Friday, May 13, 2016

Queen Wealhþeow ..with red hair

I came across this image too recently. It's an illustration of the Queen Wealhþeow from a children's book called Stories of Beowulf, and is by an artist named J. R. Skelton.


Queen Wealhþeow is a queen of the Danes in the epic poem Beowulf. She's married to the King Hrothgar. I don't think there's any evidence that either were portrayed as redheads in the text, so I'm guessing the red hair in the image is simply a choice on the part of the artist.

On a side note, I actually came across this image whilst looking at the name Hrothgar. I've mentioned the name Hroth (or variants of it) before. I believe it means red, however the generally accepted translation is bright or famous. In this case the name Hrothgar is said to mean "famous spear". The name Roger is also said to be a variant - and likewise is also said to mean spear.

Again though, I would say there's a clear link to red here. Roger brings to mind the French for red; rouge. And the German variant of Roger is Rüdiger, which links in with the word ruddy - again denoting redness. The obvious sexual connotations shouldn't be lost on anyone either. Roger is slang in English for having sex, and was at one time slang for the word penis too. This links in well with the spear translation - to spear and to penetrate being one and the same. Red of course is also the colour most closely associated with the act of sex.

So I would suggest Hroth simply means red - and that Hrothgar/Roger etc therefore means red-spear. Although, of course, the word bright is not a million miles away from the word red - so "famous spear" I guess would also be another possible rendering.

Speculating further the links between red and outlaws once again springs to mind;

Rouge - Rogue.
Rufuos - Ruffian
..And, of course, the Jolly Rodger - pirates.

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