‘He was called Tarka, which was the name given to otters many years ago by men dwelling in hut circles on the moor.  It means Little Water Wanderer, or, Wandering as Water.’

The apt and lovely name of the eponymous otter and Williamson’s book about him, a wondrous exploration of the inner and outer life of otters, which will be reviewed here soon.

Most people who have heard of ‘Tarka’ will immediately associate it with the celebrity otter, but unless they read the book, they may not know its meaning as defined by Tarka’s biographer.  Whether this is a true definition, I don’t know, as the word doesn’t appear in the OED’s 600,000-word online version.  But Williamson cleaved to accuracy in his writing and it is hard to believe he would have indulged himself in a little mystic fantasy.

Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter: His joyful water-life and death in the two rivers, illus. C.F. Tunnicliffe (Harmondsworth: Puffin Books, 1976 (1927)), p. 22

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