Monday, October 26, 2015

Literary Names: Stardust

Welcome to Day One of Halloween week!

To celebrate my favorite holiday, each post this week will have a Halloween connection. For today's Literary Names installment, I'll be focusing on Neil Gaiman's fantasy novel (complete with witches), Stardust!

The book is an adventure story through a magical land, complete with action, romance and humor. The film version - made in 2007 - is also a great family film.

Rather than reimagine the names of the characters, I'll be focusing on the already-excellent names in the book (and a few from the movie).

Let's begin!

The origin of this name may very well be from the novel Stardust! While Yvain was used in Chrétien de Troyes' medieval texts as a form of Eugene ("well-born"), Yvaine is listed in a few places as meaning "evening star", from Neil Gaiman's book. It's a lovely combination of Yvonne and Elaine, and not too far from boys' favorite Evan. The character in the story is a strong and stunning - not a bad namesake for any child.

The name Tristan of course calls to mind the doomed romance of Tristan and Isolde, but our protagonist in the fantasy novel has a different fate. The name came into use in the US in the 1970's, and is currently ranked at #101 - not uncommon by any means. However, the nice sound and similarity to favorite Christian will probably continue the popularity trend. The meaning is "sorrowful", but Tristan, to me, connotes a hero.

Meaning "dark stone", Dunstan sounds like a cool combination of retro Duncan and trendy Austin - classic but modern, in a way. The character in the book is a supportive and loving father, wishing his love Una would come back to him. If you like Dustin, but think it's a little passé, try Dunstan!

A personal name crush, Una fits in with the rest of the old-fashioned three-letter names returning to the charts - Ava, Ivy, Ida. Depending on its origin, it can mean "one" or "lamb" - either is cute. In Stardust, Una is the name of Tristan's mother, held captive by an evil witch. It also has an unusual first initial, if you're looking for some uniqueness - and sister spelling Oona isn't bad either.

Primus, Secundus, Tertius, Quartus, Quintus, Sextus, Septimus
These are the names of the princes, alive and dead, who are vying for the crown in Stardust. I'm grouping them together since each is a "number name". Names like these are more personal - some have favorite or lucky numbers, so using one of these names would be a great honorific. But I'd suggest staying away from Sextus. Check out this Nameberry article for more number names!

The Witches - Lamia, Mormo and Empusa
The book version of Stardust doesn't give names to these characters, but the film does - and only Lamia has etymology information online. She was a monstrous figure in Greek mythology. I wouldn't suggest any of these for children, but if you're looking for character name inspiration, these are really fun to play around with.

I didn't include every name from the book - any favorites that I missed? Or are fantasy names not strong enough to stand up to a real-life attendance sheet? Tell me what you think in the comments!


  1. Isn't the hero's name actually Tristran? I remember it driving me nuts, because it's a combination of Tristan (a more French form) and Tristram (a more English form). (Though I shouldn't have muttered too much to myself, since later I did find an instance of Tristran in Middle French in 1392.)

  2. Good catch! The movie refers to him as Tristan, the book as Tristran. My mistake!

  3. I always thought it was Trystan, like a lover's tryst, since that's how he was conceived.

  4. I always thought it was Trystan, like a lover's tryst, since that's how he was conceived.