Archive for March 15, 2007

What’s in a name?

March 15, 2007

The Troth

Quite a lot, I think. Some folks think names and people are distinct and unrelated things. I don’t believe that’s so and I’ve got reasons for thinking that.

The first reason comes from my experience as an author. When I create a character I feel my way into an appropriate name. In THE PURLOINED BOY, if Trevor were named Bob or even Robert a different cast would be given to the character. Or take Zephyr for example. If he were named Clyde, what would that do to him?

Pre-modern people looked at names very differently than we do today. The names we give children usually are supposed to sound “pretty” or nice — or if we’re fond of a relative we may name a child after that person. But pre-modern people thought names had power — the power to reveal, or shape, or even control.

Think of how Native Americans use names, or how they were given in the Bible (remember the story of Jacob and Esau?), or even how Treebeard in Lord of the Rings warns Merry and Pippin not to be hasty in telling him their names.

What do you think about names and characters in books?