I’m trying to translate a sci-fi novel from Russian to German as a new hobby. Sometimes there are expressions which allude to cultural references which do not exist in German. In general, the novel’s language is very picturesque and funny but in parts also sublime and I’m trying to not lose any of it when translating, but it’s tough sometimes…
Right now I’m stuck on a sentence which involves Zmey Gorynych, a three-headed dragon which is known to every Russian kid and adult, as it is a character of several very popular fairy tales. The protagonist of the novel is himself a dragon, but not an evil one, rather comparable to a scatterbrained professor in a dragon’s body. He is talking to himself a lot in his thoughts, so the reader gets to read his internal monologue frequently. In the sentence in question he says to himself:
Ein Trottel bist du, Zmey Gorynych, …
Obviously, a German reader won’t know Zmey Gorynych, so I searched for analogues: Tabaluga (too childish), Fáfnir and Smaug (not sufficiently well known, I think, also not really fitting as a stupid dragon).
If this won’t work out, maybe it is better to resort to some funny paraphrase. I am thinking about something like sparsam behirnte Riesenschlange or similar but am not sure if this sounds good.
In case, anyone needs more context, the Russian original is available for free on the author’s website (please comment, if so, I will post the link), I can also provide my translation progress so far (but not publicly).
Regarding the etymology of the name "Zmey Gorynych": "Zmeya" means "snake", "zmey" is its masculine form and means something like a wyrm or serpent. Possibly "Gorynych" has some relation with "goret'" (to burn), but the connection is so weak that it is not recognized by people, unless they are etymologists.
Originally "Zmey Gorynych" is a personal name, but it is used as a generic name in the sentence in question.
The dragon in the novel has only one head, so it is not strictly necessary that the dragon, with which he compares himself, has several heads. The dragon is not a sea serpent though, it has four legs and a pair of wings, so it can fly.