There's only one named character in this translation of Fontane's "Die Brück’ am Tay" ("The Bridge by the Tay"): "Johnnie". Johnnie shows up twice in the poem:

Now, mother, away with bad dreams, for, see,
Our Johnnie is coming!—He’ll want his tree.


“There’s the bridge still,” says Johnnie. “But that’s all right:
We’ll make it surely out of spite!

Peeking at a copy of the original German text, the same name comes up - "Johnie". It seems there must be some significance to this name, because everyone else in the poem is either referred to in general terms (the "bridgekeeper") or simply not given identifiers (the speakers at the start and end of the poem).

What's the significance of the name "Johnnie" in "The Bridge by the Tay"?

  • It might just be Fontane's idea of a typical Scottish name.
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 17:47
  • And if this was why Fontane used "Johnnie," he wasn't wrong — "John" was the most popular boy's first name in Scotland in 1880. See this webpage.
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 18:01
  • The speakers at the start and finish scarcely need naming, aren't they Macbeth's witches?
    – Spagirl
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 19:28


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