My Sword Needs a Name

My new sword needs a name. My sister, who gave me Herugrim for my birthday, gave me Eowyn’s sword for Christmas. I thought about bragging about it in Old English, but this post is simply too important to risk any translation errors. Tolkien never named Eowyn’s sword, but it needs a name since we shall accomplish great deeds together (or at least, attend great renfests together). Any suggestions? (Anonymous commenting is enabled.)

Eowyn's SwordThe sword’s name shall be Werlāf! Many thanks to Anonymous for suggesting it and Nelson for further expounding why “Werlāf” is the perfect name. I love the endless plays on words that are possible with this name, both in and out of the context of LOTR. From now on, you shall be known as Anonymous Sword-Namer and Nelson the Wise, and you shall receive seats of honor in my mead-hall.

Additional thanks go to everyone who submitted a name, both here and on Twitter. It was a really tough decision!


My Sword Needs a Name — 6 Comments

  1. Beaduléoma seems REALLY awesome, but Werlaf sounds about right too.

    my sword which is is being made is named as Æþelƿine

    Ƿes Hæl!

  2. Looking at the drafts for Éowyn’s fight with the Nazgûl, there are a few descriptions of her sword which might work as elements for a name. The final version mentions that her ‘sword rang’ as she drew it – this is a conventional description, but it might prompt a name referring to ringing or singing. So maybe something like Gúthléoth, which is a term from Beowulf, though it’s not a sword-name there.

    One of the drafts (The War of the Ring, p. 366) describes a sword: ‘Like a shaft of searing light a pale sword cold as ice was raised above her head.’ The draft is a little rough, and this could be referring to the Nazgûl having a sword or to Éowyn’s own sword, but I think the latter is probably more likely. That would add searing light, paleness, and ice-coldness to the list. In Old English, some good options might be Baduléoma ‘Battle-light’ (this, rather than Beowulf’s ‘Beadoléoma’, would be the right dialect form for the archaic Mercian Tolkien used for the Rohirrim), Írenblác ‘Iron-pale/bright’, or Íscald ‘Ice-cold’.

    It also occurred to me that wyn(n) could be a fun element to include, given both the name of this blog and the sword’s wielder. Some reasonable coinages might be Caldwyn ‘Cold-joy’, Ecgwyn ‘Blade-joy’, or Gúthwyn ‘Battle-joy’ (this last one is also a bit of a play on Éomer’s sword Gúthwine).

    If you did want ‘Nazgûl-bane’ in some form, there are a few options. Éowyn calls the thing a ‘Dwimmerlaik’, the OE form of which would be Dwimorlác. It might be a bit long, but Dwimerlácbana could be an option. A more succinct alternative, though with less of a Tolkien connection, could be Scinnbana ‘Specter’s-bane’. ‘Nazgul-bane’ would probably be respelled to something like Nasgúlbana, although there seems to be an odd shortage of examples on exactly how Black Speech words would be adjusted into Old English. For ‘witch-king-slayer’, the order of elements would probably be Wiccacyningbana, the same as modern English.

    I also really like Anonymous‘s suggestion of Werláf, especially since láf can mean not just ‘remnant, what is left over’, but also variously ‘heritage’ and ‘widow’. Plus it rolls off the tongue pretty nicely.

  3. ‘Slayer’ in that sense would be ‘-bana’, like Anonymous suggested. But Éowyn’s sword would probably have had a name before that battle, and anyway Sting is the only sword in Tolkien I can think of that’s actually named for its deeds (despite what the recent movie said). Some Elvish swords were made and named for a purpose (Orcrist, Glamdring), though.

    But the two Rohirric swords that I can think of, Gúthwinë ‘Battle-friend’ and Herugrim ‘Sword-grim’, are Old English poetic epithets for swords. Both of those are found in Béowulf as non-proper names describing various swords (actual proper names for blades in the poem tend to be a bit more obscure: Nægling, Hrunting). So I think the most authentic way to imitate Tolkienian usage here would be to take one of the various other sword-epithets from Béowulf and use it as the actual name.

    There are various choices, both adjectives like Herugrim:
    Wígcræftig ‘War-powerful’
    Heardecg ‘Strong-edged’
    Írenheard ‘Iron-hard’
    Hringmǽl ‘Ring-patterned’ [= damascened?] (this is one of my favourites)
    Brogdenmǽl ‘Woven-patterned’ [also = damascened?]

    and nouns like Gúthwinë (Gúðwine):
    Beadoléoma ‘Battle-shiner’ (also Hildeléoma)
    Hildegicel ‘Battle-icicle’ (of a sword about to melt)
    Hæftméce ‘Hilt-sword’

    also lots of variants on ‘battle-sword’ like:

    This isn’t a complete list, but I think there are some good options.

  4. Cyningas-Wiccan slagan. If I got my noun cases right that should be “Witch-king Slayer”. I probably missed something obvious though, as you know my OE is not very good yet.

  5. Since swords in Tolkien are often named for whom they’ve slain, you could assume that her sword is nameless because it is untried prior to the Pelennor Fields. In this case it could be named something like Nazgulbana (if you don’t mind calques). Or, in keeping with her family’s tendency to name swords according to OE poetic diction, you could make one up like swatspil (blood-letter) or cwenbrand. Werlaf could be so named because it was overlooked and left behind by men, destined for far greater deeds.

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