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This quote is from a turn-of-the-century fantasy about pirates coming across a city, where everyone and everything is in suspended animation, some of which are dogs, described thus:

.....des chiens, le museau levé ou les dents au mur.

Can anyone tell me how one would translate "les dents au mur"? Is it an idiom? It can't mean "teeth to the wall", can it? And if it does mean "teeth to the wall",  whatever does that mean?

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Are they terrified of the pirates?  Frightened even to defend themselves or  to bark at the intruders?

No,they are not terrified of the pirates. Everything in the city is frozen like statues and was like this before the pirates arrived, though the dogs may have neen frightened of something, just before they froze.  If that is so, how would one translate the phrase, " les dents au mur"?

"faces to the wall"? "snarling at the walls"?

Ok I can see my idea is wrong as I have found the book you are talking about(le Roi au Masque  d'Or) I am not sure what it might be .Could  the dogs be sniffing at the base of the wall , looking for rat holes  or food?

What a wonderful source you have opened my eyes to! I didn't know it was possible to find texts from so small an extract.  If the phrase in question is not an idiom, I guess that must be what is implied.  Thanks for the suggestion, and thanks for the new invaluable site!

No problem.

Yes  you can track down texts but  it does not always work as not all books or all of their contents are searchable.

It doesn't seem to be a set phrase apart from  that.

The text you found my quote in, is a later edition than the one I have been working from. I have been working from an old French edition uploaded from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and it has beautiful art nouveau drawings in it. You might like to look at it. It is an old leather bound edition; a beautiful object in itself. A pity I don't have the hard copy! Merci encore une fois!

Yes that is very impressive. A pity it doesn't  show any drawings  of the dogs so that we could see what  the author had in mind.

It is from "La Cité Dormante" I can see.

des chevaux cabrés, ou tirant ,mornes , dans un attelage a chaines lourdes ,des chiens, le museau levé ou les dents au mur.

Are the dogs being dragged by the horses ? Are the (dead) dogs being transported to or from  the butcher's ?

Edit I think there is now  a translation by Kit Schluter:

I have found this translation:

"horses,rearing or at draught in a harness of heavy chains; dogs muzzle raised or fangs bared."


Thank you once again, George.. I translated the first three stories from the 1898 edition, but there were a few niggling phrases that I didn't get. Now, of course, I no longer need to go on with my translating. I had thought that the book was unavailable in English.. It is great to be able to compare my efforts . Did you notice how the 1898 edition had a different title? I like that better: La Porte des Rêves

I liked the explanation. for the title -That there were 2 doors to Erebus one of which was permanently sealed whilst the other one let out dreams.

I wonder if Schwob made that up himself or whether it was a preexisting myth.


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