Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Power Of Names

I am reading J.R.R. Tolkien's Lost Tales (or Histories of Middle Earth as the modern paperbacks are called) for the first time and this has turned out to be the gravest of errors that I could have made. it is kindling within me a desire to reread first the Silmarillion followed at once by The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. This is very bad because this means a minimum of another year of my life devoted to Tolkien and a neverending backlog of books I am supposed to read on my shelves.

I intend to do as my father did to me and read to Anwen the entirety of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I think that was the greatest gift of time and attention my father could have given me and I would like to pass that on. But man, that is an investment in that ever so rare and precious commodity of time. I hope it interests her the same way as it caught my imagination but I guess it is just as likely to bore her out of her skull. We shall see.

Tolkien is the master of language though. He uses language as a means of seduction, to lure you into his world and once you are in; that's it, you are lost. Worse yet, when it is over you thirst for more and you turn to other fantasy or science fiction, yet to my knowledge, nothing other than Frank Herbert's Dune even comes close. All others pale in comparison.

Consider the names Tolkien chooses; my favorites are the bad guys and bad places:
Angband/Angamandi: the hells of iron
Thangorodrim: the fortress of Morgoth
Melkor: the name given to Tolkien's fallen angel; this is the name given him during the period where he uses lies and flattery rather than force to create his evil
Morgoth: the name given Tolkien's fallen angel after he turns solely to force to achieve his evil
The Witch-King of Angmar: Dude, that is just too fuckin' cool. I want to be the Witch-King!
Mordor: The place of evil in the Lord of the Rings.
Balrogs: Morgoth's boy-toys or fire demons

Now the good guys:
Eru Illuvitar: God
Valar: the angels of God
Glorfindel: the elf who saves Frodo from the Nazgul in the books (Hollywood gave the job to Arwen)
Arwen Evenstar: symbol of the passing of the elves
Galadriel: symbol of the dawn of the elves in the world
Durin: father of the dwarves (one of seven anyway)

All of these names powerfully evoke a sense of who and what they are and convey some of their import. Doesn't the idea of going to a place named Thangorodrim sound grim and threatening? On the other hand, who could pass up a cold beer in a pleasant sounding place like Bree? Note: I understand that on Tuesday evenings the Prancing Pony sets aside a meeting room for an Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book study and Barliman Butterbar's less well known root beer is copiously consumed along with a strange heated beverage made from, if you will believe it, beans!

I have pretty much admitted defeat when it comes to writing fiction; one of the things that dogs me the most and depresses me is that I cannot come up with names worth a crap. My names are bland and meaningless; the vowels and nouns carry no import at all. Every place sounds like Dallas, a plausible but boring name for a reasonably plausible but boring place.

I was awfully proud when I found the name Anwen for my daughter. Coming from the Welsh and meaning very beautiful, I thought I had hit upon an easy to pronounce, slightly different name for her. I also figured she could go by Ann or Annie if she wound up not liking it. Again I have struck out; everyone thinks it is Arwen from Lord of the Rings. I am asked why I named my kid after a fictional elf. The mispronunciations have been atrocious. It should be simple: two syllables only, An and Wen. Anwen.

To use a couple of more evocative words: fuck it. I'll stick to writing boring non fiction and not changing the names of the animals we adopt from shelters. Apparently I haven't the talent for naming. I shall focus one trying to be a good father and white collar worker so my family can live a comfortable life.

Blessings of the day to you all.