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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Did elves repeat names?

Tol Eressea

Aug 7, 8:49pm

Post #1 of 10 (1232 views)
Did elves repeat names? Can't Post

Obviously, I imagine the more infamous names weren't repeated- I HIGHLY doubt any elf parent would be willing to name their child Feanor, for example (or for that matter, any of his sons' names either). That would be like naming a child Adolf Hitler in our day and age Shocked

But I am curious to know what Tolkien's notes and such said about it. We know Glorfindel in LOTR is the same one as the one who fell fighting the balrog in Gondolin, but I wonder if he ever mentions anything about elves repeating less "famous" names when naming their children in later ages?

Also, I am sure that there are many traditions the Noldorin elves kept (LACE has a whole section on customs specific to the Noldor, for example, that can be reasonably argued doesn't apply to Telerin/Sindarin or Silvan elves, for example) that the other ethnic elven groups did not keep, and it's possible that naming traditions may not be one of them.

For those who happen to have far more books (HOME-I only have Morgoth's Ring, etc) with Tolkien's notes on repeated names, I would be very grateful if you'd share what Tolkien had to say on name repetition amongst elves Smile

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Aug 7, 9:35pm

Post #2 of 10 (1198 views)
Random chance suggests: Yes. [In reply to] Can't Post

It would seem that Elves seldom (if ever) intentionally repeated names, but not every Elf in Arda would have known of the existence of every other Elf. Names could have been repeated due to sheer coincidence.

We know that Tolkien used the name Legolas twice, though he might have changed the name of the Legolas who dwelt in Gondolin if there had been a published final version of that tale in his lifetime (especially as the Elf later changed his name to Laiqalassë). And, as you note, there is the matter of Glorfindel, who might not always have been intended to be the same character from the First Age transplanted to Elrond's household in Rivendell.

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - DRWolf (after John C. Maxwell)

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Aug 7, 9:37pm)


Aug 7, 10:13pm

Post #3 of 10 (1194 views)
and [In reply to] Can't Post

also Galdor (Lord of Gondolin in the old Tale, messenger from Cirdan in LR)

These I think were accidents, or rather, recycling; I would venture that Tolkien's logic was that a conditionally-immortal race had better not try it, because you never know when Grandpa might come back from Mandos!

OTOH, the Gondorians had no scruples when it came to recycling names, both their own and Elves'.

(This post was edited by Solicitr on Aug 7, 10:15pm)


Aug 12, 9:43am

Post #4 of 10 (1052 views)
Maybe like real-life names, they were 'pseudo-unique' [In reply to] Can't Post

So for example, there might be more than one elf called "Arwen". But Arwen of Doriath, daughter of A and B, grandchild of C,D,E,F is clearly not the same elf as Arwen of Rivenel, daughter of Elrond [etc.]

It's possible under this system that you would end up with two people with identical names, but I'd have thought the chances would be tiny. This system avoids a society somehow having to keep any central register of names that are taken. It also prevents running out of nice names so that some poor elf has to be called Phlegmpants or Gl0r7indel_ 97 (the sort of thing that happens when you have to find a unique username for a forum or similar).

To an extent that's what real-life societies have done for names, also adding in trades (Tom Baker, Jenny Fletcher) or nicknames. So, for example the 9th Century Icelandic leader Aud the Deep-Minded. Her name more fully is Aud the Deep-Minded Ketilsdóttir, either because lineage was important, or if there were a couple of deep-minded Aud's about.

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The Shire

Aug 12, 10:42am

Post #5 of 10 (1045 views)
Elvish languages too [In reply to] Can't Post

I doubt that Elves would've quibbled over languages that were technically the same but had different sounds - take for example Calaquendi - Quenya versus Celbin - Avari, or Moriquendi - Quenya versus Morbin - Avari.
But then, names often were assimilated to other similar-sounding ones - Alatariel being assimilated to Galadriel; Ondolinde being assimilated to Gondolin.


Aug 12, 10:44pm

Post #6 of 10 (1007 views)
They did. At least for some names. [In reply to] Can't Post

There is the short passages about this in HoME XII Last Writings, though it is inconclusive.

About the name Glorfindel it is said:

At any rate what at first sight may seem the simplest solution must be abandoned: sc. that we have merely a reduplication of names, and that Glorfindel of Gondolin and Glorfindel of Rivendell were different persons. This repetition of so striking a name, though possible, would not be credible. No other major character in the Elvish legends as reported in The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings has a name born by another Elvish person of importance.

Although in margin he also wrote:

Why not?

A note about the name Galdor reads:

Galdor also appeared in The Fall of Gondolin, but the name is of a more simple and usual form [than Glorfindel] and might be repeated.

So I don't know what to make of that. He mention Elvish names and not only names of the Eldar, though all the three major names repeated, Glorfindel, Galdor and Legolas were given to Eldar.
The text about Glorfindel makes no mention of why Legolas and/or Galdor would not be considered major characters in the Elvish legends in either The Fall of Gondolin or The Lord if the Rings.
The note about Galdor on the other hand seems to suggest that this was a different kind of name in some unmentioned respect.

So it all seems to be about the names rather than the Elves.

At least Galdor and Legolas were re-used

The Edain indeed used names that were also born by Elves. The name Galdor was used by one of their chieftains.

The Dunedain in the third age also did this. The Stewards of Gondor happily used the names Turgon, Orodreth, Denethor, Dior, Ecthelion and Egalmoth, several of which were names previously used by Eldarin kings.

Yet names like Glorfindel, Fingolfin, Fingon, or Thingol seems not to have been used even by Men.

Anyway, even without mixing Mens customs into it I do not know what the difference is that would make Galdor and Legolas different names from Glorfindel or Egalmoth.

(This post was edited by InTheChair on Aug 12, 10:46pm)


Aug 12, 11:25pm

Post #7 of 10 (1001 views)
Eärendil is another name that does not seem repeated either by Elves or Men [In reply to] Can't Post


N.E. Brigand

Aug 13, 1:37am

Post #8 of 10 (998 views)
Andrew Higgins presented a paper on this subject at Kalamazoo. [In reply to] Can't Post

As part of the Tolkien track in May at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, held each year at Western Michigan University, Higgins (perhaps best known as the co-editor of the special edition of Tolkien's "A Secret Vice") cited the same History of Middle-earth volume that InTheChair references below, as well as a number of other works, in his discussion of this very subject. I made a point of noting to him something that Dunadan of North Arnor posted here more than ten years ago: how Tolkien's analysis of his own character Glorfindel is rather like his analysis, in Finn and Hengest, of the legendary character Hengest.

Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.

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Grey Havens

Aug 23, 9:09pm

Post #9 of 10 (853 views)
Not totally Elves maybe, but Mablung was repeated. [In reply to] Can't Post

Wasn't he both a warden of Doriath and also a Ranger of Gondor? But I suppose that despite been of different species they both liked the woodlands.


Aug 23, 10:42pm

Post #10 of 10 (853 views)
The [In reply to] Can't Post

Dunedain copied Elf-names all over the place. As mortals, it wasn't so big a deal for them.


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