She’s Pippi’s lesser-known cousin.
Thanks to Rachel for suggesting Ronia as Name of the Day.
Children’s author Astrid Lindgren had a flair for inventing names, sometimes outlandish ones. Pippi Longstocking tells us that her full name is Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking.
Of course, other characters wore evergreen classics like Anna. Call this one somewhere in between. Ronia – Ronja in Swedish – sounds like it could be a perfectly plausible appellation for a small blonde child. With the name currently among the most popular in Denmark’s Faroe Islands, and common throughout Northern Europe, she’s undeniably in use.
But she’s also novel. Ms. Lindgren snipped Ronja from the name of a lake – Juronjaure. First published in 1981, Ronja Rövardotter is the story of a princess amongst thieves, heir apparent to lead her father’s band of grifters. Ronja plays Juliet to the son of a rival family. But unlike Shakespeare, Lindgren dishes up a happy ending. After some suffering and a dash of running away, the feuding families reconcile.
The story has been oft-adapted for film, and in one American version, Ronja became Kirsty. But for the most part, Ronia has been viewed as a perfectly accessible choice.
There are three other possible sources for the name:
- The Hebrew Ronia relates to the word for song. (Think of starbaby Max Liron’s middle.) Ron, Roni, Ronit and Roniya are all other related names;
- Especially when spelled Ronya, she may be a Russian diminutive for any name containing a -ron. (Think of Anya or Katya.) In this case, the meaning links back to the original source name – which makes it nearly impossible to determine;
- But in the US, Ronia is probably most often used as a feminine form of Ronald. While she’s never appeared in the US Top 1000, plenty of Ron- variants have, including Ronnie, Rona and Ronna. And Ronia can be found in nineteenth century census records – occasionally paired with a conventionally Jewish surname, but more often not. Ronald might be out of vogue in 2009, but he was a Top Ten pick in the 1930s and 40s, and a Top 100 choice much longer.
History aside, how would Ronia wear on a girl born today? She actually shares a pronunciation with the Arabic Rania – rhan YAH – lending her a certain cross-cultural currency. Rania is also worn by the current Queen of Jordan, raising her profile.
Ronia feels stuck in fashion limbo – but that’s not always a bad thing. If she’s slightly out of step with current trends, then she’s unlikely to be the next Matilda – unless, of course, Lindgren’s novel leads to Hollywood. In that case, her global roots and distinctive sound could be the next big thing.