The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1047 Tuesday, 22 June 1999.
Date: Monday, 21 Jun 1999 11:50:01 -0700
Subject: King of The Fairies: Name
Roy Flannagan asked where the name Oberon comes from, if not from
classical sources. Oberon was a fairy king in Germanic mythology.
Jacob Grimm, in Teutonnic Mythology, Vol 3, p. 453, has this to say:
"The OFr. fable of Huon of Bordeaux knows of a roi Oberon, i.e. Auberon
for Alberon, an alb by his very name: the kingdom of the fays (royaume
de la feerie) is his. Our poem of Orendel cites a dwarf Alban by name.
. . [citing various cases of dwarves who Grimm takes to be "black
dwarves", he goes on] These are all kings of black elves, except Oberon,
whom I take to be a light alb." [I have not reproduced italics or
accent marks, nor pointed out Grimm's connection of alb-of a family of
lesser spiritual beings-with elf, and possibly Alp.]
Curiously, the story of Orendel cited by Grimm is one of the loose
threads that stick out in Shakespeare studies on another topic; those
tracing the origin of Hamlet's name follow it back to an early
connection with the Odyssey and the name Laertes (now you have the
classical connection you want, Roy) , as discussed in the much praised
1969 "Hamlet's Mill" by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend.
Kemp Malone, some 75 years ago in "The Literary History of Hamlet" Chs.
I and VI, discussed Orendel/Orvendill/Aurvandill from another
perspective, linking the Hamlet story to the same body of Germanic lore
that produced Beowulf. With the additional cross-connection to MND,
among others, it is hard not to believe that a great pool of tradition
known to Shakespeare's contemporaries has been lost, and that
associations which were to some Elizabethans pregnant with meaning, are