well an has a hard shell made from metal.

  • 18
    +1 Also, the traditional English equivalent of fahrender Ritter is "knight-errant". Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 23:25
  • 2
    Thank you. I guess another layer to the pun would be that der fahrender Ritter also travels the country to help any distressed witches or wizards get to their destination, provided they have the coin! Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 15:38
  • In most cases it is impossible to translate word puns. In English the pun is knight / night, in German it is the semantically ambiguous attribute fahrend. But why the word Ritter is used remains totally unclear if one does not know the English original.
    – Paul Frost
    Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 11:52

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