Cóm on wanre niht scríðan sceadugenga…
[In the colourless night came slinking the shadow-wanderer…]
~ Beowulf, Lines 702-703
I’ve always been enamoured with the linguistic origins of words, but for the past few years, I’ve been digging into largely forgotten roots of words to augment some of my writing (which I have not put here… yet) where I have been experimenting with trying to move away from the typical high fantasy out there and develop something a little more “earthy” — not grimdark, although I’m not against employing some of those tropes, but something that moves away from “save the world from the dark overlord by taking a long-assed journey and hitting all the milestones of the hero’s journey model” thing.
As such, I wanted to work with words that have elf and dwarf feel, and feel more what the common folks might use.
So, I would play mashup games with Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, Old Irish and Old Scottish mixed with a bit of Latin and Pict and… well, you get the picture.
One day I was digging into the words “shadow” and “night” with the intent of mashing it together with “walker”, “strider”, “goer” for a character I was working on who’s “talent” was using shadows to her advantage. Quite accidentally, I stumbled onto “sceadugenga” while looking through the Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon dictionary online in the hopes that I could find something suitably unfamiliar sounding and maybe even spooky to call my character’s skill base (think along the lines of the wargs in Martin’s epic series; a hereditary skill, although not necessarily genetically hereditary). The name was perfect, without a mashup, and I decided instantly I loved it. It translates, variously, as “shadow-goer”, “shadow-walker” and “shadow-mover”, “shadow-wanderer”… among others.
I looked it up to see about usage and discovered the connection to Beowulf, which just so happens to be a book I greatly admire, but never paid much attention to the side-by-side translations.
I had to use “WalksInShadows” for the blog when it existed on the WordPress server because variations were already taken (“Seadugengan is plural usage”, but jumped with glee when I decided to get my own domain and see if it was available and found it was.
While the word is generally seen as embodying evil, I tend to see it more about embracing the shadows and moving within them, rather than adopting the highly-Christianized dichotomies of light versus dark. Having come historically from the early goth fashion/community with a heavy interest in gothic literature (and subsequent Hollywood interpretations of that literature) , I felt it appropriate to take the name on for my site.