The Blue Castle
The Blue Castle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She’s a three-syllable, ends-in-y rarity with a pleasing literary pedigree.

Thanks to Jennifer for suggesting Valancy as our Baby Name of the Day.

Lucy Maude Montgomery is best known for her Anne of Green Gables series.  I suspect she’s a closet name nerd.  Hearing Anne wish to have a more exotic name, like Cordelia, strikes me as proof enough, but she’s named some great characters, too.

In 1926, she penned a very different novel, one aimed at an adult audience.  The book is called The Blue Castle, and while it is far less well known, it has some very passionate fans.

In brief, the story opens with Valancy Stirling, an old maid by the standards of her day, unhappy at home with her small-minded family, consoling herself with books.  At the age of 29, she finally rebels after a doctor tells her that she has a serious heart malady, and just a few months to live.  Valancy goes to live with an old friend and meets the eccentric Barney Smith.

Cue the romance between Valancy and Barney, but it isn’t a happily every after.  Valancy doesn’t have long to live, and Barney has secrets.  Until it turns out (spoiler alert) that her heart condition isn’t serious, and Barney is both secretly rich and secretly the author whose books Valancy has long-loved.  After a few more twists, all ends well.

It’s a great literary name, but where did Montgomery find Valancy?

She must have borrowed Valancy from Isabella Valancy Crawford, a successful freelance poet in the 1870s and 1880s, a time when such a thing was rare.  Born in Dublin, she lived her adult life in Canada, eventually settling in Toronto.  While she wasn’t a superstar in her lifetime, a 1923 compilation of her work put her back in the spotlight – just in time for Montgomery to write The Blue Castle.

But how did Crawford come by her middle name?  Little is known of her early life in Dublin, but it feels like Valancy must be a surname.  Vallance is another surname, found in English and Scottish families, and connected to the French place name Valence.  Like Valencia, Valence is tied to the Roman family name Valens, derived from the Latin valentia strength, capacity.

Given the story of Montgomery’s heroine, it seems like a fitting choice, doesn’t it?

One other literary reference, though this one is obscure: one of the first women to write science fiction was Zenna Henderson, and in her stories about The People, one of her characters answered to Valancy.  Could Henderson have read Montgomery’s novel, or was she inspired by valence bonds in chemistry?  The concept also comes from the Latin valentia, and while it is straight out of a textbook, it isn’t a bad reference.

Is Valancy wearable?  Fewer than five girls received the name in 2011, and there have only been a few women to receive the name at all.  Still, plenty of rare ends-in-y or -ie names are wearable, and Valancy sounds something like Valerie.  If you don’t mind explaining the origins of your daughter’s name a few dozen times, this could be a great option for parents seeking something original and strong.

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About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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  1. Discovering this post — and this website! — brought me so much joy! We are currently coming up with our list of potential names and I, like so many others here, fell in love with Valancy Stirling’s character in The Blue Castle. But I’m very glad to discover that it’s pronounced VAL-an-see and not Vuh-LAN-see, because I didn’t love how it sounded in my head but LOVED the character. This post has made my day! Valancy is moving to the top of my list-for-a-girl!