Eragon or Aragon?

I have always found it rather interesting when I read a fantasy book chock full of original and made up names and notice that a characters name is not in fact original. It is made all the more entertaining when the characters name is something from history or geography that almost anyone knows. My favorite book to chew up in this respect is Eragon, by Christopher Paolini. The main character’s name (and therefore the title of the book) is just a misspelled version of a kingdom in medieval Spain called Aragon. Another example is Eragon’s companion in the first book. Murtagh is a rather interesting character with a rather real name, as it is originally an Irish name that means lord or king. And of course a good amount of the geography in the series is guilty of this crime. Ellesmera, the forest that is a haven for the elves in the story, is just one example. It is one letter away from being Ellesmere, which is an island that is located north of Canada.

But Paolini isn’t the only one who has committed such a heinous (but certainly amusing) deed. Terry Brooks, acclaimed author of the Shannara and Landover series, used Phaeton as a name for an elf in The Elf Queen of Shannara. Phaeton, according to Greek mythology, is the son of Helios who failed to control his fathers sun chariot. It is also a kind of carriage that was used in Jane Austen’s time and is mentioned in Pride and Prejudice by Mr. Collins that Miss de Bourgh enjoys riding in one.

I’m not saying that these authors are at all unoriginal (Paolini being an exception), because I, as an amateur fantasy writer, have come across the same problem. I was having trouble coming up with a good name for a key character in my current story and had given him the temporary name of Bob. I was becoming so desperate that I actually thought of having his name remain Bob and how I could it fit into the story. Thankfully a friend of mine put her foot down and said that he had to be given a real fantasy name and gave me several suggestions. I liked the name Kian the best of the ones given, so I enlisted the help of Microsoft Word’s handy “search and replace” tool and soon had everything agreeably changed. A few months later, my brother persuaded me to read Terry Brook’s Shannara series and, lo and behold, I stumbled across a character named Kian. I informed my friend, and she told me that she had no knowledge of such a name’s actual existence because she had not yet read that Shannara book. I was heartbroken, but I determined to keep the name because it was original when she thought of it, and because I had molded his character around that name. Now the question is: Will that story ever be finished?

The Two Princesses of Bamarre

I think I’m on a princess streak or something…. Or a Gail Carson Levine streak…. Or both…. Anyways!

The Two Princesses of Bamarre, by Gail Carson Levine, is about two sisters who couldn’t be more unalike. Where Meryl is courageous and out going, Addie is cowardly and shy, but they couldn’t love each other more, even if they were alike. Meryl is determined to find the cure of a deadly disease called the Grey Death, but her worried and loving sister doesn’t want her to go, so she promises that only after Addie is happily married and taken care of will she go on her quest. But when Meryl is put in extreme danger, Addie has no choice but to go on a journey of her own to save her.

I think Levine is one of my favorite authors. All of her books are humorous and refreshing, especially if I just read something rather intense like one of the Shannara books. I related to Addie in some respects in this story, especially in her fear of spiders, and also to Meryl in others, like her love for adventure stories and mythology. But one of the things that really threw me off in this story was that there is a male character named Rhys. In another book that I have read, there was a female character named Rhis. That tripped me up to no end. But about half way through the book, I got a little used to it. Now if I read A Posse of Princesses (what is up with me and all the princess stories? I mean really!)again, I would get confused all over again, and have to get used to Rhis being a girl!