Sunday, January 20, 2008

Names

I've got a bit of a bone to pick with Tolkien...

He writes this beautiful, epic, amazingly intricate world full of detail and hidden treasures and past histories that the devoted reader can enjoy. He creates hundreds of characters, major and minor, each with their own personalities and quirks.

Then he gives the two villains of the books practically the same name! Argh!! I always have so much trouble keeping them apart.

Sauron.
Saruman.

Why couldn't it be Al and Zebadiah?

-Kelly Huber

15 comments:

Eachus24601 said...

The Eye of Al is watching us!

Eileen Joy said...

Kelly: I agree, and I also often confuse the names. BUT: I think there may have been a good reason why Tolkien wanted the names of these two characters to be connected and to alliterate with each other. Doug, as our expert philologist, what do you think about this?

Eachus24601 said...

I found on the internet that Sauron means "terrible" in Kvenian. Which is a Norwegian Ethnic groups language.

Kvenian Article Abstract.
http://cejsh.icm.edu.pl/cejsh/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?07PLAAAA03036210

I keep finding references to Saruman meaning "crafty old man" but I can't find anything substantial to say what language it is derived from.

amber lotz said...

Yeah I agree about the names but I found that its easier for me not to even give notice to the names as much as the stories that are told of them. I then put a face to the character and it makes it easier for me to remember their importance.

Jessica Fauss said...

I agree with the name confusion also. It's almost like a vocabulary list that we are all going to have to study and keep straight. For me it's not so much the names that are similar that confuses me, but the difficulty of the names. Why couldn't their names be more like George or Bob?

Soune said...

I actually think it's convenient that the two "bad" guys have similar names because it helps me-even while I am reading it the second time-to keep the "sides" separate.
I am not sure what their names actually mean; Prof. Simms, I am sure, will definitely bring that up.

Emily said...

Jessica Faus: Wow- I totally agree.
While I read, I just change the names. Frodo is Fred and Gandalf or whatever (I can't keep it straight) is George. I agree that it is an amazing story, and I love the intricacies of their lives that Tolkien lets us in on, but the names are horrid! I realize that to the philologist these are another amazing aspect of the story, but to the common person who has no idea where these names originate from, they are just a menace! Therefore, I change the names a lot of the time while reading. I didn't think I was going to make it through that first chapter when Tolkien introduced almost every family in the Shire. Despite all this, I am really enjoying it so far, but mainly just for what it is, a story. I'm not much into the maps and meanings.

Mike Pilato said...

You think names are confusing now? Wait until you reach the chapter entitled The Council Of Elrond! LOL

efowler said...

I've had an interesting theory before I realized the meanings behind the names. Sauron, we all know, is the head bad guy. Saruman tries endlessly to do his bidding. It kind of reminds me of the older-younger sibling relationship. By having similar names, I wondered if Tolkien was trying to imply a need of Saruman to be recognized with Sauron. Yet, by their names being even subtly different it becomes obvious who is really evil and who is just evil's "man." Or am I just insane?

Doug Simms said...

You're all on the right track...is it coincidence that Sauron and Saruman have similar names?

Should we connect the two? (Those of you who are reading LotR for the first time will find out)

Saruman = 'crafty' (saru-) and 'man' (man)
This is an instance pseudo-Proto-Germanic being used by Tolkien

Sauron for me seems like a biblical name (with the -on ending, e.g. Zebulon, Solomon, Simon, etc...)

The sound-meaning nexus here would count as an instance of the poetic device "paronomasia"

Doug Simms said...

You're all on the right track...is it coincidence that Sauron and Saruman have similar names?

Should we connect the two? (Those of you who are reading LotR for the first time will find out)

Saruman = 'crafty' (saru-) and 'man' (man)
This is an instance pseudo-Proto-Germanic being used by Tolkien

Sauron for me seems like a biblical name (with the -on ending, e.g. Zebulon, Solomon, Simon, etc...)

The sound-meaning nexus here would count as an instance of the poetic device "paronomasia"

Doty said...

I don't understand what all the confusion is about. Except for when hordes of dwarves or elves are mentioned at the same time, I find the names rather easy to remember and recognize. And as for giving monosyllabic nicknames to characters, I find that even more confusing. Maybe I'm the only one who sees things this way, but the more (different) syllables, the easier to remember. Except for, like I said, the overwhelming numbers of dwarves and elves (most of whom the reader doesn't even really need to remember), the names are pretty simple. Tolkein is nothing. If you want a glimpse or real name mayhem, glance through a Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy (or just about any Russian book, for that matter) or try reading Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.

As to giving characters similar names, I find that helpful as well. It helps the reader put the characters into groups. Bilbo, Drogo, Frodo. Gimli, Gloin. Aragorn, Arathorn. Ham, Sam. Merry, Pippin (both of which follow a CVCCV pattern). These patterns help the reader remember which characters are associated with which, what race they belong to, what family they belong to, and so on and so forth.

erin smith said...

I actually like the names. I find them fun and a good addition to the novel. Had they been simpler names, such as Bob or Scott, I think it might have been more difficult to portray a world full of fantasy characters, such as elves or dwarves. The elaborate names make it real, and I can get lost in Middle Earth, instead of being reminded of Scott, the ex-boyfriend, or Bob, the guy from the supermarket.

The meanings in the names, while topics of interest for those who know them, add their own part to the narrative. Tolkien spent so much time creating a believable place (pages of description and history, if i recall...) that it fits for the names to be just as detailed, and thought-out. Despite the confusion in the names, I don't think that the novel could be the same without such intricacy.

Heather Ater said...

I think the names make the world of Middle Earth seem more realistic than if the name had been common names spoke by everyone. I think the names are easy to remember, but this is my first time reading the book. As we meet new people in the book my memory of names might change.

David Le said...

ya when i first saw the movie, i thought sarumon and sauron were the same person until the third movie. At least both of the characters are the personification of evil in the story of LOTR. I also think the names are like given names "sar" to be a introduction of a given name such like and the ending "umon" or "on" as a family name or something, but don't me accountable if i'm wrong. Since they both don't at least in the beginning of the story at least have have last name.