17 March 2010

Those Who Must Not Be Named

An excerpt from Monster, a Japanese anime series (aired in 2004-2005). This (37th) episode, Monster With No Name, features a tiny story within the story.
Monsters often bear no names. We bestow the same destiny on giants and trolls. This is probably because we don’t see a monster or a giant as a unique being apart from its kind. We only give a name to that being that we perceive as one of a kind.
Other than that, we are very keen on naming unique beings and things. Yet, there is one exception. We will rarely give a name to that which we honestly and intensively fear. While we throw names at the devil like pearls to a..., we are perfectly happy to remain on distant and nameless terms with God.
It is then not surprising that one of the most vile and feared of villains is Him Who Must Not Be Named, a character so cleverely developed in the Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling. He Who Must Not Be Named is certainly not nameless (and arguably not a monster, either). In his world, he is absolutely notorious by his name. Yet, his name is very, very rarely (if ever) spoken.
In Earthsea, another book series (by Ursula K. Le Guin), the wizards’ power is equal to their ability to name beings and things by their true name.
“In infancy a child is named by its mother, and this name is used until he or she reaches the age of thirteen,” Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi explain about Earthsea in The Dictionary of Imaginary Places. “The child then undergoes the rites of passage, wading through water to receive his or her true name. The true name is given by a witch or a wizard and is whispered to the child, and no one but the child and its namer knows it. As the magic of Earthsea is based upon the knowledge of the true names of things, whoever knows a man’s true name holds his life in keeping… In the Old Speech, all things have their true names, and he who speaks it can control them. Much of the language has been forgotten and it is now spoken only by dragons, although the mages study it and have more knowledge of it than ordinary mortals.”
In The Wizard of Earthsea (1975), the following exchange takes place between a dragon and Ged:
A grating sound came from the dragon's throat...
"You offer me safety! You threaten me! With what?"
"With your name, Yevaud."
Ged's voice shook as he spoke the name, yet he spoke it clear and loud. At the sound of it, the old dragon held still, utterly still.

So, fearless reader, what is your true name? Have you deposited it yet, insured it, valued it? Have you pledged it? Sold it?

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