Today we’re being inspired by fiction, specifically A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin.
Lord Beric Dondarrion is one of the more interesting characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, not least because he just won’t die. In A Game Of Thrones, he comes to King’s Landing to fight in the Tourney of the Hand, but is unhorsed by Thoros of Myr. Later in the books he is appointed leader of an expedition to arrest Ser Gregor Clegane by Eddard Stark.
At the Battle at the Mummer’s Ford, Beric is impaled by Gregor’s lance, but it resurrected by Thoros of Myr. He then leads his band of now outlaws (now called Brotherhood Without Banners) to raid Lannister forces.
He next appears on page in A Storm of Swords as Arya Stark comes across the band. Since his last appearance, he’s been killed a few times, but each time resurrected by Thoros of Myr, although this begins to affect his outward appearance and hampers his memories. Eventually, Beric gives up his life for Lady Stoneheart’s resurrection (spoiler, although rumours are that Lady Stoneheart won’t be appearing in the show as expected).
The origin of the name fascinated me however – and it’s worth noting that Mr Martin isn’t the only author to use the moniker. In fact, he was beaten to it by several decades by Rosemary Sutcliff, whose book Outcast came out in 1955. The tale occurs during the time of Roman Britain, and follows the life of Beric – an orphaned Roman child raised in a tribe in Celtic Britain.
Then there’s Beric the Briton: A Story of Roman Invasion by G. A. Henty, which came out even longer ago: 1893. In this story, Beric is a young chieftain in Britain during the Roman Invasion.
The name certainly has links to the time of the Roman Empire, as history also records a Berica as a client king of the Roman Empire in the UK, also known as Verica.
The name looks like he could be Eric-with-a-b, a name which comes from Old Norse and means ever ruler. However, my preferred possibility lies in Northumberland, with one of my favourite place names: Berwick-upon-Tweed (the w is silent). The name Berwick is pronounced exactly like Beric, and comes from Old English origins, meaning barley farm/settlement.
Other possibilities it that the name could derive from the Biblical name Baruch, as the names are pronounced ever so similarly; the name means blessed in Hebrew. There’s also Barak, again Biblical, a name that means lightning in Hebrew. The name Barak can also be sourced from Arabic and means blessing.
With Beric you have a charmingly handsome literature name that has a spattering of real-life uses to boot.