Names in Ricossa and elsewhere, by SS

Regular readers of this blog’s comments section will have become familiar with the thoughtful and thorough contributions of Stephen Sheridan. He somehow discovered the website and the concept of SWM in December 2017, and has been encouraging me and it ever since. His entry for the Name a Character competition didn’t win, partly because the name and accompanying backstory he provided were too likeable and interesting for the character I had in mind, but with his permission I am reproducing his comments as this week’s entry.

His suggested name is Narod Far Lan N’Lan.

You will see that he had read the Rules for Naming People in Ragaris  carefully. Please remember that I stipulated that the character was untrustworthy.

Stephen said:

It mainly follows your Exception to Rule 2. N’Lan would be the clan title. The Lan in front of it is derived from his mother, whose first name was the same as the core name of the clan due to her parents trying to claim clan leadership. Far is short for Fars and was his father’s name. His father was a non-Ricossan (a small pun as he came from far away) and this put paid to this part of the family claiming clan leadership. So while the character is proud of his mother’s heritage, he is ashamed of that of his father, although his father was a successful merchant, a good employer and his mother found him enchanting which is why she married him, despite the family pressure against it. This means that while he has inherited wealth and an aristocratic background, he still feels like an outsider and feels cheated of the status he feels he deserves. This makes him scheming and manipulative in marked contrast to his parents. If you want to make him particularly villainous there may be rumours that his parents’ death at the hands of bandits, may not have been as straightforward as it appeared. The first name Narod was given to him by his father and is also non-Ricossian, so another reason for him to be annoyed as other nobles will often take a long time pronouncing each syllable just to emphasise his foreign and non-noble birth. Pronounced that way it sounds like “narrowed”, which exemplifies his view of the world.
I hope that isn’t over the top, but it’s fun when you get into it!

My own name has a story – my father was Polish, an air force navigator who came here in 1940 (only speaking a few words of English) and was lucky enough to be allowed to stay on in 1945. I am named Stephen after one of his brothers who was killed by the Germans. My father’s surname was Skubala (the “l” having a line through it which is polish for “w”), but when he married my Cornish mum in 1950 he was so sick of people not being able to pronounce it and didn’t want to identify as being foreign that he changed it to Sheridan. He told me it was after the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, but I later discovered after my dad passed away that the first time he probably saw the name was at Fort Leavenworth in the US, where he was on a staff training course in late 1945. I visited the site in the late Nineties and saw that there were 3 blocks each named after Civil War Generals: Lee, Grant and Sheridan. I reckon the name interested him, but he was embarrassed to say he had taken it from a military person and so preferred to have taken it from a cultural icon.
I have followed a bit with my own daughter Sophia. My wife liked the name (she had dibs on boys names) and it serves 3 purposes – firstly in the hope that wisdom will be part of her personality, secondly to commemorate my father’s favourite cousin (she was one of many Polish girls sterilised by the SS at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp and went on to become a classics academic after the war) and thirdly in memory of the Battalion Zoska (Zoska being one of the many Polish diminutive forms of Sophia – this one being the forceful form) which was a key Home Army unit in the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 which liberated Jews from a small concentration camp within Warsaw, who then fought alongside them (even capturing a tank which they named after themselves) until finally crushed by the Germans.


All of which makes clear that names have deep significance and meaning in the real world, although unfortunately I haven’t given them as much meaning in Ragaris!

Love from the PPI Blogger

PS The actual winner was Judith Renton, with the name Simoren. Congratulations, Judith! But I’m hoping to use several of the other entries, including Narod.

  • Judith Leader

    13th July 2018 at 5:34 pm Reply

    I think Stephen’s character sounds pretty bad and I would go for the killing of parents as quite a possibility. I was interested in your family history, mine has some similarities. My grandfather was either from the Pale of Russia or Poland and his name was (I think Shuf Leader). He came to Leeds at the turn of the 19th C, he was on the first census, to escape the pogroms and whether it was the British officials on the boat who shortened it to Leader, they often did to names they couldn’t pronounce I believe, or whether he just did what many Jews did and made it less ‘foreign’ I don’t know. I know that my father had his home name and his work name Hymie/Harry however dad married out of course my brother and I were not Jewish and we were cut off from most of the family including my father’s mother, so it is hard to know a lot about my family history. Another interesting point is that I have a friend from Leeds who shares the same surname as yours only his parents were Austrian. His mother’s family were all murdered by the Nazis and I am not sure about his father, I think some were murdered also. I only struck me that Sheridan isn’t a very Austrian name either. Of course that has nothing to do with the fact that I think Stephen’s choice of name fits the criteria.

  • Stephen Sheridan

    21st July 2018 at 1:50 am Reply

    Dear Judith
    Apologies for taking so long to respond. I was moved by your family notes and that of your Austrian-origin friend. When people flee persecution I wonder if they are torn between two aspects over their names: the desire to preserve their identity and history versus the desire to blend in by changing their name and making a fresh start (almost as if their previous names brought them bad luck). I know my grandmother never forgave my Dad for changing his name, which I thought was a very unfair reaction. My daughter had the privilege of a visit from a holocaust survivor at school recently while they were studying the period. He was surprisingly upbeat and not at all bitter.

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