I have a fascination with names. I love discovering the meanings of names, I love naming my characters, and I love hearing the stories behind other people’s names. Names are marvelous, fascinating things. Part of this probably comes from the fact that I am a writer, and choosing the name for a character is an important decision (which explains why I often check out baby name books from the library, earning weird looks from the librarians). Part of it is that the significance of names is woven through all good literature.
Think about the importance of name changes in books: In Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, Beatrice choose the name Tris when she chooses a new faction, to seal her change. Tobias does likewise in becoming Four. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, James Gatz takes on the title Jay Gatsby as a way to become the person he wants to be, one more layer to the illusion he projects to others. In Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s Draven’s Light (the newest novella of Tales of Goldstone Wood—what, you haven’t read it yet? Go here to learn about it), Gaho earns his man’s name of Draven, meaning coward, because he will not shed an innocent man’s blood. This provides the main theme and conflict of the book. Later, he gets a new name—but telling would be spoiling the story. 😉 In the Bible, even, name changes are crucial, marking important milestones in their faith: Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, Saul to Paul …
Then there are titles or nicknames or “extra” names that have special significance. They often appear in fantasy books, such as Aragorn’s titles of Elessar, Estel, and Strider, or Gandalf the Gray/Stormcrow/the White Rider/Mithrandir/Olorin/etc. Lord of the Rings (and fantasy as a genre) is full of numerous appellations for each character that marks some special characteristic of theirs or experience they encountered. For some reason, I always wish I could have a name like that, some unique, meaningful title. In fact, that’s why I love the nicknames of my friends so much.
I think this desire for a meaningful name of our own is an important part of who we are. I think the Bible’s full of it. So many of the promises in the Bible stem from us being known or something to do with our names:
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. ~ Isaiah 43:1
To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. … I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, ~ John 10:3, 14
Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:12b
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you …” ~ Jeremiah 1:5a
And then there’s that wonderful promise in Revelation 3:12: “He who overcomes … I will write on him My new name.” And that’s part of it, too, I think—the Bible is even more vocal about God’s name.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” ~ Exodus 20:7
So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~ Philippians 2:10
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. ~ Acts 4:12
God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I am has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.” ~ Exodus 3:14-15
There’s something about names that is so important to God and thus, as beings made in His image, it is important to us. Has it ever struck you, for instance, how “nameless” is often a name applied to villains or as a way to shame people in fantasy books? We cling to names, find value and security from them.
And now for quotes, because you all know how much I love them. They may not all make complete sense out of context, but nevertheless:
Before his Mother had born him, before his ancestors had been called Ransoms, before ransom had been the name for a payment that delivers, before the world was made, all these things and so stood together in eternity that the dry significance of the pattern at this point lay in their coming together in just this fashion. …
“My name also is Ransom,” said the Voice.
~ Perelandra by C. S. Lewis
[Life-in-Death said,] “Nameless one, you were always mine. Come back to me and see how I will realize your dreams.”
“I have a name,” the knight said. … “I am forgiven, and I have a name.”
~ Moonblood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
“I don’t feel like myself. I’m not myself!” …
“Meg. You are Named forever.”
Unique, as every star in the sky is unique, every leaf on every tree, every snowflake, every farandole, every cherubim, unique: Named.
“Did you count the stars or something?”
“We don’t have to count them,” Meg said. “They just need to be known by Name.”
~ A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle
So, names: important, both in literature and life. Thus ends my extremely disorganized musing-rambling post. Do you have any thoughts on names? Do you share my fascination with them? What’s a name you always wanted to have?