What’s in a Name?: The Naming and Backstory of Melodie

I think that one of the most important parts of creating a new character is coming up with the name: It’s something you have to stand behind, react to, and be able to explain to others. Even if this doesn’t always happen with the last names of my characters, the first names are always important to me.

My first thought for my bard was to call her Juniper. This was more of a quick thing, and I just thought that it sounded very natural and pretty. But when Auerion pointed out that it was the name of the street he lives on, it kind of freaked him out. So her name changed, and I think that Melodie (spelled incorrectly for American English, it actually is Middle English in origin) suits her much better.

Of course, what self-respecting parents are going to name their noble-born child “Melodie”?

Since this was an assumed name, indicative of her musical background, I also had to come up with her legal, noble woman’s name as well. This has also gone through a few changes since I’ve created her (though since I never use her “real” name, it didn’t really matter). Still, it’s nice to be able to tack it down for her backstory, and I finally settled on Aelfwyn, a name I came across in some historical reading I did not too long ago. This name was made even more perfect when I looked up its meaning online:

Aelfwyn (from the Kabalarian Philosophy)

  • The name of Aelfwyn creates a restless, creative nature that takes you into many ventures, but does not allow you to see things through to a satisfactory completion.
  • Yours is a versatile, musical, artistic, but independent nature and you must have the freedom to express your creative ideas and abilities to be happy.
  • An urge for independence causes dissatisfaction and frustration in close relationships and you find the “ties that bind” restricting.
  • Although the name Aelfwyn creates the urge to be reliable and responsible, we emphasize that it causes a restless intensity that defies relaxation.

This tied in very nicely with her backstory, and why she wanders as a bard, even though she could be living a rather cushy life in whatever Pathfinder’s version of the Elven Lands is. Originally, I had it in mind that Melodie was something of a runaway bride who either jilted her husband and left him at the altar or ran away before their wedding night. This would actually be a very serious offense for an Elf, if one refers to Tolkien’s version of Elvish marriage customs. Elves are betrothed for at least a year before marrying, to make sure they are suitable and actually in love. If they realize that they aren’t meant for each other, they break off the betrothal and melt down the silver rings they exchanged in their initial promise. But if they decide to actually marry, they exchange gold rings and are bound together for both life and beyond. In which case, jilting your husband or binding yourself to him then running off would be considered not only in bad taste, but would also go against centuries of tradition. And being noble born, I doubt that Melodie would run off for something as self-serving as being more devoted to her music than her duty.

So, let’s take it one step further and put the blame on both sides. It would certainly explain a few things, and give Melodie a bit more depth:

Aelfwyn Laurelhill was a bright, cheerful, duty-bound noble woman and the jewel of her family. She spread happiness wherever she went and danced through her childhood with song in her wake. When she turned of age, her attentions turned to the darkly handsome Lord of a nearby estate, and after negotiating the particulars they decided to wed. The days leading up to her marriage were blissful and carefree, punctuated only by the underlying current in her household of whispered suspicions. Her father was happy for the alliance between their two great families, so she put all doubts aside and showed up on her wedding day a fresh, energetic young bride. They exchanged vows in the public square, and she enticed her Lord to dance and make merry into the long hours of the night. Understanding of her duty and the importance of the marriage, she turned a blind eye to the knowing stares of her guests, and pretended not to notice the exchange of wealth between her father and new husband. After the party, she fulfilled her duties as wife, though her husband lacked the enthusiasm for the act she would have expected, and fell into contented sleep. Waking the following morn, she found herself alone and went to find her Lord. However, upon discovering him in the arms of a ravishing beauty, Aelfwyn finally came to her senses. She was legally bound and heart-given to a man who had no interest in her, and he was legally entitled to her wealth and heirs. Hurt and lost, the happiness left her and she slipped into the shadows, taking only her wedding band as proof of what should have been. Unable to go home, Aelfwyn fled into the trees and began her life as a wanderer, unwilling to be serve a husband who did not want her. Over the first few years, she heard tales of herself and the Lord as the object of gossip in taverns. She also heard that her husband was frantically trying to find her and bring her back home. Unwilling to give him the satisfaction, she changed her name and left her home country to begin her life as a bard, which suited her well. Melodie traveled the world for over a hundred years, gathering tales and songs and evading capture by her husband. Though lonely and finding the life of a traveling bard harsher than she would have liked, she slipped into the role of her new job effortlessly; finding simple comfort in her song and a warm bed and soup in exchange for her tales. However, as a woman, she was unable to protect herself and often found herself running for her life from unsafe and rowdy situations. In one case, finding herself in what she had thought was a sedate highland tavern, she found herself on the receiving end of bawdy jokes and dangerous intentions. But, just when she thought her luck had run out, a towering highlander stepped out of the crowd to come to her aid. The human, Jhoven, defended her from the Men, and she made a hasty retreat from the tavern, hotly embarrassed. Whether to her luck or misfortune, Jhoven followed her and, upon seeing that she could barely take care of herself, ending up becoming her protector. In the years to come, he taught her to shoot a shortbow, and they lived off the income from her performances. And when she heard tales of the Pathfinder Society and decided to join to have some semblance of “home”, she convinced him to join her. But the rest is a tale for another time…

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