Whence is a perfectly good interrogative pronoun, if somewhat archaic, meaning 'From where?'.

Note to pedants: the "correct usage" is usually said to be "Whence did he come?", and not "From whence ...", which is thought to be redundant. [I once studied Shakespeare with Frank Kermode and Old English (Beowulf et al.) with Richard Sax, both at Columbia, whence I picked up such good words.]

American Heritage Dictionary ALERT!
"USAGE NOTE: The construction from whence has been criticized as redundant since the 18th century. It is true that whence incorporates the sense of from: "... a remote village, whence little news reached the wider world." But from whence has been used steadily by reputable writers since the 14th century, most notably in the King James Bible: "Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken." (Genesis 003:023) "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help." (Book 19 Pslams 121:001) It is difficult to label as incorrect a construction with such respectable antecedents. Still, it may be observed that whence (like thence) is most often used nowadays to impart an archaic or highly formal tone to a passage, and that this effect is probably better realized if the archaic syntax of the word - without from - is preserved as well.
[Middle English whennes : whenne, whence (from Old English hwanon; see kwo- below) + -es, genitive sing. suff.; see -S3.] -s3 suff. Used to form adverbs: They were caught unawares. He works nights. [Middle English -es, -s, genitive sing. suff., from Old English -es.]
kwo-. Important derivatives are: who, what, why, which, how, when, where, whether, neither, either, quorum, quip, quasi, quote, quotient, quantity, quality, neuter, alibi.
kwo-. Also kwi-. Stem of relative and interrogative pronouns.
1.f. (i) WHEN, from Old English hwenne, hwanne, when; (ii) WHENCE, from Old English hwanon, whence. Both (i) and (ii) from Germanic adverb *hwan-.
[Pokorny kšo- 644.]"
END American Heritage Dictionary ALERT!

Note that my handy concordance of the King James Bible (just whipped up in a minute on my Mac with Conc 1.80b3 fat) gives 27 instances of "from whence", 45 instances of "whence" without "from", and 72 instances of "whence" altogether.

Please, stop me before I etymologize again!
J.B. Lowe

Antares Nebula
Some Answers to a few of Life's
Burning Questions:
Who is this guy?
What's he been up to?
When did he do that?
Whence hath he come?
Where's he at?
Whither doth he go?
How does he know that?
Why did he want to do that?
Which way out of here?
Top Level
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Last Updated On Monday February 28th, 2000, 18:00 PST, Oakland, California, USA
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