You might know her as the whip-smart witch from Harry Potter, but there’s more to her.
Thanks to Alicia for suggesting Hermione as Name of the Day.
Say Hermione and most people will think of JK Rowling’s novels. Actually, most people will probably think of Emma Watson, the actress best known as Hermione Granger on-screen. The character – brave, loyal and bright – is a worthy role-model. But this name could appeal even if JK Rowling had never picked up a pen.
Hermione has one foot in Greek myth and another in Christianity.
The name is related to the Greek messenger god Hermes – that’s Mercury to the Romans – and was worn by the daughter of Menelaus and Helen, she of the ship-launching face. (Among Hermione’s cousins was the ill-fated Iphigenia.) Her story isn’t an easy one, but hey – mythology doles out very few happily ever afters.
She’s occasionally confused with Harmonia – a minor goddess charged with – what else? – harmony, as in peace, rather than music. But unless I’ve missed something, Harmonia and Hermione are completely separate figures with distinct origins for their names.
Hermione of Ephesus is referenced in the New Testament – she’s an early Christian martyr from circa 117 AD. Myth and witch references aside, Hermione is, indeed, the name of a saint.
In 1623, Shakespeare gave the name to his virtuous Queen of Sicily in The Winter’s Tale. It’s not just the Bard of Avon, either. There’s also:
- Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Cadmus et Hermione, an operatic appearance of the name;
- DH Lawrence gave the name to a character in 1920’s Women in Love;
- PG Wodehouse bestowed the name Hermione Bostock on a character;
- In the Archie comics, Hermione Lodge is Veronica’s mom.
Most real Hermiones were born in the earlier part of the 20th century, almost exclusively in England:
- Actress Hermione Baddeley nabbed an Oscar nomination in 1959 for her role as Elspeth in Room at the Top, and also guest starred in plenty of American television shows, into the 1980s;
- Hermione Gingold acted on both sides of the Atlantic from the 1930s into the 80s – if you’ve seen the musical film Gigi, you’ve heard her sing. If you’ve ever caught the movie based on television series The Munsters, you know her as Lady Effigie Munster;
- The aristocratic Hermione Cobbold once briefly held the title Vicerine of India;
- More recently, Hermione Gulliford played Hermione Trumpington-Bonnet on BBC’s Monarch of the Glen.
There are a handful of other Hermione references – David Bowie titled a song “Letter to Hermione” back in 1969. (He was, indeed, dating a woman named Hermione Farthingale, in the late 60s.) General Lafayette arrived in the Colonies to fight the American Revolution aboard the French frigate Hermione back in 1780.
If by chance you named your firstborn Tallulah? Well, in Tallulah, Louisiana, you can visit the Hermione House Museum. Built in 1855, the home survived the Civil War as a hospital.
Despite her history, Hermione has never charted in the US Top 1000. This means she’s either the perfect choice – a rarity that everyone will recognize – or just a bit too out there for serious consideration. But with a new big screen adaptation of A Winter’s Tale due at Christmas, the scale could tip in favor of this smart, literary appellation.