While today’s Name of the Day is hard to imagine on a modern child, she has the most intriguing story.
Thanks to Holey for requesting one from her family tree. Our Name of the Day is Alwilda.
Alwilda dipped into the US top 1000 just once. In 1886 she ranked #995 – then disappeared forever. Census records confirm that Alwilda had been in steady, if infrequent, use in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the US. But even in the year she charted, a mere six girls were given the name. More girls were called Ocie, Pinkie, Hilma or Missouri.
Alwilda sounds cumbersome to our twenty-first century ears, but Mildred, Gertrude, Gladys and Bertha were big in the same era. Pronounced either al VIL dah or al WIL dah, she’s simply one of the Germanic and Norse names once perfectly appropriate for a daughter, and today generally reserved for warrior maidens in role playing games.
Originally, the name would’ve been closer to Alfhild, and comes from the Norse elements alfr – elf – and hildr – battle. Others contend that the name refers to Alfheim, the mythological home of the elves, and means something more like elf princess – but we’re quite wary of those claims.
If the name and its meaning are a bit clunky and outmoded, the tales of Alwilda are fascinating.
Before Anne Bonny and way before Elizabeth Swann, story has it that Alwilda was a daring female pirate.
According to legend, Alwilda was a Scandinavian princess promised in marriage to a Danish prince. Whether she objected to the idea of marriage, the prince himself or simply disliked being used as a political pawn, Alwilda and her ladies dressed as sailors, commandeered a ship and sailed off into the Baltic where they encountered a band of pirates. Against all odds, Alwilda ended up captain of their ship, too, and they went off on their way, looting and pillaging.
Something had to be done about the brigands, and so a prince was dispatched to hunt them down – the very same fellow Alwilda had left at the altar. Impressed by her suitor’s bravery, Alwilda revealed her identity, and they lived happily ever after.
It reads like a Harlequin romance, but we like the idea of the princess as hero of her own life story. Chances are that it’s not true – or certainly not very true – especially as the story can’t be dated.
There’s a second tale placing Princess Alwilda under the watchful eye of two dragons. When a prince finally slays the fire-breathing beasts, she escapes dressed as a soldier. She later meets her suitor on the battlefield, and when he defeats her, she agrees to become his wife.
Either way, Alwilda has a story to match her gutsy, capable name. It is a bit heavy as a first name, but would be intriguing in the middle spot. Or, with the nickname Allie or Willa, it might work just fine as a given name, too.