Saturday, October 02, 2004

Names - Theoden (& Tookish Thanes)

Posted by Nina Glyndwr on Saturday 2nd October 2004

Possible origin of the name Theoden

I am just doing some volunteer proof-reading for Project Gutenberg (a site where you can read out-of-copyright books - worth a visit)... and I came across this:

"Every thane, in the distribution of his lands, had
two objects in view: the support of his family, and
the maintenance of his dignity. He therefore retained
in his own hands a parcel of land near his
house, which in the Saxon times was called inland,
and afterwards his demesne, which served to keep
up his hospitality: and this land was cultivated either
by slaves, or by the poorer sort of people, who
held lands of him by the performance of this service.
The other portion of his estate he either gave
for life or lives to his followers, men of a liberal
condition, who served the greater thane, as he himself
served the king. They were oalled Under
Thanes, or, according to the language of that time,
Theoden.[1] They served their lord in all public
business; they followed him. in war; and they
sought justice in his court in all their private differences.
These may be considered as freeholders
of the better sort, or indeed a sort of lesser gentry *
therefore, as they were not the absolute dependants,
but in some measure the peers of their lord, when
they sued in his court, they claimed the privilege
of all the German freemen, the right of judging
one another: the lord's steward was only the register."

Tolkien with his interest in Anglo-Saxon prose and poetry probably knew this. Maybe he had even read the original book by Edmund Burke.

Just thought I'd mention it. In the films, Theoden is one of my favourite characters.

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Reera the Red replies:

The Anglo-Saxon word théod means "people". The name Théoden is derived from a word which means "ruler of the people".

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Amatire sticks her or in again:

(this could be interesting to those who are wanting to know about Pippin and the Took family who were Landowners/Thanes)

I've been looking through the Anglo-Saxon dictionary for a diminutive Thegn
(Thane) or a role of Thane's assistant.

I can't find anything, but I can tell you that as far as I know, the Social
hierarchy in A-S England went like this:

(I'm sure Reera will correct me if I'm wrong).

* King (þeoden),

* Prince (æthling),

* high ranking Nobles(ealdormen),

* Thanes(þegn)

* landholder(geneat - my dictionary defines them as "tenants
who works for a lord"
or literally "also-companion")

* Knights (gesið - "follower/retainer/warrior/count/thain"),

* freemen, (ceorls, - layman, literally "churl")

* peasant farmers (gebures - freeholder of the lowest class - word
literally means "peasant farmer")

* Tenants (gafolgeldan/gafolgielden - literally

* serf (læt)

* slave.

A ceorl would be directly under a Thane on the land, so that might be the
Under-Thane your article mentions, or (based on the name's meaning) it could be
the geneat.

Just in case you wanted to know: (From The social context of Anglo-Saxon England)

The hierarchy of Anglo-Saxon society was defined in law. The fine for many crimes varied according to the rank of either the perpetrator or the victim. The most important of these were the fines paid for killing a man, the wergild 'man-price'. The earliest Kentish law codes recognise three main divisions, noble (eorlcundne) with a wergild of 300 Kentish shillings, free men (frigne mann) with a wergild of 100 shillings and three classes of unfree læt valued at 80, 60 and 40 shillings each.

The qualification for the status of a þegn 'thegn' is uncertain. A late law code states that a ceorl who owned five 'hides' of land acquired a thegn's wergild but that a ceorl who acquired a mail byrnie, a helmet and a sword but had no land remained a ceorl. However, thegn status also had a hereditary element that did not depend on ownership of land and it is clear that thegns could be landless.

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On the word "Thegn"

For those who would like to add some real Anglo-saxon to their fanfics...

þegn (þægn) [Thane] - m " I servant, minister, retainer, vassal, folloew, disciple: II freeman, master (as opposed to slave): III courtier, noble, (official as distinguished from hereditory), IIII military attendant, warrior, hero."

ðegnboren (ðegenboren) - wellborn

ðegngylde - n price on a thanes head (to be paid of you harmed a thane)

ðegnhyse - m attendant, retainer

ðegnlic - noble/brave/loyal (ðegnlice - noble-advice)

ðegnian [theine] - to serve, minister, wait on, supply another with anything, perform an office.

ðegnræden - f thaneship, service,

ðegnrigt - n rights or privilages of a thane,

ðegnscipe - m I thaneship, duty, service, II ability, manliness, valour, III body of retainers

ðegnscolu - f band of vassals

ðegnsorh - f sorrow at losing a thane/at a thane's death

ðegning - (ðening/ðenung) a thane's people

ðegnweorud - n band of followers


At January 9, 2008 at 9:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On wergilds:
Note that Kentish wergilds (if I'm not mistaken, the word "wergild" was expanded to include, in addition to "man-price" (lit.) fines for other/crimes by the tenth century)differ significantly from other Anglo-Saxon wergilds; Kentish law (the concept of wergild is at the heart of Anglo-Saxon law) and land divisions tended to differ from those of other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, probably becuase the Kentish originated in Jutland, as opposed to Angln or Saxony (of course, this list of "homelands" is charicature-ish, c.f. Bede). Compare, for example, Aethelberht's (Kentish, earliest AS written laws) and Ine's (West Saxon) Domes (law lists - I hesitate to call them codes).

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