I don’t live in the past—I only visit—and so can you!

BY WHAT ARE YOU KNOWN

 

What name do you use in reenacting? The modernization or Anglicization or the other transformation of Norse names or the original Norse name? The use of the former is rather endemic in many of the books that are otherwise full of vital information. There is an attempt, it seems, to make the modern spellings and pronunciations of the names, probably to make things more comfortable for the mainstream reader. However, looking at any good book, there is often an attempt to compromise between these two. Whereas the name of a person is given in the modern, more instantly recognizable form, the traditional form is given as well, generally in parentheses, a footnote or even an endnote.

A volume that does not go to this trouble should probably not be overly trusted!

Even in the Viking Age, it would seem that many of the Norse were known by different names in different lands. There are a variety of Gaelic names that were used to describe the person—such as Cammán for Sigytuggr—and at the end of the era, after conversion to Christianity, a use of Latinized names as in much of Christendom—for example, an attempt to Latinize Knútr as Cunetti on some coinage. And there is also a tendency to refer to a person by his baptismal name, such as Guthrum of East Anbglia being known as Æthelstan, As a side note, there was often a cycle of names which were used a family (sort of like “Junior” today but in this case usually not succeeding one so named but used every few generations. In this way, ironically, it is similar to the Anglo-Saxon standard of using names with the same beginning sound to indicate relationships within the same family, such as Æthelwulf, Ælfred (generally modernized as Alfred, so modernization not merely a Norse practice), Æthelweard and Ælfthryth

Using a modernized or an original name is up to you. Neither is wrong or right. If you use a modernized name, do you also use original names for friends? While some people might look a bit askance at this—it is after all like referring to gods in a classical pantheon as Zeus and as Mercury—but I am not inordinately disturbed by this. However, it is my feeling that no matter what you use and in what combination, you should know about what you are talking.

Many of the more common names—particularly those that are still used in some form today—have an Anglicized version as well as the original. Many of the more common names—particularly those that are still used in some form today—have an Anglicized version as well as the original. We list a few below, with the variant spelling on the left and the original on the right.

Many of the changes are in duplicate letters

Egil Egill
Gunnar Gunnarr
Hrein Hreinn
Jokul Jokull
Ketil Ketill
Njal Njall
Ragnar Ragnarr
the addition of letters (especially the use of the ending r)

Bork Borkr
Dag Dagr
Finn Finnr
Hauk Haukr
Hrapp Hrappr
Odd Oddr
Ozur Ozurr
accents and letters that are no longer used in English

Frodi Fróði
Jon Jón
Kari Kári
Thorir Þórir
Thorkel Þorkell
Thorbjorn Þorbiorn (there are also modern letters which were not used in period)
Vali Váli
Combinations of the above

Armod Ármóðr
Hord Hórðr
Hrut Hrútr
Ingolf Ingólfr
Ivar Ívarr
Ornulf Ornólfr
Thorald Þóráldr
And in some cases, totally new and totally different spellings were used

Anlaf Ólafr
Canute Knútr
Cnut Knútr
Oleif Ólafr
Othere Óttar
Sweyn Sveinn
Swegen Sveinn
There are variations for female names as well, though there were not only fewer female names that were recorded but fewer names which have been Anglicized.

Aud Auðr
Bergthora Bergþóra
Fridgerd Friðgerðr
Nidbjorg Niðbiorg
Ormhild Ormhildr
Signy Signý
Thora Þora
When you choose a name for your impression, make certain that you have researched the name and know where the name originally came from and how it was original spelled.
(Note: The Old Norse spellings may vary since they are the transliterations by a Latin-letter-literate culture of names from a rune-literate society where several spellings could be inferred from a single word)

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