I envision Cedeira’s culture as, essentially, Theme Park Germanic Medieval Europe with some actual historical tidbits. It’d be more accurate to say that it’s analogous to northern half of Europe in general (including northeastern), but dominated by a minority of quasi-Anglo-Saxon elite from northern Cedeira.
(That is, they’re concentrated in northern Cedeira now. Originally, they weren’t from there at all; their ancestors lived in what is now central Marelia, and were driven out first by dragons, and later by dryads and Elentians.)
One of the things I did to underscore the association was to use Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Saxon-inspired names for the Cedeiran characters, usually with an eye to meaning. So, the children of the Poldan family:
Ormod: sad, despairing, hopeless
One of these is not like the others.
The elder generation:
Sceadu (the baron): shadow
Edgiva (his first wife): rich/blessed gift
Elfrida (his second wife): elf-strength
Ulfgar (Elfrida’s brother): wolf-spear
In all fairness to poor Ormod, the two younger girls were named for their respective mothers rather than literal meaning (though certainly the affectionate meanings didn’t hurt). Giva’s name obviously comes from her mother Edgiva’s, while Wynedra’s comes from the home of her mother, Elfrida of Rivenberg. Rivenberg (“divided mountain”) is a fortress built near an enormous waterfall.
That said, Ormod is the unfavourite of the family, a “wild child” between angelic, beautiful Bletsung, dutiful, rule-abiding Giva, and cheerful toddler Nedra. He’s really no wilder than any high-spirited teenage boy, but in his very mild family, it makes him the difficult child.
(Giva is not actually mild, of course—but she is very obedient and follows the forms to the letter, which earns her the preference of her severe father.)
For those who really want the Doylist reasons + proper Anglo-Saxon versions:
– I did choose Bletsung and Giva for their meanings, as the respective favourites of Elfrida and Sceadu. Giva is modernized from Gifu.
– Wynedra was originally Aedre, stream (or blood vein, heh), which I chose simply because I liked the sound of it; the meaning was a happy coincidence. However, there are so many characters whose names begin with A that I decided to add another element at the beginning. I chose Wyn, joy, in part because it’s fairly normal, in part because I like it and its meaning, and in part in reference to her mother Elfrida’s original name. It was Ecgwyn, sword-joy, but everyone found it distractingly weird. I’ve only ever seen wyn as a final syllable, so it’s a bit Anglo-Saxon (Probably) Does Not Work That Way, but eh.
(Wynaedre is still a bit out there, so I modernized it to Wynedra and gave her the nickname Nedra, which doubles as a reference to one of my favourite fantasy peoples.)
– I didn’t choose Ormod for its meaning, or even know what its meaning was. I just selected it off a list of Anglo-Saxon terms I found somewhere, mostly because its similarity to the familiar Ormond made it a pretty easy name, but just weird enough. I imagine he was actually named for some previous, notable Ormod in the family, not with any thought of onomastics. He’s difficult, not unloved (and certainly not as the infant heir). That said, the meaning does suit him, in the end.
(Uh, spoiler for Ch 1, sorry.)
– Sceadu’s name never actually appears in the novel, as he’s always addressed by his title, and Giva, naturally, doesn’t think of him by name but as Father. I chose one because I’m a compulsive completionist, and selected it as the first to come to mind—I’d recently read that sceadu meant shadow. But I feel it suits his ambiguous personality.
– As you might guess, I chose Edgiva entirely as a namesake for Giva. I just ran through Anglo-Saxon genealogies until I found one. Like Giva, it’s modernized—ead (prosperity, wealth, happiness, blessedness) + gifu. But ead as Ed- is very common in old English names: Edward (ead + weard, guardian), Edith (ead + gyð, war), Edmund (ead + mund, protector), Edwin/Edwina (ead + wine, friend).
In retrospect, “rich gift” is rather awful for a child-bride heiress, as she was. The marriage was arranged to link their families’ properties, and neither she nor Sceadu (also a child at the time) had any choice in it. However, it could also be interpreted as “happy gift,” and as Sceadu and Edgiva had an unexpectedly romantic relationship—they quickly fell in love when they met as teenagers—that makes for a rather better spin on it.
– For Elfrida, both the original Ecgwyn and current Elfrida were just picked off the genealogies. Neither remotely suit her in meaning: she’s a mild, gentle, extremely domestic woman, so “sword-joy” (Ecgwyn) doesn’t suit her at all. But neither does Elfrida, “elf-strength” (modernized from Aelfthryth: aelf + þryð). In her brief appearance, she’s intensely disapproving of anything smacking of the supernatural or unseemly. Again, I imagine the name was chosen to honour someone else.
– I chose Ulfgar for Elfrida’s younger brother, who is also married to her beloved stepdaughter Bletsung. I picked it off the top of my head, remembering the character from Beowulf, and didn’t double-check, so it’s actually wrong. Ulfgar would be Old Norse, not Old English, where it should be Wulfgar (“wolf-spear,” wulf + gār), as in Beowulf. I strongly suspect the brain glitch was influenced by the presence of an Ulfgar in David Eddings’ Belgariad, one of my favourite series in my teen years.
(Okay, I admit: it still is. My tastes are profoundly generic in the most literal way.)
But I still find it sweet, in-story, that the Poldan girls are Blessing, Gift, and Joy, and hilariously terrible that the only son and heir is Despair.