In a recent post in the Trail of the Wildmen series, I outlined some of the theories surrounding the origins of the Wildman surname. Whilst doing a bit of research into this I came across a suggested Wildman motto, which stoked my interest. Like a lot of things that I’ve found online related to family history, the actual truth in the following is highly disputed. But I thought it was worthy of, at the least, a brief post.
So, firstly, what is a motto? Today they are viewed as statements or slogans outlining the purpose of a group or organisation, however, they can be found throughout history. The actual word itself is derived from Latin muttum – meaning ‘mutter’ – and in the medieval age mottos were part of a noble family’s identity. It would be displayed on their coat of arms and by seen as a rallying cry to obtain support.
The TV show Game of Thrones popularised the motto theme, with the various statements providing additional meaning for the characters and their families. For example:
House Stark: Winter is Coming
House Tyrell: Growing Strong
House Tully: Family, Duty, Honor
Mottos were often ascribed to noble houses, however, very rarely to commoners. But this has seemingly changed in recent years with the rise in popularity of genealogy, with mottos being dished out left, right, and centre and becoming attached to various surnames. This is why I was apprehensive when coming across a suggested motto for the Wildman surname.
The House of Names website notes the Wildman motto as:
Tentanda via est
Or, in plain English:
The way must be tried
I quite like this motto: it suggests bold action, of never giving-up, of pushing onward and trying all options. However, I have already expressed the need to be cautious when utilising such websites as The House of Names; my last post in this series highlighted its errors when it mistakenly linked Beaucot Manor to the Wildmans back to the Norman Conquest. So, I thought I would search more widely for anything associated with this motto.
The first thing that becomes apparent when searching the motto on Google is its heavy connection with York University in Toronto Canada. “The way must be tried” is the university’s own motto, and this can be seen on a variety of different media forms, including the name of a book (from 2009) and a 2011 documentary about the same university. At first, I wondered if the Wildman motto and the university were connected; perhaps a swashbuckling Wildman from the 17th century emigrated to the Canadian provinces and took with him the motto. However, such hopes were dashed when looking at the founding date of the university: 1959.
Aside from this Canadian university, the only pages connected to the motto come in the form of suspiciously dubious family history sites or from an advertisement issued by the Flying Dog Brewery back in 2012. With little else to go on with, I thought I would dig a little deeper into the brewery to see what the heck it was all about.
The Flying Dog Brewery is an American company that has been brewing beer since 1990. In 2012 they released their newest beer: “Wildeman”. Along with the campaign was a video of, presumably, a “Wild Man”, along with the motto: “the way must be tried.” An article by Rebecca Cullers outlines the commercial:
Rarely do beer commercials challenge the status quo of hot chicks and gender jokes, but thanks to America’s booming microbrew subculture, we’ve been gifted with some truly home-brewed commercials. Here, courtesy of Flying Dog Brewery, is the most inexplicable commercial for a new-beer release that you may ever see. If it captures the essence of the brew, called Wildeman, then this is a concoction made from wolf blood and steampunk wings.
Cullers further explains this bizarre video:
The ad opens on a bank of old TVs set up to produce a hallucinogenic trance as we watch a wolf growl, an owl fly, and a fat, bald British man chant “The way must be tried” in several languages. Our hero sinks a freshly used axe, the sort usually possessed by fantasy dwarves, into a log and peers at the screens. Then our Wildman smears blood all over his face and stalks off into the mist to try his luck at soaring. As far as I can tell, the beer tastes like insanity.
The commercial – as the description notes – is oddly interesting. I thought I would attempt to contact the Flying Dog Brewery to get a better grasp of what they were thinking with this campaign. One thing was clear: they had brought together the Wild Man link along with the motto. This was the most I had to go on, so why not go further down the rabbit hole.
I received a prompt and polite reply from the company:
Thanks so much for reaching out – Wildeman came out awhile back so we weren’t there for the initial concepting! I have asked around though and if I find out more I will let you know. We retired that beer several years ago as well.
Good luck with your research!
So, it came to nought. My thinking is that whoever designed the beer commercial did a similar search online to find the motto and the surname, thereby tying it together. All of this means that I do not have any real evidence to confirm the motto, but at least it did lead me to a very odd television advert. And you can see it here, too.
Where next for the motto? I will continue to try and unpick it, but I fear that I will continue to go down many dead-ends before I stumble across something that gives me a secure link with the Wildman name. I’ll be sure to update on here when I come across that eventual find!