Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The surname Hinckley and J.R.R. Tolkien (and the Riders of Rohan)

Thanks to J.R.R. Tolkien we have not only Elvish (and paradisaical Lothlorien) but also the etymology of the surname Hinckley.

Tom Shippey (J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, page 57) shares the following: "Tolkien suggested to me once that the name of the village Hincksey, outside Oxford, might contain within it the name of the old hero Hengest, the founder of England (*Hengestes-ieg, 'Hengest's island')."

Hinckley (or Hincksley) must then derive from *Hengestes-leah (Hengest's wood or Hengest's meadow). (See also http://kepn.nottingham.ac.uk/map/place/Leicestershire/Hinckley.)

And who was Hengest? Hengest and Horsa (Stallion and Horse), according to the Venerable Bede, England's earliest historian, were the first commanders of the Angles, or Saxons against the Britons. Hengest and Horsa were brothers and in fact (and of course it's all a legend) the great-grandsons of the god Woden.

Hinckley: "Stallion's Lea."

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