October 1, 2010 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Are there any guides to pronunciation of the proper names in Idylls of the King?

I am reading Tennyson's Idylls of the King and am bothered by not being sure in many cases how to pronounce the names of the characters. I couldn't find anything like an index of characters with a guide to pronunciation, either in printed editions of the book or in web pages about it. Also checked for such an index in a few editions of Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur, because it deals with the same set of legendary Arthurian characters, but without luck.
posted by Paquda to Writing & Language (9 answers total)
Me, I'd just use Wikipedia for casual purposes. There's a lot of variation in spellings and whatnot for that set of traditional characters, so unless you have a really specific era or variation you're looking for, that's probably good enough.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:26 AM on October 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, but Wikipedia, although it has entries for a lot of the characters, doesn't give any pronunciation help.
posted by Paquda at 11:41 AM on October 1, 2010

Hm, I didn't look much farther than Gawain, which does. Geraint is a Welsh name, so takes a g like in gun.. The Welsh guide is probably not a bad place to start for a lot of the others, although many of them, like Guinevere, are Frenchified.

(Not a linguist, but a King Arthur nut. Would be delighted to dig further if you have specific questions, but my resources include such dubious things like the pronunciation guide at the front of this.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:00 PM on October 1, 2010

The internet age and something like this STILL isn't available. I agree this sort of thing would drive me nuts too. This would be a perfect resource for an eBook as well. But nothing --at least not yet. Alas.

Here's the best solution I could find:

Audio Book of Idylls of the King

It says it's free with a one month free trial, but I didn't go further than that exploring what value of 'free' they're selecting for. Worth looking into at least.

Please post here if you find another resource. I'm going to keep looking for myself, if nothing else.
posted by zueod at 12:36 PM on October 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, restless_nomad and zueod. My desire to know is mostly due to the fact that it's a poem--the music of the sounds is important and Tennyson is sticking to a meter that the proper names fit int to. I've found resources in the past for proper names in Greek mythology and for the words and names in Shakespeare, so was looking for something similar.
posted by Paquda at 12:57 PM on October 1, 2010

Well, here's Taliesen (Ta l ee er se enn), anyway. Perhaps you can plug in names as you come across them?
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:10 PM on October 1, 2010

We need a medievalist up in here! I know I've heard Gawain's name pronounced in two different ways: GAH-wain or Gwain.

It's written in blank verse, so you could probably guess how many syllables are in the name by counting out the metre, which may give you a hint to pronunciation. 10 syllables per line in blank verse - take out the name, count the number of syllables and subtract from 10, and that'll give you the number of syllables in the name. It'll tell you if Tennyson thought that it was GAH-wain or Gwain, at any rate.
posted by pised at 1:28 PM on October 1, 2010

Best answer: Gawain's name is pronounced two different ways depending on the date and source of your Arthurian text. In French he's Gauvain, so texts taken from French sources tend to stress the name that way. In Welsh he's Gwalchmai (or -mei), and it's a bit more British to stress the first syllable: the poet of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight seems mostly to stress it this way. Tennyson seems to prefer Gawain, but hedges his bets:
"Light was Gawain in life, and light in death
Is Gawain, for the ghost is as the man..."
In general, Tennyson's metric placement of the names will tell you where he thinks the stress should go. He has a good ear for dialect, but is a native speaker of neither Welsh, French nor Middle English: he pronounces the names in the manner of an educated Victorian Englishman.

For example: the names Pelleas and Ettarre head one of the later cantos. Pelleas's name comes from Old French, so the accent is on the first syllable as Pelleas; Tennyson's Anglicised pronunciation would probably have been closer to "Pellius." Ettarre has a slightly different history. In the French sources her name is Arcade; Malory changes it to Ettarde; Ettarre seems, on a cursory search, to be Tennyson's invention. In all three, however, the accent is on the final syllable.

In conclusion: No matter how weird the names get, Tennyson's metric placement is always a good guide to how *he* thought they should be pronounced. The stress pattern will give you most of the vowel sounds, and you can go from there.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:32 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

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