When you write a book and then decide to self-publish it, you need a dedicated author webpage through which to market it. Everyone says so. And especially Catherine Ryan Howard says so, many times, in her invaluable guide to self-publishing called Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing, which I’ve read front to cover at least three times.
So, because I did write my book, I went and created this website. And then I realized I needed a name for it.
I agonized. I lay awake at night. I scribbled a page full of ideas, one worse than the next. What, I thought, could convey something about myself and still be snazzy enough so as not to be boring?
What I ended up with is my name, plain and simple. Melusine. Very creative, huh?
Well, what it lacks in creativity, it gains in background. You might not believe this, but until recently it had never occurred to me to Google my own name. Melusine. I spent most of my life trying not to think about it, or why my parents had insisted on saddling me with it. Could they not foresee the kind of burden it would be on a child? That other kids would make fun of me when I was the only one with that name in the entire school? Or rather, the entire country. Or universe, it seems like. After life on four continents and throughout as many decades, I have never once met another person with the name of Melusine.
When you’re a kid and your name rhymes with a lot of stuff, you’re doomed. It’s one thing if other kids make fun of your name, but mine seemed to inspire teachers too. Melusine, in German, rhymes perfectly with a collection of words, like limousine, sardine, Waschmaschine (washing machine) and Quatschmaschine (yacking machine – this last one a creation by my teacher alluding to my propensity to, ahem, talk a lot during class). I never forgave my parents for sticking that name onto me, in what I can only think must have been a drunken stupor (or, given it was the 60s, a high of a different nature).
Until now, that is.
Because what does Catherine Ryan Howard also tell me is important for my author website? A unique name. I figured one of a kind in the entire universe is probably unique enough. All is forgiven.
In my newfound benevolence towards my name and my now deceased parents, I went ahead and Googled Melusine to find out more. Boy, was it a bonanza! With the help of Wikipedia I learned that:
- I have a namesake who was christened exactly 300 years before I was born, 1667, and went on to became the mistress of King George I of Great Britain, the first British monarch from the House of Hanover. My husband is also from Hannover. Although without the royal blood.
- Legend has it that I am a water fairy. I appear in quite the collection of French, English, and German folk tales.
- One of those tales has my mother leaving with me and my two sisters to live on the Isle of Avalon. That puts me in the company of King Arthur, and, more importantly, Richard Gere in First Knight (I know I know, I’m giving away my age and poor taste here, but I loved Richard Gere in that movie).
- Another legend has it that the House of Luxembourg is descended from me. In 1997 Luxembourg issued a postage stamp with my image as a water spirit (bare breasted and blond, no less).
- Evidently, there is also a nightclub in Luxembourg with the name Melusina.
- I appear every seven years to someone who must free me from the Arzette River in Luxembourg (all you need to do is take the key I wear around my neck and I’m yours; on second thought, buying me a Starbucks Grande Nonfat Extra-foamy Latte might also do the trick).
- In The White Queen, Philippa Gregory claims the House of Luxembourg is connected to me through the Duke of Burgundy (I’d still rather be connected to Richard Gere).
- One day of the week, I am half serpent or, depending on the tale, half mermaid.
- Martin Luther believed I was a succubus, or female demon, making it my business to seduce men.
- None other than Johann Wolfgang von Goethe resurrected my tale when he wrote Die Neue Melusine (The New Melusine) in 1807.
- Felix Mendelssohn wrote a concert ouverture named Zum Märchen der Schönen Melusine (The Fair Melusine). This is the connection most well-known in Germany, and trust me when I say that the word “fair” mentioned by teachers and such to explain my name was akin to a social death knell.
- A gothic metal band released a song named after me in 2011. I’m not sure I like the gothic metal connection any more than the word “fair.”
- Also, if you go to the website of my name, you can source pre-fractioned animal venoms, whatever the hell that is (“Did you ever dream of running a pre-screen on 176 venoms?” Uhm, no, did not).
- Finally, there even is Melusine, the Blog. And a handful of Facebook pages. Someone beat me to the punch, although I’m oddly relieved to see that none of these people seem to bear the name Melusine themselves. At this point, I don’t really want to share.
- In Czech and Slovak, my name stands for a wailing wind (my kids would agree with that analogy, especially when I’ve just found out that somebody spilled a bottle of nail polish remover onto the sofa table; I won’t name any names).
But by far the coolest connection was revealed at the very bottom of the Wikipedia page, under other cultural references:
“The Starbucks logo features a nude Melusine within a green circle.”
How cool is that? If I could have picked any corporate giant of the world to distribute my likeness (in the nude, no less) to the remotest corners of the Earth, it would have been Starbucks. Hands down. Except I’m pretty sure that not a single Starbucks patron knows it is me, Melusine, looking at them as they raise the all-familiar white cup with the princess in the green circle.
With all this history and fame, I can’t quite believe no one else has ever had an urge to name their female offspring Melusine. It sure would have put me out of my childhood misery if someone had.
Maybe this story will inspire a future generation of parents to follow in the footsteps of mine.This essay was adapted from I’m, Like, Famous. Except No One Knows on Joburg Expat.