No this is not a typo, we are indeed talking about the name Penda, not Panda.
It’s a name that is not made up, either. During the 7th century, there was a notable figure by the name Penda; King Penda of Mercia has always held somewhat of a fascination for me. The reason for this is mostly obvious because the Kingdom of Mercia is today known as the East Midlands area of England, i.e. my little part of the world.
Mercia wasn’t the only Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of the time, as there were also 6 others:
- East Anglia
Anyone familiar with English geography could surely hazard a guess about where those Kingdoms lie today in modern-day England.
At one point during his rule, specifically after he defeated Oswald at the Battle of Maserfield, he was the most powerful ruler in Anglo-Saxon Britain, but whilst Oswald’s name has survived to this day, his has not.
Point of fact, Oswald was given to 9 lads in England&Wales in 2011, whilst Penda fails to rank for either gender.
Kind of sad, when you consider the current furor surrounding the name Penelope.
And Penda rocks as a heritage choice.
Especially for we midland folk.
Many will probably cite the similarity with Panda as an issue. For me, however, there is a more sinister association: la peine de mort, with the peine de part of that phrase sounding an awful lot like the name Penda. What does the phrase as a whole mean? The death penalty. To be fair, the only reason I know the French for capital punishment is because it was a key word in my A-Level French syllabus.
Another issue to deal with is gender, because you see, one of the most famed bearers of the name was indeed male but there are grounds for the name being female as well.
When I say this, I’m not just going to say that the name sounds female as it ends-in-an-a. Nope, I’m actually going to cite Bulgaria. Why? In Bulgaria they have a pair of dolls known as Pizho and Penda, where Pizho is the male doll and Penda is the female doll. Now, these aren’t just dolls of the Barbie kind, but are actually tied to a traditional Bulgarian holiday.
It all kicks off on the 1st March, and the holiday in question is called Baba Marta where they celebrate the approach of spring. To mark the day, Bulgarians exchange martenitsi to wish great health, good luck and happiness to family and friends. The most popular type of martenitsi are the aforementioned dolls.
To end, what we have with Penda is an intriguing pick lost in the pages of history. Seems as shame really.