Wednesday, January 29, 2014


It's difficult to talk about newly created names without mentioning one of the most recent ones to grace the movie screens - Tauriel.

She's a modern addition to a much beloved franchise already rich with invented names and words, and has caused plenty of controversy in recent months. Tauriel is a Silvan Elf who makes her first appearance in the recently released sequel to "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"; "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug". Played by Evangeline Lilly, upon first hearing about her addition to the movie many derided it as being unfaithful to the original vision of the book, and her presence as simply being an unnecessary love interest for Legolas.

Since watching the movie, many have since changed their tune though. She is a carefully crafted character - her creators Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh wanted to add some feminine balance to a very male heavy story, but didn't want her to simply be eye candy. Tauriel has a back story of her own, and is a talented warrior who becomes caught in a love triangle which sees her making the tough decision between hunting Orcs with Legolas and Dragon hunting with the charismatic Kili.

And her name is both meaningful and in keeping with the spirit of Tolkiens works. Created from the Quenya Elvish language, Tauriel means 'daughter of the forest' - from the words taurĂ« meaning 'forest' and the ending  -iel which means 'daughter of'.

When I first saw Tauriel in writing, it didn't strike me as the most visually attractive girls name. Generally I think of words and names such as Taurus and Taurean to be more masculine, especially with the association with bulls. But it's pronunciation of tow-riel helps diminish this and show it in a more delicate light. The L ending is also a nice alternative to the very popular A ending for girls.

But it's not the look, sound or meaning of this name that I think will cause this name to make a few ripples.

One thing people love in girls names these days is an intelligent, strong and brave female. It doesn't matter if she is a killer either. In 2012, three names in particular had a big impact on the SSA charts - Arya, Cataleya and Khaleesi. One is a sword wielding tomboy, one an assassin and the third a dragon wielding warrior queen.

Tauriel would be good company for these women. Evangeline Lilly herself describes Tauriel:

"Shes's a little more...gritty. A little more spontaneous, passionate perhaps.
To play this character I need to have a certain amount of grace. But I'm also supposed to be an absolutely ruthless, deadly killer."; and

"It was actually great to have that little bit of freedom to play with her and not have my performance from beginning to end be stoic and ethereal."

Granted, a strong female character who can kick ass is not a fool-proof formula for an overnight naming sensation, otherwise Katniss would have made more of an impact than it has. But being an underdog, passionate and having a pretty and distinctive but not too out-there name definitely helps. Tauriel ticks a lot of the right boxes.

Die-hard Tolkien fans may not agree, but I think Tauriel has a sound and style that many will find appealing, with a cool and inspiring on-screen example. She'll be one to watch.

1 comment:

  1. According to the 2014 US Social Security baby names list, 20 girls were named Tauriel.