Friday, November 5, 2021

Something About an Anselm

Seeking to understand.

Bellairs dropped more than a few old-sounding names into his writing for several one-off characters. One such name I came across recently was Anselm, itself supposedly derived from ans ("god") and helm ("helmet, protection") and meaning "divine protection". One shouldn't confuse Anselm with Aslan, a Turkic word meaning "lion" and the name of a character in a book about a chifforobe, or with Aztlán.

Anyway. The name Anselm surfaces when Prospero spots a tree during the early part of his journey northward:

The tree had not been used as a gallows since the time of the grandfather of the current Duke Anselm (The Face in the Frost; 61).

In the lands of the Southern Kingdom, nothing more is known of the current Duke Anselm or any previous titleholders or any relatives. It's just one of those great toss-away comments meant to invoke a scene.

But what of the name? While there have been Anselms up and down Europe over the last millennium, the prominent Anselm of history is Saint Anselm (d. 1109), the second Archbishop of Canterbury after the Norman Conquest of England (1093-1109).

Charles Bowen, one of Bellairs's lifelong friends he met at Notre Dame, noted Anselm wrote several theological treatises:

"Some of which establish him as a founding father of Scholasticism, and vigorously defended the independence of the Church against several kings, finally working out a settlement that kept the Church in England subordinate to the Pope rather than the King. We were taught in Catholic schools to regard this as a good thing. Not that this or any other Saint Anselm is especially important to the book, but this particular one probably accounts for the name turning up fairly often in English contexts, whence John was probably moved to think of it."

So we're down one Anselm, but there is another of note and I'll explain who soon.

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