Will (was Sophie etc)

Voicebearer at aol.com Voicebearer at aol.com
Thu Jan 31 01:51:45 EST 2002

In a message dated 1/31/02 2:59:58 GMT Standard Time, daphne at thestar.com.my 

> And lastly, not to do with Magician's HOuse at all, but just a thougt: is 
> Will or William a particularly popular name with fantasy writers? There's 
> Will in Philip Pullman's Dark Materials Trilogy, Will in Susan Cooper's The 
> Dark Is Rising series, William is Magician's House, isn't there a Will in 
> Time Of he Ghost too? Just a common name perhaps, or does it exude the 
> right aura for a hero of fantasy books?

This thought has prompted speculation from me in Children's Fantasy 
Literature lectures. As a medievalist by trade, observing writers who have 
often come through the Eng. Lit. academic machine (or in the case of DWJ, 
being married to a most humane representative of it), I conjecture that the 
Wills may go back to the hero of the 14c English 'spiritual journey'  dream 
vision poem, _Piers Plowman_ ,of which the fallible though persistent hero is 
Will. _Piers Plowman_ wsa standard and often compulsory fare on Eng. Lit. 
degree courses until very recently, and still is in a few outposts of the 

We don't know for sure that the poet, Langland, was called William, but it's 
generally accepted from the variably close self-identification of poet and 
hero, and from his riddling self-naming  ("My name is Long (=tall) Will; I 
have lived long in [the] land (perhaps='up-country' ").

'Will' in Middle English can mean 'will' or 'wish' or 'determination' as now, 
but it often means 'wilfulness', setting up one's will in opposition to the 
divine moral scheme, letting wilfulness triumph over 'Wit' (rational moral 
perception). So at the deeper level it may be too pejorative a derivation for 
Pullman's or Cooper's hero, although they do show fallibility as well as 
employing willpower in their struggles.  

Marie Denley
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