Saturday, April 17, 2010

Called by Names: Of Choosing

“Real names tell you the story of the things they belong to in my language”

Most fans of Lord of the Rings—even those who read The Silmarillion—would be unable to identify the bearer of these names, while ‘Galadriel’ is much easier to identify. Yet Artanis,
Nerwen, and Galadriel are the same person.
How can this be? The answer lies in the complexities of Elvish names as described in Morgoth’s Ring, Volume X of The History of Middle-Earth.
When a child was born, the father chose the child’s name. That name was regarded as the individual’s true name and came first among any names the individual received therafter.
However, when a child was old enough to take pleasure in language, he or she chose his own name. This chosen name, although regarded as a true name, was used by friends and family, not mere acquaintances
Also regarded as true name were the mother names. Unlike the father-names, mother-names were markers of insight of foresight. Fëanor—spirit of fire—is the most famous example of an insight-name.
Nicknames were not considered “true names,” although widespread ones, like Aragorn’s nickname ‘Strider,’ were sometimes acknowledged after the true name. In some cases, the nickname replaces the others in everyday speech, such as “Galadriel”—a nickname given her by Celeborn.

While all this information may be helpful in navigating the sea of Elvish names, what lesson can I pluck from this essay and give to you?

Names in today’s world rarely come with their own meaning. A name means what you make of it. However, the Elven naming system reveals part of a person’s history. Names tell you more about the person then just what to call them. They tell stories.


  1. Now this is indeed an interesting series. I like what you have to say about names being more than a simple /name/. It does truly add so much more depth to the story if a name tells you something about the character, and if it has meaning to the character.

    Naming is something I've been thinking about lately, because of the characters in my story and their backgrounds. The main character has a legal name on her birth certificate, but her father named her a second name, her "real" name. This is used by certain characters who knew her father, and it has to do with the role she's called to play in the story. Her father also is identified by a second name that differentiates from his legal one and was given based on a certain aspect of his character.

    The Elven naming system is fascinating. *considers* This is something that I think would be wonderful, were people to implement it. It's both poetic and beautiful. (Don't those two elements always come together anyway?)

    So...a few of my scrabbled thoughts that aren't in any particular order at all...

    ~ Gwendolyn

  2. Gwen,I have two more posts about Tolkien charaters coming, and a finishing post about names as relates to me....mostly about my online names...but yeah, wouldn't it be cool to be named like the Elves do? Or like the companions in Second Eden?

  3. I love the Elven naming system. And I agree with you about the names in Second Eden! So interesting!

  4. I, too, love the Elven names. (I like them so much, I use one =P). I've been dubbed 'Storm', but I chose 'Celebrilomiel' (lady of silver echoes). I also have the nickname 'Queen of Sockses' (err, Gollumish for socks...)

  5. Celebrilomiel, I'm on a forum with a "Talk like Gollum Chat thread"
    excerpt by me:No, letss talk about nasty Yellow fassse, yesss.It came out thisssssss afternoon, and me hatessss it.
    (Reply)We's is happy yessss. Whhat ish the Fasseee?? Wes must now yesss.

    The Face is ssssometimessss called the SSsssun, exposssesss usssss