Names in ‘After the Ruin’

I thought I’d add an occasional post on my world-building. First up is one about names. After all, names are a key part of fantasy fiction.

Here’s the map again to help you orientate yourself. Ohmorah, in the east, is rather more advanced than the rest. Think Renaissance levels of technology with Roman sanitation. The Later Lands, well, they’re a bit behind (no printing presses, for instance, nor general literacy) and by Lyikené you’re into the barbarian wilds.


So names…

The basic convention is similar in Ohmorah,  the Later Lands and Lyikené. There are no surnames. Instead everyone has their own personal name and a matronymic (if female) or patronymic (if male). The extent to which patronymics and matronymics are used varies by place. Names clearly denote a character’s gender. Common male signifiers are o, ah, ai and u; common female signifiers are a, wy and is, with ek as a rare female ending.

Patronymics and matronymics are rarely used in Ohmorah. Assiolo is thus usually called just Assiolo. Formally, or to distinguish him from another man with the same name, he might be called Assiolo son of Allocco but this is not the standard mode of address.

Although I made up most of the names in After the Ruin, I didn’t make up all of them.  All the names used for characters originating in Ohmorah and Faranon are taken from this world and each was chosen for a reason.

The Later Lands
Matronymics and patronymics are used at all times. Each person takes their same gender parent’s name after their own, thus Issa Baesina is the daughter of Baesina Yatta, who is herself the daughter of Yatta Tala. It is thus very easy in the Later Lands to tell mother-daughter or father-son relationships but impossible to relate names mother to son or father to daughter. The one place in the Later Lands where they do things differently is Ittachar. But that is, as they say, another story.

Tions, such as Marwy Ninek or Kenu Vanithu, stand outside the normal naming conventions of the Later Lands. They have parents (rather than being found under gooseberry bushes) but this fact is not publicly acknowledged. Indeed it is actively denied, hence the circumlocution of ‘our’ Marwy Ninek’s parentage.

Patronymics and matronymics are used formally but not casually. Men take their father’s name, women their mother’s with mor and nar to indicate ‘son of’ or ‘daughter of’. Highborn clansmen like Ardùvai mor Ardùvai mor Morigu mor Inistai mor Ardùvai mor Thorinah will quote their names back umpteen generations. More commonly, he will be addressed as Ardùvai mor Ardùvai by people beneath him in social standing and simply as  Ardùvai by his equals or betters. The situation is the same for women, thus Liùthánwy could be addressed as Liùthánwy nar Maris nar Ardùwy. As in the Later Lands, it’s easy to tell who a woman’s mother is but impossible to guess at her father; and vice versa for men.

Shoremen, like the helmsman, Thodùhah, and fisherfolk set less store on their patronymics than the clansmen. It’s thus perfectly acceptable for even a rich, well-connected, well-respected shoreman to be known only as Thodùhah.

Various stars are mentioned in After the Ruin. You can assume there are countless thousand others just as in our own sky. The most important star in Lyikené is Liùthai, the evening star which, in the autumn, shines in the west after the sunset. The other stars which get a mention are the eight making up the constellation of the hawk. In the summer and autumn it is seen in the western sky, the hawk’s head pointing westwards. Its eight stars are Bela, Belata, Morigu (marking the hawk’s head), Te-Ata, Yatta, Issa, Tascu and Ku (these two last being the talons).

People are often named for stars (and stars for people: there’s a story about Te-Ata, if ever I write it down). Liùthai (and Liùtha, its feminine form) is the root of many names.

This entry was posted in fantasy novel, Harriet Goodchild author and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Names in ‘After the Ruin’

  1. Kay Kauffman says:

    This is wonderful – I was wondering about Yatta Tala in relation to the star called Yatta just yesterday, as a matter of fact. 🙂

  2. Thank you both, Laine Anne and Jane. I had fun making it all up. Nice distraction from actual writing!

  3. This reminds me of the genius of Tolkien.

  4. Reblogged this on Jane Dougherty Writes and commented:
    This is how we all ought to reason when we invent fantasy worlds. Everything has to follow rules, even if we are the ones who make them up.

  5. Thanks for the post, Harriet. I could read etymological explanations all day. If the names used in a fantasy don’t hang together, the whole thing falls apart IMO.

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