What’s in a Name? Part Three: the Fairies

The names used for the spirit world characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream carry with them important connotative meanings (as well)…

Oberon

Legendary King of Fairies in medieval and Renaissance literature.  The original is the Alberich, from the Old German legends of earth spirits (think dwarves, like in Snow White); the name was then converted to “Oberon” by the French, when he became the King of Fairies (as opposed to Elves).

Titania

The term “Titania” comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, representing any generic daughter of a Titan (gods of Greek mythology, the children themselves of Gaia and Uranus). It is Asimov’s contention, however, that Ovid used the term Titania to represent Phoebe, the moon (Asimov, Isaac. Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare. New York: Doubleday, 1970; page I-26).  Shakespeare was the first to use this name for the Queen of the Fairies.

Puck

The “puca” in Old English legends was a woodland sprite, a type of goblin (from the Germanic “kobold”).  “Puca” through the German “putz” (no lie) becomes the Puck, or mischievous nature sprite.  Here’s where it gets interesting… “Hob” can be defined as both “a familiar or rustic variation of the Christian name Robert or Robin” or “a fire-place, the part of the casing having a surface level with the top of the grate”–or hearth (both Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition on CD-ROM [v. 4.0])… thus hob-goblin.  If Puck IS the hob-goblin, it would not be surprising to see him go by the name ROBin Goodfellow (after all, who would tempt fate by calling him an insulting name?).

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