"Real names tell you the story of things they belong to in my language, in the Old Entish as you might say."
Choosing a name is the hardest part of creating a new character. But for a language geek like me, it's also the most fun part!
My approach to picking names follows a process:
- I try to follow the naming guidelines for each race, given in the character creation screen.
- If I can, I like to relate the name to the character's race, class, vocation, appearance, or demeanor. Even if in a cryptic sort of way.
- The name can't be unpronounceable. Tolkien drew on old Germanic languages for his names, but sometimes those ancient spellings can look really weird to us as modern English speakers. If the name looks too exotic, I'm not afraid to tame it. Tolkien was a master at this---taking ancient words and tweaking them just enough so they sound strange and yet familiar. From Old English eorcan-stán ("precious stone") he created the wonderfully evocative Arkenstone.
Maythorn, the burglar from Breeland
According to the guidelines, Breelanders usually have short English names like Bill or Tom. Ha! Try finding one of those that wasn't taken 12 years ago already!
Fortunately, botanical names like Ferny or Butterbur are also an option.
The maythorn---an alternative name for the hawthorn tree---is so-called because it flowers in spring (which, I have on reliable authority, starts in May in the northern hemisphere).
The haw in hawthorn is from an Old English word haga, meaning "hedge". And indeed, hawthorn is just the kind of shrub that makes for impenetrable hedges on account of its dense growth and defensive spines. Let's not forget that just such a hedge encircles Bree-town!
I like to think of Maythorn as an embodiment of what that hedge represents: a protector of Bree, keeping it safe from assorted half-orcs, wild boars, and various other rogues with his set of spiky daggers.
Bocwine, a lore-master and a scholar of Dale
The guidelines say that people of Dale go for Norse or Anglo-saxon (i.e. Old English) names.
This one's straight out of Old English in the most literal way possible: boc-wine, "book-friend". The -wine element is still present in modern day real-life names like Baldwin ("bold friend") and Darwin ("dear friend").
Tialvi, a beorning
This one was a struggle. The guidelines say Beorning names are "influenced" by Old Norse.
I initially wanted a name that referenced bears, or animals, or the wild, of course. But Evernight must be overrun with Beorning linguists(!), because every variation I tried was taken. After half an hour at the naming screen, I just went with a name wrested from Norse mythology.
I'd been working on translating an excerpt from the Old Norse Prose Edda for my language blog, and elsewhere in that story a man called Þjálfi is listed as one of Thor's companions. But how do you turn that name into something that English-speakers can pronounce (or, more to the point, type)?
The Norse letter Þ is normally rendered "th" in English, but "Thjalfi" is quite a mouthful. By swapping out some of the problematic sounds for simpler (but still related) ones, I streamlined the name to "Tialvi".
On reflection, I don't like how close it ended up to "Tivoli", but eh, what's done is done!
Angendur, a Champion of Gondor
Oh boy. Folk of Gondor use Sindarin names.
You'd think that being a language geek and a fan of Tolkien, I'd know something about his constructed languages. Nope...! Not. One. Word. And even less grammar.
Online elf dictionaries tell me that elves call things made of iron angren, and that dark or sombre things are dur. Smash those together, let the first 'r' get squeezed out, and there you have it. (I hope.) Angendur: iron-dark, a reference to his swirling blades and sober nature...
Bryngrim, a dwarf of the Lonely Mountain and a guardian
Dwarves, they say, have simple Norse names. Good luck finding one that hasn't been used in every conceivable variation.
For this dwarf I started with Icelandic brýnn "urgent", and went back to the proto-Germanic root grimmaz "grim, fierce" for the second component. A dwarf of grim urgency. Or urgent grimness. He does shout a lot. I'm sensing some repressed anger there!
Hearpansweg, a minstrel of Dale
We're back to Old English again. This time with some grammar! Hearpe "harp", but in the genitive case hearpan "of the harp", and sweg "sound, noise". The sound of the harp. Although he's presently more into the beat of the drum, it has to be said.
I don't like how long this name is. Too many syllables, and not at all clear which one the stress goes on! But I'll live with it. He can go by Hearp for short.
So those are my names, and the stories of the things they belong to. I'm an ent, at heart. But then, as the decidedly unhurried folk of Carefree, aren't we all? 😀