1066 and all that

Kevin Myers had a piece in the Indo on Norman names the other day; here is a link to the underlying research, by Greg Clark.

15 replies on “1066 and all that”

Here’s what I have noticed. The main evil characters in Harry Potter tend to have French-Norman sounding names: Voldemort, Draco Malfoy.. Bellatrix Lestrange. And the good characters who are also protagonists have nice trust-worthy Saxon sounding names: Potter, Weasley (?), Granger, Dumbledore. There are also a fair smattering of Celtic sounding names..but I suspect that these are for secondary non-protagonist characters (?).

This requires a research grant for further investigation.

While parts of that Irish Times article were interesting I am still annoyed 😉 Kevin that I had to read a Myers article.

He has intergenerational stockholm syndrome

The most interesting fact is in the intro

“There is one big change between the years before and after 1850. Before then elites had higher fertility than the poor. Since then elite groups display much lower fertility, so that the permanent effect of a period spent at the social summit is a reduction in number of descendants, even when the group returns to average status”

@ Kevin O

You’re obviously upset and disorientated by this article and the accompanying research by Greg Clark.

But KM is really no barometer of how seriously you should take yourself, or how seriously we on this site (if I may make so bold as to speak for all) take you because your name is Kevin.

You are intelligent, articulate and doing as good a job, as best you can.

Keep going Kev, you are playing a ‘blinder’


@ Paul MacDonnell

Lord of the Rings has a distinctly pre-Norman cast of names. Add that to the grant proposal.

More prosaically, the problem with the Myers analysis is that you need more than surnames to pin down the theory. The surname is just one line of the family, geometrically declined in significance per generation after 1066.

Aha, so families have a ‘boom and bust’ cycle too! How fascinating.

@Frank Galton,

Tolkien was enraptured with Norse and Anglo Saxon mythology. Hence the names and allusions in his work. He wasn’t at all keen on Celtic mythology for some reason. I was always rather taken with the interpretation of LOTR as an ‘anti-war’ treatise of sorts. I think Tolkien had direct experience of the horrors of WW1.

@ All

My family name on my mother’s side, is Tudball.

This from the Norman Theobald, who came over with the Conqueror into Devon.

As a child, I said to her, feeling rather special, ‘so I’m descended from Normans then?’

She said, ‘not at all, it’s a slave name’.


You should be proud of your slave ancestry. The original Normans were renegade pirates, so one might say their elite class were the criminal class. Anyway, think of the Irish sent as slaves to the Carribean in Cromwell’s time and later, the thousands who emigrated to America as ‘indentured servants’ – one cut above slave status, as were those sent in transport to Australia – and the contribution, in time, that their progeny made to their respective societies. Most of us are probably the descendants of slaves and the way things are heading now its seems we’re about to experience a whole new form of it!

@ Veronica

Oh I am proud of my ancestors – very good farmers.

As a child though, I rather fancied having the horse, chain mail and broadsword.

I was poking a little at the article for assuming that people with Norman names are in fact descended from Normans.

I also read somewhere that the Icelandic word for slave, is er, Irish person. All part of life’s rich tapestry.

The “Lord of the Rings” has been cited a few times now, and as I have been thinking about its relevence, I can’t resist having a swift go.

It has been read as a response to WW1, a warning against nuclear power, a bourgeois hymn to pastoralism, a religious work,a submerged homoerotic peon, and so on: as a rich myth it can bear many interpretations.

So, the ring. What is it that is so tempting to use, that will provide great power for the wearer, but will ultimately corrupt and even suck the life out of the land in the future, and will eventually destroy the user, even as they grow more and more sure of their power? I’d say the power to create and sell collosal amounts of debt, without true ownership or investment.

Note that Sauron (who also began as good) has created this thing to control other rings – it’s not natural, but a new thing in the world, and its power comes from subverting other rings, other works for good (useful debt instruments such as mortgages) – so for ease of reference, we can see Sauron as Goldman Sachs, binding all other debt intruments together, in the high crags of Wall Street.

Now we in Ireland, the hobbits of the Shire, have accidently felt the terrible temptation of mucking about with the Ring (Anglo), and are determined that it must be broken – even though we know many fair things will pass from the world if we do and at all times we are sorely tempted to put it on again and render ourselves invisible to the markets.

So, although we are only little, somehow we find ourselves both at the periphery and the centre. There’s no chance of us destroying the ring oursleves, except with allies and overcoming adversaries.

What and where is the Crack of Doom? Wall Street itself? Or in this case, perhaps, in Europe, at the heart of things, and potentially with the ESM, where the mighty but essentially useless forces of Finance, can be brought to heel, by unmaking the power of the ‘shadow’ banking empire.

We see now that Angela Merkel is the Queen Galadriel, who is faced with a terrible thing – she believes that she has used her ring wisely and well, and her elves are all secure, but if the world outside, and finally her empire is not to fall under the terrible debt shadow of Goldman Sachs in the end, she must be willing to contemplate the unmaking of her own powers. Needless to say, her elves are not to happy about this.

Mr Bini Smaghi is thus Saruman. Originally one of the council of the wise, he presents to the public as the sane champion of the ordinary people of the world, and whilst tough and hierarchical, he has slowly been eaten away at by the powers of finance, and is arguing that what needs to happen that he be given even more powers ostensibly to take on Sauron. We should always be suspicious when the powerful want more power, and in this case, we intuit that this power is dedicated not to the common good, but to a new mastery. Will Sauruman be any better than Sauron?

Denethor too has a place, as an old school capatin of industry. Minas Tirith, being, let us say, Volkswagon. He too feels the temptation of the power of the ring to secure his empire, and is torn between becoming another Sauron, but with his much stronger, if still patriarchal, sense of wanting a good life for those who serve him. He, ultimately, will either collapse under the strain of his choice, or side with the hobbits, and accept that he must live with a reduced but viable kingdom.

I’d say Gandalf is a modern Galbraith or Keynes, but who fits that bill?

And through all this, the question arises, if this can be done, what kind of Shire shall we return to?

That’s a go at it – any offers for other key players?


When they got back to the shire, if your remember, Saruman had thrashed the place!

Opps, that should have been ‘trashed’ not ‘thrashed’ – but I guess it amounts to much the same thing.

@Gavin Kostick

Lovely comparison, a few important characters left out but I appreciate how difficult it would have been to pick just one “Wormtongue”.

@ Gavin K
The Icelandic word for slave is þræll, pronounced thrall, which has its origins in the word “runner” or one who runs, never a wasted day when you learn something new.

I’m not too sure how the works of Tolkien, who to his dying day denied it was anything but a fairy story and allegories bedamned, are applicable to recent events, we’ve entered unknown waters in terms of entertaining literature to compare with.

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