Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Slangebarn (Part One - Etymology and Inspiration)

 The Slangebarn (Slanguhbarn, with slan rhyming with slam) as an ethnic group in the world of my Epic Fantasy Story came about due to two major factors.

 One, as I set the story in a country based on medieval Wales, I wanted to use it as an opportunity to represent Mercia. For those of you who don't know, Mercia was the kingdom that occupied most of England north of Bristol and south of Liverpool and had Tamworth as its capital.

 Like most of the kingdoms of the period, it changed borders a bunch over time, growing larger until it was eventually absorbed into the Danelaw.

 I wanted a representation of the Anglo-Saxons prior to the Norman conquest, because things changed fast and hard after that invasion.

 Two, as part of that representation of the Anglo-Saxons I wanted to concentrate on their cultural ties with Scandinavia and Germanic groups.

 These ties were essentially severed by the Norman conquest. (Personally I attribute a lot of England's cultural isolationism to this, as the Norman ruling class dragged it into line with a country with a fundamentally different language structure and different religious and cultural roots. Yes I am saying that if the Normans hadn't invaded then Brexit wouldn't have happened.)

 As I'm trying to streamline my real life inspirations to stop me from making hundreds of different countries with thousands of different ethnic groups, I've decided on two different countries to ally with my Mercia expy, those being a Denmark expy and a Sweden expy and I'm going to fold various aspects of other Nordic and Germanic countries into all three.

 Why Denmark and Sweden?

 Well, I started off wanting a Denmark because a. the Danelaw and b. I know a few Danes on social media and have swiftly learned that Danes love being included in things, so why not do so?

 As for Sweden, before the modern period Denmark and Sweden were constantly getting into fights, and that makes for good drama and political machinations.

 So, let's name these countries.

 I've decided on an animal theme for all the countries, with most countries being some variation on animal-land and most ethnic groups being some variation on animal-people.

 For Mercia I went with a silver eagle, a bird that doesn't exist in the real world but does in the fantasy one, I did this because I found it as the symbol for a regiment known as the Mercian Regiment and I wasn't sure what else to go with so I went with that.

 The Anglo-Saxon for eagle is earn (which I pronounce as 'airn', I believe this is accurate. A Danish friend says it this way too so I'm sticking with it) and Mercia itself is the Latinised form of a a name that means 'borderland' and shares a root with the 'mark' in Denmark (Hjaalmarch in The Elder Scrolls and The Free Marches in Dragon Age are also derived from this root).

 Combine these two elements and we get Earnmark.

 For a citizen I went with Earnman and for plural we have Earnmen. I did this as the word 'man' has been used as a gender neutral term for centuries and only started to not be after, you guessed it, the Norman Conquest.

 Thanks Bill.

 Why not go with a lion? you may be wondering.

 Because the golden lions on a red background you see in the royal coat of arms is, you guessed it, a Norman symbol.

 (This means that Godric Gryffindor has the same iconography as the group who invaded England and fucked over all the Anglo-Saxons about fifty years after he helped found Hogwarts, which makes the association of Slytherin with the simpering Norman descended upper classes really damn confusing.)

 Denmark, luckily has a national animal that I could find instead of flailing around for any animal I could latch onto like with Mercia.

 Denmark's national bird is the mute swan, which in Danish is called knopsvane. Since Knopsvanemark sounded weird, I went with just Svanemark (Svaynuhmark). Which is also useful because I can call the people Svanes and the people as a whole the Svani, which I derived by smashing Svane together with the name of the people Denmark is named for, the Dani.

 Sweden's national animal is the elk, in Swedish this is älg. Which is a pain in the neck for me because I don't know how to put accents on letters using keyboard shortcuts.

 Combined with the word landa (guess what that means), we get Älglanda (My Danish friend sounds like she's saying Ilglangda, but neither of us know for sure. Swedes? Some help?). I went with the Earnmen scheme to get Älgman and Älgmen. I just guessed that man is used similarly in Swedish, and if I'm wrong I'll justify it by it supplying a cultural connection between the Earnmen and Älgmen in the way Earnmark and Svanemark suggests one.

 Coming up with the name for the ethnic group as a whole was more difficult.

 For starters I needed to decide if I would go with an animal theme again for this, which in this case I decided to (it's different for the Crύbdoine).

Our animal of choice is the snake.

Why the snake?

Because of a guy named Sigurd Snake in the Eye (or Sigurðr ormr í auga in Old Norse), he was said to have been born with a mark in one eye that resembled the Ouroboros. Science of today insists on ruining our fun by telling us it was likely a common or garden mutation.

Thanks, science.

I decided to go with Norwegian for this name, but it's basically in Danish too. (See what I mean when I rant about the Normans?)

So Slange means snake, and barn means children.

So, why are they called the Snakechildren?

Well, this ties into their cultural narrative of their history, which I'll have to put into a separate post because this post is already over nine hundred and fifty words long.

Look out for that on Wednesday! (By which time I'll hopefully have a working title for the series as a whole.)

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