Saturday, September 3, 2011

the Naming of Elves

JRRT's elves, according to the notes Christopher Tolkien compiled into a collection called "the Ring of Morgoth", always have at least three names. There is some ceremony about the essë "naming" of High Elves.

1. the public essi ("father-name") is given at birth. Usually the son's name takes after the father and the daughter's name takes after the mother. The father announces it to the extended family and thus the world. The first Noldo king Finwë named his first-born son "Curufinwë" after himself [curu- "skill" + fin "nimble, clever" + -"man"]

2. the given-names, most prominent and earliest of these is the amilessë ("mother-name"), based on sight, insight or foresight. These might be public or private, but have more to do with character than family. Finwë's same eldest son was mother-named by Miriel as "Fëanáro" [ fëa "spirit" + nár "flame" + -o masculine]. This, later translated into the Middle-Earth elvish language Sindarin, become "Fëanor". In SL's Arda, that same character as gathered a few of these informal names, "Mundotarië" [nose-high for "Arrogant one"] among them.

3. the epessë ("after-name" or honorific) is a self-chosen name taken at a time of childhood and again infrequently when the elf deems it suitable, usually at times of life changing importance as assumption of a throne or staggering loss. Again these might be public or private, but the first chosen-name is taken and kept private (but not secret) to family when the child has mastered language. That same elf likely kept his own chosen names to himself, since I find no record of it. In SL's Arda, though, that character answers to 'mela' [beloved] from Nerdael (and no one else) and the name of the SL account, "Tlaloc"

Another example of naming is Gil-galad ("Star of Radiance"), which was the mother-name of the last High King of the Noldor. His father-name was Rodnor. Upon becoming king he was given the epessë Ereinion ("Scion of Kings") and called Ereinion Gil-gilad.

In role-play, then, Elves have at least three names: an everyday name from the father about the family, a personal name from the mother about the appearance, and one too private to be uttered out loud. The name players choose for the character can be be assigned to one of the three major sources: father, mother (and other seers) and self for family, appearance, or something ineffable [too private, large or sacred to be said aloud], thus attributed to a childhood source.

Substitute "elf" for "cat" below, and T.S Eliot echoes J.R.R. Tolkien:

The Naming of Cats
- T.S. Eliot
(from "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats")
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey -
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter -
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum -
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover -
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

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