What's with the lead wolf's name change?

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What's with the lead wolf's name change?

Postby Geekicheep » Dec 03, 2019 5:15 am

Awhile back, someone suggested that Netflix's Narnia be animated; this of course reminded me of the 1979 cartoon, which I recently rewatched so I could comment on the subject on my blog. But this reminded me of a funny question I've had for a long time. In the cartoon, and also in my copy of the book, the wolf Peter killed was named "Fenris Ulf". Then apparently, for some reason, his name was changed to Maugrim. I've always wondered what was up with that. Like is Fenris a dirty word in some other language or something? Or did Lewis himself decide he needed to be renamed? Either way, I'm curious to find out if anyone knows this one. :)
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Re: What's with the lead wolf's name change?

Postby Courtenay » Dec 03, 2019 6:54 am

Hi Geekicheep,

The wolf's name was Maugrim originally when the book was first published in the UK. When it was published in the US, Lewis made a few changes to the text, one of which was to change Maugrim's name to Fenris Ulf. I don't know if anyone's ever found an exact reason. The name continued to be Fenris Ulf in successive American editions but remained Maugrim in all the British editions until, I think, the 1990s, when all editions reverted to using the original UK text. Again, I've no idea what Lewis's reasoning was for this and a few other minor changes between the British and American editions.
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Re: What's with the lead wolf's name change?

Postby Col Klink » Dec 03, 2019 7:10 am

I believe Fenris Ulf was the name of a wolf monster in mythology. (I can't remember which mythology to save my life.) Lewis used the name as an homage. I'm really glad all editions use Maugrim now. It's a much better name.
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Re: What's with the lead wolf's name change?

Postby Cleander » Dec 03, 2019 10:12 am

Fenris Ulf is one of the wolves owned by the Norse god Odin. He is considered to be a Norse symbol of death, and was believed to one day swallow the sun at the end of the world.
My guess is that Lewis changed the name to carry greater significance, using a name from the Scandinavian myths he loved. It seems rational to assume that the wolf in LWW is something of a living symbol of death.
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Re: What's with the lead wolf's name change?

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » Dec 03, 2019 2:44 pm

You know, part of me wonders if Lewis went with Maugrim because Tolkien was so adamant about not liking how Lewis would randomly mix figures from our own world's mythology into Narnia. And then when he was making adjustments to the American version, he went with Fenris Ulf because Tolkien wasn't going to read it anyway. ;)) Somehow I doubt that Lewis would have changed the name unless that was what he always had in mind for the character.

And thinking about it, this theory may also be strengthened by the fact that one of the other changes to the American version also related to Norse mythology. In LWW, the Witch says "Tell you what is written in letters deep as a spear is long on the fire-stones on the Secret Hill?" when talking of the Deep Magic, but in the pre-1994 American version, it was changed to "on the trunk of the World Ash Tree" which is a reference to Yggdrasil, an enormous ash tree at the center of the universe found in Norse myth.

It's conjecture, but it makes me wonder how much more of a mythological mish-mash Narnia might have been if it hadn't been for Tolkien's influence. ;))

(For the record, I also like the name Maugrim better.)
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Re: What's with the lead wolf's name change?

Postby Geekicheep » Dec 11, 2019 7:26 pm

Wow, that is some interesting stuff! It makes sense that the name would have come from mythology, because Narnia has centaurs, minotaurs, and other Greek/Roman mythological creatures - and also Father Christmas. :D Seriously though, I thought it was the other way around (that Maugrim was the newer of the two). And I don't know many Americans who would know that reference, so I'm not surprised they went with his original name. And yes, I also like Maugrim a little better; it just sounds more Narnian. Anyway, thanks for the info. :)
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Re: What's with the lead wolf's name change?

Postby Reepi » Dec 12, 2019 3:44 am

Among this and the dark island in VDT there are a number of changes Lewis wanted to make to the texts - call it a revision if you will. For some reason though the publisher who keeps publishing the books nowadays chooses to disregard Lewis wishes and keeps using the unrevised texts for the books (and puts them in the wrong order to boot).
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Re: What's with the lead wolf's name change?

Postby Col Klink » Dec 12, 2019 6:53 am

I think it's good that the publisher disregards Lewis' wishes because they were bad ideas. ;)) (I mean "Fenris Ulf?" That barely sounds scary at all.)
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Re: What's with the lead wolf's name change?

Postby Courtenay » Dec 12, 2019 11:06 am

I agree, Col Klink — and the fact is that while Lewis made those changes for the US editions, he never asked that future printings of the UK editions should have the same changes. Which is why they never did, and presumably why the decision was eventually made to standardise all editions with the text that all British and Commonwealth readers have been familiar with all along. It's interesting to wonder what he might have done if he'd lived long enough to do a full revision of all the Chronicles and clean up any inconsistencies, which he apparently hinted at wanting to do only days before he died, but we'll never know.

As far as I know, the only really substantial change Lewis made was in what happens to the Dark Island in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader — in the original version it disappears completely and everyone laughs it off, while in the US edition it fades away into the distance. That's one change where it could be argued that Lewis had seriously re-thought how he wanted to end that episode and he would have wanted it to be made the same in all future editions (though there might be differences of opinion among readers as to which version is better!). But the few other changes he made are either insubstantial or even arguably for the worse.

I agree Fenris Ulf isn't nearly as effective a name as Maugrim; "Fenris" could be almost any sort of character, good or evil, whereas the "grim" in Maugrim tells you immediately that this is someone who's menacing and dangerous. And I gather there's at least one change that is simply ridiculous — I've never seen a pre-1994 US edition of any of the books, but I'm taking this from Peter J. Schakel's commentary The Way Into Narnia. In the original British and post-1994 editions of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when the White Witch asks Aslan "But how do I know this promise will be kept?", Aslan replies with a huge roar, which in the original edition is spelled out as "Haa-a-arrh!" In the American edition, Aslan at that moment roars "Wow!"

I mean... honestly?! :-o

(Edited now that I'm at home — which I wasn't when I first posted this — and can check my books to confirm.)
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Re: What's with the lead wolf's name change?

Postby Cleander » Dec 13, 2019 3:37 pm

Having grown up with the American editions, I'm actually more used to hearing Fenris Ulf. It was a bit of a surprise to hear him being called Maugrim when I first listened to the audiobooks of the original version. That being said, the word "Ulf" literally means "wolf" in Old Norse (it's kind of easy to see, or hear, why). The mythical wolf Fenris was often called the "Fenris wolf." So Ulf is kind of like a redundant last name- like a cheesy "Mr. Wolf" sort of thing- and it can possibly sound a trifle silly on the lips of some people.
I think it could possibly be a good idea to just call him "Fenris" in the Netflix series. The name change would help set it apart from the other two versions (if that's really necessary) and imo sounds OK as a villain's name by itself.
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Re: What's with the lead wolf's name change?

Postby Courtenay » Dec 14, 2019 1:43 am

Fine, so long as we get to keep "Long live the Queen! RRRAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!" =)) (only kidding)
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Re: What's with the lead wolf's name change?

Postby Geekicheep » Dec 15, 2019 2:24 pm

Courtenay wrote:Fine, so long as we get to keep "Long live the Queen! RRRAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!" =)) (only kidding)


Good one! =)) I had a more well-thought-out response in mind, bt =)) says it all!

Anyway, that's interesting that Ulf translates to "wolf" in another language. I've heard of hockey players named Ulf, though for all I know that's just a nickname. But it's not like the name doesn't work at all; I mean, we got two unnamed beavers (just Mr. Beaver and Mrs. Beaver) so it's not that big a stretch.

But whatever you call him, one thing's for sure: he's a great character and I love it when Peter kicks... fights him off. :D
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Re: What's with the lead wolf's name change?

Postby Varnafinde » Jan 01, 2020 4:00 pm

Geekicheep wrote:Anyway, that's interesting that Ulf translates to "wolf" in another language. I've heard of hockey players named Ulf, though for all I know that's just a nickname.


I guess that hockey player would be Swedish (or of Swedish descent) - it's a fairly common first name in Sweden. We use if here in Norway as well, although I guess it's not quite as common here.

It's interesting, though, that "ulf" would probably be an archaic spelling of the name of the species - in both Swedish and Norwegian the modern spelling is "ulv". The man's name has retained the old spelling, though. The pronounciation is different for the two words. You hear the difference between the f and the v.

But Jadis' chief wolf is called Maugrim in both translations of LWW.
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