Sunday, January 8, 2012


Names in fantasy novels have always intrigued me. How do authors come up with their names? I often ask myself this question when reading a novel, as I work my way around the different names, spellings and pronunciations. Is it a modification of a common modern name? I've seen versions of my own name spelled Davyd and Davor in different novels. The latter, Davor, was actually given to a character who had been magically transported to the fantasy world from our own, and the characters of the fantasy world gave him the new name as being the closest match to his real one.

Elric of Melnibone: there's a name I always found interesting, from the time I first read the saga when I was about thirteen years old. I didn't know until much later that Elric was a "real" name, albeit only a surname, and not just a variant of Eric. Perhaps to the author, Michael Moorcock, it was just something he cobbled together because it sounded interesting. Mr. Moorcock, if you;re out there reading, perhaps you could enlighten us.

Aragorn, Legolas, Boromir, Theoden: more names I find interesting. And their author/creator, Tolkien - as far as I'm concerned, he was the master of naming. He took words from his created languages, and then used them to create his names. Sometimes he even just used a description as a name: Treebeard comes to mind, which was translated from Elvish Fangorn.

For my world of Aerde, I've elected to use a combination of descriptive names for places, and names borrowed from old European tongues for people. Each nation in western Aerde has personal names based on a specific European language, tying them to the culture and history of that European people. Some will be obvious to even the casual student of history, others will be more obscure. I'll let the reader figure out which is which. I've also made up some names based on European word roots (from the appropriate language of course), without any historical name-sake that I'm aware of.

There's a reason for the naming methodology that I've chosen, with it's links to real-world tongues and historical names and words. But that's a subject for a later post.


  1. I love Tolkien's names, too. While I know very little about the languages he created and how the names relate to them, it just seems like each character's name fits him perfectly. Frodo, earthy and simple like a hobbit, but not too perky and playful like Pippin. Frodo could never be a Pippin or vice versa. Aragorn sounds strong; Theoden, kingly; Galadriel, graceful; Sauron, evil. Whatever the actual meaning of the names might be, just the sound of them seems to evoke the personality of each character.

    Oh, and Tom Bombadil. Could there be a more perfect name for that character? I think not.

  2. what an interesting world you've created!

    my 11yr old is hooked on a series of books about cats and i like to look over his shoulder when he's reading to see the names. Fernpaw just has a nice ring to it, right? : )

    those jumbled letters for security purposes before you enter a comment...? those might be interesting character names.

  3. Thanks HolyMama. Fernpaw does have a nice ring, and a poetic yet descriptive meaning as well.