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On the Naming of Names
Summary: Estel has a question about his name. Dedicated to all those who always hated their name. Written for the Teitho challenge 'Names'.
Imladris: T.A. 2944:
"Ada, why did you and Nana name me Estel? It’s such a stupid name."
Elrond looked up from the book he’d been perusing to see his youngest son sitting at a nearby table in the Elf-lord’s library diligently filling in a Family Tree of the Dúnedain. Erestor had drawn it out on a large sheet of foolscap, purposely leaving out certain names and dates. It was Estel’s task to fill in the blank spots from memory. Elrond gazed fondly at the thirteen-year-old Mortal who hadn’t even looked up from his task as he asked his question. The Lord of Imladris slipped a piece of silk into the book he’d been reading and closed it.
"What’s wrong with ‘Estel’?" he asked mildly as he placed the book on his desk and stood to go to his son.
Estel looked up, scrunching his face. "It’s not even a real name," he answered with a huff. "Why can’t I have a real name?"
Elrond was careful to keep his expression one of mild amusement, though his mind was racing. How tempting it was to tell the boy the truth, but it was too soon. He thanked the Valar he had had the foresight to exact a promise from Gilraen that she would let him decide when the time was right to tell her son the truth about his heritage. He glanced at the Family Tree Estel was filling out and raised an eyebrow. Erestor had been very thorough, even going so far as to include most of the House of Finwë into the mix rather than beginning with Elros, which is where the descendants of Númenor’s first king generally began to reckon their genealogy.
"It’s a more real name than some," he finally said, pointing to one of the names on the Tree, Turgon, his own great-grandfather.
Estel frowned at where Elrond was pointing and then looked up in confusion. "What do you mean, Ada? Turgon’s a good name. Better than Estel." He said the last with a sneer.
"And yet, Estel is a proper Sindarin word, while Turgon is not," Elrond said patiently. "It really has no meaning in Sindarin. It is actually Sindarized Quenya. It should have been rendered as Turugon."
Estel shrugged with all the insolence that only the young could manifest. "It’s still a better name than mine," he insisted. Then he gave Elrond a quizzical look. "What other names are wrong?"
Elrond smiled and pulled up a chair while Estel moved his over to give him some room. The Elf-lord took a quick look at the names that were already filled in. "It’s not that they were wrong," he said, "just improperly rendered. The Noldor, when they first encountered the Sindar and began learning their language, did not truly appreciate the subtlety of its form and in their rush to render their names into Sindarin they did not quite get it right. However, by the time they realized it, it was too late and the names stuck." He pointed to one of the names. "Take Aegnor, for instance. What was his name in Quenya?"
"Ah... Ai..aicanáro, I think."
Elrond nodded, looking pleased. "Very good. Do you remember what ‘aica’ means?"
"Sure," Estel answered readily enough. "It means ‘fell, terrible, dire."
"Aegnor is, however, not true Sindarin," Elrond explained with a nod. "There is no Sindarin adjective corresponding to Quenya aica. Sindarin developed a different word, goeol, so Aegnor’s name should have been ‘Goeolnor’ if he’d wanted a strictly correct Sindarin version of his Quenya name. But aeg would have been its form if it had occurred in Sindarin."
Estel sat there pondering his adar’s words, his eyes roaming over the various names that were written on the Family Tree. Elrond gave his son a fond smile. "So, if you had to choose a name for yourself, which of these names would you choose?"
Estel looked up at Elrond, giving him a bright smile. "Finrod," he said without hesitation. "I’ve always liked that name."
"And what was his name in Quenya?" Elrond asked, using his best loremaster tone.
"Hmm....Fini... no Findaráto," Estel answered.
"And that is how the name is rendered in Telerin Quenya," Elrond said with a nod. "Do you know how it would be rendered in the Noldorin dialect?"
Estel shook his head.
"It would have been ‘Artafindë’," Elrond replied.
Estel laughed. "That’s funny sounding. I like Finrod better." Then he paused and gave Elrond a sly look. "It’s a good thing Finrod’s parents named him Findaráto instead of Artafindë."
"Oh? And why is that?" Elrond asked, raising an amused eyebrow.
"Because then his name in Sindarin would have become ‘Rodfin’ and that’s even funnier than ‘Artafindë."
Elrond chuckled and tousled his son’s hair. "I think you’re right about that."
"Actually, now that I think about it," Estel said, looking more serious, "I should’ve been given an el-name."
Elrond gave Estel a surprised look. "An el-name? What do you mean by that?"
"Oh, you know. Your nana was Elwing and your brother Elros and you are Elrond and my brothers are Elladan and Elrohir," Estel explained, stressing the first syllable of each name. "El-names seem to run in the family, though I don’t think Elestel sounds very good." He looked a bit despondent at that and sighed.
Oh! How tempting it was to tell him that he already had an el-name, a name of prophecy — Elessar — but that could not be, not yet. Instead, Elrond smiled, giving him a conspiratorial wink. "Well, I actually wanted to name you Elerossë after my brother but your nana thought that was too grand sounding so we settled on Estel instead."
Estel gave him a disbelieving look and Elrond silently reminded himself that he had better warn Gilraen about this conversation. He had no doubt that Estel would be seeking her out to ask her some difficult questions once he was finished with his task.
"Yes, but why Estel?" the boy asked. "Why such a stupid name?"
Elrond’s expression turned wistful as he brushed his hand through his son’s hair. "Because when you came into our lives you brought us the one thing we lacked; you brought us hope." Then he stood and leaned over to give the boy a kiss in benediction on his forehead, smiling warmly at his youngest. Estel smiled back.
"I still wish I’d been named Finrod," Estel said.
Elrond merely shook his head and, with a glint of amusement in his eyes, said, "By the way, you misspelled ‘Aragorn’."
Estel looked to that part of the Family Tree where the Chieftains of the Dúnedain were listed and scowled. "Bother!" he muttered even as he dipped his quill into the inkwell and then set about making the correction as Elrond left in search of Gilraen and others to warn them that Estel was beginning to ask awkward questions... again.
1. Much of the information concerning the names mentioned in this story is taken from Peoples of Middle Earth, HoME XII, ‘The Shibboleth of Feanor: Note on Mother-names’ and Parma Eldalamberon 17: ‘Words, Phrases & Passages in The Lord of the Rings’, pp. 112-113.
2. Aragorn I, Fifth Chieftain of the Dúnedain, died in T.A. 2327.
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