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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Names In Harry Potter


First posted on Insideadog November 16 2011
Have you ever wondered what writers have in mind when they name their characters?
 I’m going to take a look at some names in the Harry Potter books because there are so many that are appropriate for the characters.
 Let’s start with the staff at Hogwarts.
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Albus Dumbledore means “White Bumblebee”.
 Professor McGonagall’s first name is Minerva – the Roman goddess of wisdom, which certainly seems to suit this wise lady.
 The school nurse is Poppy Pomfrey – poppy, in the old days, was used as a painkiller.
 The Herbology teacher is Pomona Sprout. Apart from the obvious “sprout”, Pomona was the Roman goddess of orchards and fruit. How appropriate is that?
 Professor Remus Lupin is a werewolf. Remus was the name of one of the twin founders of Rome, who were raised by a she-wolf and “Lupin” is connected with “lupine”, wolflike.
 The school caretaker, Argus Filch, has a name taken from Greek mythology; Argus was a guardian of the goddess Hera’s herds. He had a hundred eyes. What better name to call a character who is always spying on the students? To filch something is to steal it.
 All the members of Sirius Black’s family have starry names, but his is so appropriate. Sirius is the Dog Star and combined with Black, it’s “Black Dog” which is his Animagus shape.
 Bad boy Draco Malfoy has a name that means “Dragon Bad Faith” – nice!
The Minister of Magic is Cornelius Fudge. To fudge something is to cheat on it in a sneaky way. Another meaning is “to fail to perform as expected” or “to avoid commitment”. All of them work for me as a description of Cornelius Fudge.
 Voldemort means “ flight from death” or “steal from death” which makes sense for a man who wants so badly to avoid dying.
 There are stacks more over-the-top names with meaning in the books and all I can say is, J.K.Rowling must have had great fun choosing them!

Speaking of choosing, how about another cast member for the Ranger's Apprentice movie? For the role of Gilan, that yummy former apprentice of Halt's, I think I'll have Orlando Bloom. :-)

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6 comments:

Lan said...

I love delving into the meaning of names in books. There's an article somewhere on the internet about all the meanings behind the names in The Hunger Games. I think it's quite easy for the some books such as Harry Potter to add meanings behind names because it's fantasy but for some books it's a lot harder. If I saw a Minerva in a contemporary YA book, I'd close it and move on.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Name meanings are one thing - and I did find a web site with all the meanings - but I like the background to the names, where they come from. Minerva is just a name, but when you know who she was and make the connection with the character, you get a better idea of what the author had in mind. And it's fun. ;-)

In mainstream YA, it would depend on who the character was. She might be some computer geek, for example, or she might be the heroine, stuck with a name that made her wince.

I mostly chose names for Wolfborn because I liked them, but I had to change some; the werewolf knight was originally lord of a fief called Lupin... before J.K.Rowling put it into Harry Potter and I thought I'd better change it. :-)

Lan said...

That's the thing with names. Most parents don't know what their kids will turn out like when they grow up so having names which exactly match the character of the adult person doesn't sit well with me for some reason. I just find it that bit harder to suspend disbelief. I think it's just one of my obsessive issues.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Lan, we're talking fiction here, and authors having some fun and readers likewise (with the possible exception of your good self [g] ;-)]. Heck, even Shakespeare did it. Look at the boozy, overeating uncle in Twelfth Night, Sir Toby Belch, who loves his "cakes and ale" - is that appropriate or what? And there are more. Dickens certainly did it. Why not JKR?

DC3109 said...

OMG! I actually never noticed! I love the Harry Potter series and I never thought to research about the names. Names have meanings. J.K. Rowling is inspiring. Next time I write a novel, I think I might research names. They are actually so important. How does J.K. do it? She's just an amazing writer. One of the best.

Miss B, Did you know that apparently J.K. wrote some of the first book on a train.

Anyway, J.K. brings magic to life in an epic battle for survival.

Dylan

Sue Bursztynski said...

JKR is indeed wonderful, Dylan. She knows her classics and her mythology and her world-building works because even when she makes up a spell or a magical creature, it's close to a real one that she does know about. She knows what she's talking about, believe me. When people who have never read the series sneer at it, they show their own ignorance.