“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.