Call my name! Bastian, please! Save us!
All right, I'll do it. I'll save you. I will do what I dream!
He climbs up to the window and opens it. He leans out into the storm and calls out the name he had chosen for her.
The Neverending Story, 1984
What’s in a name?
Is there true power in a name – one word – that shapes and defines a person’s life and destiny? In the case of Fantasia, the name Bastian chose for the Empress had the power to save a world…
I have heard it said many times that as soon as you attach a name to something – or someone – you attach a meaning and wealth of information to that entity, regardless of whether or not done intentionally.
When parents are expecting an unborn child, many will sometimes spend hours, or even days, painstakingly deciding on what to name their beloved bundle of joy. Will it be a family name? Will it be something plucked from the pages of a book or Web page, only after intense research into its meaning? How does the name sound out loud? Does it roll off the tongue easily, or does it sound awkward? Will other kids make fun of it?
Unless, of course, the parents are like those I remember in the news a few years back: they felt strongly that their daughter should be the one to choose her own name. So, the little three-year-old ended up choosing the name Dorothy, after her favorite character Dorothy Gale in the movie The Wizard of Oz. I can’t remember what they called her before that – “Baby,” maybe?
Most of the time, even pet owners chose their pet names with deliberate care and intent. Most cats do not go by the name “Kitty,” after all.
In other cultures, such as Native Americans, names are based largely on nature. Although traditions vary from tribe to tribe, there is a very traditional following to the way names are given, and may even change as a person emerges from childhood to adolescence, and finally arriving at adulthood.
For me, my “real” name is Joyce, and I use it for legal stuff, in my professional life, etc., but I prefer to go by Jay to my friends and family, and in my “fun life,” like here on CWK. I don’t really have any other nicknames, per se. I know some people that have what seems like an endless number of nicknames. I have one friend in particular who, unless I really stop and think about his real name, has always BEEN his nickname to me. His real name actually sounds kinda funky coming out of my mouth – like it doesn’t fit…!
“So, why all this focus on names, and what the heck does it have to do with Star Wars?” You may be asking! There are a couple of aspects of names that I have been thinking about; some just recently, some for a very long time.
Some quick little snippets of thought:
Anakin was very emphatic about making sure Padme knew his name, and that he was not “just a slave.”
In one of my past blogs, I discuss clones, and how they took on names for themselves instead of just being identified by their numbers, despite the fact that they were programmed to be identical to other clones and not have an “identity.”
Recently, I have been intrigued at how the creators of Star Wars Rebels arrived at the names for the new characters: Sabine, Ezra, Kanan, Hera…how did these creators decide on what to name these characters – and WHY? How do names get generated for a culture like that in Star Wars: is it driven by whether the character is Human, Twi’lek, Gran, Rodian, etc.? What about differences in culture among planets such as Coruscant, Mandalore, Tatooine…? I’m sure there is some sort of indigenous difference there as well, right? Always much to ponder.
Back in the Hyperspace days, I wrote a blog that addressed the naming systems in the GFFA (Galaxy Far, Far Away).
My main pondering was (and still is) the difference between Jedi and Sith in the way names are utilized.
As any Star Wars fan knows, the Sith utilize a naming system to allow their members the opportunity to take on a new identity, thereby in a sense leaving behind who they once were. It allows a sort of anonymity, yet at the same time affords one the opportunity to fully embrace their new culture. The names take on a darker meaning – Bane, Plagueis, Sidious, Caedous, Vader…
“Although there is no definite answer to the origin of the title ‘Darth,’ it is generally believed that the naming system was developed in 3,956 BBY by a pair of Jedi – Revan and Malak – who took up the fallen banner of the dark side. There are many interpretations of the Sith Lord title, including a corruption of the word Darthia, the Rakatan word for ‘emperor’.” (Karpyshyn, Drew, “Heritage of the Sith,” Star Wars Insider Issue 88)
After reading novels such as Outbound Flight and Survivor’s Quest, and also after pondering the ways of the Old Jedi Order (OJO) in general, I have come to decide that the Sith had a really good idea in the naming department.
In the OJO, children were taken from their parents and brought to the Order as soon as they were identified as Force-sensitive, often in infancy. For most families, this was an honor. Parents willingly gave their children to be trained as Jedi, and severed all family bonds with them. These families continued to admire their children from afar, and kept track of them through Holo Net reports if possible, but contact was strictly forbidden. Some parents of Jedi Padawans even lost – or willingly gave up – their jobs if it meant they were in too-close contact with their relinquished children.
This following of offspring and relatives was possible mainly because although these children were totally cut off from their family, they still retained their birth name. Why? When children in our society are adopted, they usually assume their new family’s name, or even change names entirely, both first and last names.
I’m hung up on all of this for a couple of reasons:
1: What about the siblings that are “left behind;” those who were not Force-sensitive enough to become Jedi? One specific case to which I am referring is Dean Jinzler. Without giving away too many spoilers, let’s just say that Dean grew up with a “Jedi ghost sister,” whom his parents idolized from afar, leaving Dean to always feel jealous, angry, and essentially a second-rate child. Could you imagine having to live like that? It really gives “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” a much greater weight, wouldn’t we say? Had his sister been renamed and hidden within the Order, that scenario would not have happened.
2. Attachments. If the Jedi were so adamant about not having attachments, especially to their families, why didn’t they just rename the Younglings as they were taken into the Order? Possibly even allow a Padawan to choose his/her own name once the Jedi Trials were accomplished and he/she became a full-fledged member of the Order? Wouldn’t that make more sense? It would be much like the Native American naming practices mentioned earlier.
In the New Jedi Order, established by Luke Skywalker, attachments are encouraged and families are celebrated, so names are not as delicate an issue there.
Names. So… much… meaning.
German poet Christian Morgenstern, who was known for his nonsense poetry, wrote: “The seagulls by their looks suggest that Emma is their name…” This has also been translated into “All seagulls look as though their name were Emma.”
It’s a good thing we’re not all the same. No offense if your name is Emma!
In closing, I found a couple of fun websites that translate names and attempt to give their meanings.
Try them out and let me know what YOUR name means! I even tried out a few of the Star Wars Rebels names on the first website listed – very interesting, let me tell you!
I would also love to hear your thoughts and reactions in general. As always, May the Force Be With You, and thanks for reading! You can contact me directly at email@example.com
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