Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Names from Lord of the Rings

Hello, readers!

It's JRR Tolkein's 125th birthday today! This author of some of the most well-loved fantasy books has a legacy felt today, by readers, gamers, and filmgoers alike. In honor of this momentous literary occasion, I'll be looking at names found in Tolkein's popular series, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Note: though Tolkein made up hundreds of unique and ethereal names, I'll be looking specifically at those that have been written on real-life birth certificates.

Another note: Tolkein created a lot of names via the Welsh tradition, choosing prefixes and suffixes common in the language. However, that doesn't necessarily make the names "Welsh" - since most weren't recorded before the LOTR series was created. If you have any more information on Tolkein names or the Welsh tradition, tell me in the comments!

Yeah, I'm just as surprised as you are. In 1970, five baby boys were named Gandalf. Though the great wizard certainly has some positive qualities, being so highly regarded as a namesake is still fairly unexpected. Another possible influence may have been the album Gandalf, released in 1969 by an eponymous band.

Recorded first in 1970, then in 1982, then over a few years in the early 2000's, Aragorn has been given to at least thirty babies by now. It does fit with the ends-in-n trend for boys, and could be an uncommon route to the nickname Ari. Names with a similar sound but more accessible traits include Adrian, Ariel, or Orion.

This elven hero was added to the annals of name history in 2003, but reappeared once more this past year. Its melody is like Nicholas (or even Enjolras, for another literary connection), but it comes with the kid-friendly nickname Lego. Legolas may be a name to watch, as parents draw from more and more unique ideas.

With the popularity of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films, Samwise may soon join Samuel and Samson as an accepted way to the classic nickname Sam. The character - a devoted and courageous friend - also lends himself to the status of namesake. I haven't found the suffix of -wise in any other names, though Wise has been used sporadically as a name for boys since 1916.

An alternate spelling for the avian (and feminine?) Peregrine, Peregrin has been used for baby boys steadily since 2011. The mischievous and lovable character has the nickname Pippin, but Perry or Penn could work just as well. There's also a Saint Peregrin(e), a patron saint of chronic illness, and the first child born on the Mayflower was named Peregrine.

The nickname Bo is everywhere in today's boyish baby names; if Bodhi, Beauregard, or Boaz isn't your style, why not Bilbo? This could also be a way to honor a familial Bill or William, though it may take a bit of explaining. Bilbo Baggins is one example of a literary pilgrim - others include Christian and Christiana from The Pilgrim's Progress, and Wilfred of Ivanhoe from Ivanhoe.

Given to 115 girls last year, Arwen may be the most popular name on this list! It's also been used overseas - it's ranked in the top 500 in France a few times already. Arwen's character was expanded on for the film series, and the portrayal by Liv Tyler certainly helped this pretty and polished name reach new heights.

A wise and elegant elf princess, Galadriel was portrayed by Cate Blanchett in the film series. The name feels like a fantastic alternative to Gabrielle or Giselle, and its length allows for a multitude of nicknames - Ellie, Lady, and Ria among them. According to a few online sources, Galadriel is Sindarin for "maiden crowned with a radiant garland" or "lady of the light."

Another choice that's getting popular with parents is Eowyn, an E name unlike any other. The character is a noblewoman famous for the "I am no man" quote (often seen online). Like Arwen, this name may rise with the newfound appreciation for Welsh-sounding names.

Actually a name from Old Norse languages, Thorin comes from a word meaning "brave". The character, a dwarf leader (and eventual king) was highlighted in the Hobbit films and portrayed by Richard Armitage. If Thor is a bit too strong for you, Thorin may be a nice, nerdy compromise.

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