Question #34, 1/01/19
From Candy Jenkins Pitts: “I know this is a weird question, but I can’t seem to recall reading it. Does Walt Longmire have a middle name?”
He does. There’s actually a point in the books where Cady threatens to give Walt’s grandchild his middle name and Walt is horrified… Which leads us to believe that Walt doesn’t care for it—whatever it may be.
I get asked a lot about the names I chose for my protagonist, Walt Longmire. The first name was actually a toss-up between Lucian and Walter that were the names of my grandfathers. I ended up going with Walter for the sheriff and using Lucian for his mentor and the previous sheriff of Absaroka County. First names can be tricky, because you have to take in a lot of considerations like geography and perhaps more important, time period. There are certain names that are popular at different times and some names that you just don’t hear any more, and nothing can kill a character like the wrong name.
I’ve always thought that Walter was a solid sounding name, a name you could count on. One Walter that immediately comes to mind is Walter Johnson, The Big Train, the phenomenal pitcher for the Washington Senators back in the teens and 20’s. Walt Whitman is another, Walter Cronkite, etc.—but it’s not an overly used name, so I felt like it might work.
Longmire was a little tougher in that the last name had to stand for so much. I’ve often joked that the way you test a good, western American name is by sticking it in front of Steakhouse… The truth is, again, I wanted something strong and trustworthy.
I’ve always admired Dickens’ ability to give his characters names that personified them to the point that you knew the characters before you even met them just by the sound of their names or onomatopoeia, a name which expresses a characteristic. Aptronym or aptonym is another term for a name that matches its owner’s occupation or character, often in a humorous or ironic way.
I used to do a lot of mountaineering and was climbing Mt. Rainier when I noticed the first lodge on the right as you enter the park, Longmire. Here I had this clinically depressed protagonist whose wife had died a number of years before and who wasn’t likely to get over it anytime soon, hence the name long mire, mired for a longtime—Longmire.
A surname of Scottish origin, Longmuir underwent spelling changes by both the Scottish and the English and is a locational name denoting a person living in a village by an extensive marsh, wetland, or fen. The derivation comes from the Old English pre-7th Century lang for long and mor for a fen. The Longmire Coat of Arms was granted in 1663 and was emblazoned with a black shield with a gold chevron and an ermine canton—the crest being two gold spears. I suppose it’s possible that Walt has a touch of royal blood, but I guess we’ll never know until he decides to share that information with us.
So there you have it, the reason behind Walt’s first and last name—and what was the initial question? Oh, right, what’s Walt’s middle name… I suppose some day we’ll find that out too, but not today.
All the best,