Monday, January 17, 2011

Beudag - Origins and Definition

Beudag - Origins and Definition

This is not a common name by any stretch, and if you check a search engine or two, not a name at all, anywhere else.

In the story, the meaning of the character's name is given: "his sister Beudag, which means Dagger-in-the-Sheath".

Thanks to Google books and some old dictionaries we find

In Irish :-

From A dictionary of the Gaelic language in two parts : -

Beudag means 'A trifling, idle, tattling, little woman'.

Clearly this is not what Brackett meant if she knew the meaning of the word, unless she meant it ironically. A war leader is hardly a trifling woman. Neither is a woman that doesn't break under torture a tattler.

In Welsh :

Beudag means 'the head or top of the windpipe, the throat'

From the Antiquæ linguæ Britannicæ thesaurus

Or larynx, as in :- An English-Welsh pronoucing Dictionary By William Spurrell

The only time Beudag is mentioned in a throat sense is when Starke is fighting for control of his mind and is used against her : 'Starke put his arms around her. He found her mouth, almost cruelly. Her arms were tight about him, her eyes half closed and dreaming. Starke's hands slipped upward, toward her throat, and locked on it.'

and the result, later, when he is himself :-

"Beudag crouched in the bow, facing Starke. She was bound securely with strips of the white cloth she had worn. Bruises showed dark on her throat."

or in vision :- "and suddenly he saw Beudag clearly—half-veiled and mystic in the candlelight at Faolan's dun; smooth curving bronze, her hair loose fire about her throat."

Brackett may have used this for the double use - Starke is used to attack Beudag by the throat, and that is how he kills their enemy Rann, too.

What references Brackett and Bradbury may have had about this we can't know, or if she made up the name at it just happened to be a word. Beudag's brother Faolan's name has actually been in use. And Faolan and Conan are Irish, so if it was the Irish meaning she knew - Dagger-In-the-Sheath and 'trifling or gossipy woman'?

To broaden the Celtic approach, we find :-

A treatise on the language, poetry and music of the Highland clans By Donald Campbell in 1862.

"a dirk, literally, the little deadly one.""

And this is basically the meaning of her name Brackett gives in the story.

This meaning is of course Scots, not Irish.

So Brackett it appears was taking her names from any Celtic source she fancied. Presumably it is feasible that a later 19th century reference was still kicking around in a library or bookshop or university or someone's house she knew in California somewhere in the mid twentieth.

5 out of 5


  1. I assumed it was Celtic as it means "to taunt or stir" Which I think is appropriate..I could be wrong though. Cheers!

  2. Oh, which language is that definition from?



  3. Welsh I think, my nan would use it in the context of us being up to no good. Only reason I've remembered it really! Cheers!

  4. You should find it in St Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica. If it's Celtic or Gaelic it'll be there.Spelling will vary from region to region. Cheers!

  5. It'd be interesting to know what books she had available when she was dreaming up her great science-fantasies.

  6. Yeah, that library catalogued like Robert E. Howard's on librarything would be interesting - especially given the pair - whose book is whose? :)