Friday, February 11, 2011
The Importance Of Names In Fantasy Literature
The Riders of Rohan have always been a surprise to me — not in the sense that they come bursting out of my bathroom cabinet at random every few hours á la Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition (though they did try it on last Tuesday night when I was picking a flake of sweetcorn skin from between my teeth) — but rather because their name lends itself so easily to practically all forms of mockery.
On the whole, Tolkien was a dab hand with names (and a lecturer friend assures me this is because he was so terribly embarrassed about his own — Gollum’s now infamous postural shenanigans owe their origin to Tolkien’s frequent pacing around his Oxford study room cursing his ancestors for not being Smiths or O Donovonovons), but with the “Riders of Rohan” he clearly lost it.
Boromir, yes. Saruman, yes. Even Treebeard is passable.
But Rohan? With its riders?
To be honest, Tolkien would have been better off calling the place Cock.
You desire reasoning?
Okay then, here goes.
Realistically, if you were a barbarian horde consisting of thousands upon thousands of pit-forged Uruk-Hai led by an ultra powerful wizard (himself in thrall to your mutual ultimate overlord, the uberdark Sauron), mention of “the Riders of Rohan” (in conjunction with their “coming”) simply wouldn’t have you quaking in your hobbitflesh boots in my opinion.
More likely, a Mexican Wave of sniggers and guffaws would ripple across your Urukness like a kaleidoscope of colour along a randy cephalopod’s back — only it would be a Mordor Wave, with weirder hats than sombreros tossed into the air, and frequent interruptions to the pulse thanks to spontaneous gratuitous acts of mindless violence.
Uruk-Hai 1: Oi! Pack pushing, you ugly git!
Uruk-Hai 2: It wasn’t me, it’s a Mordor Wave, pug-face.
Uruk-Hai 1: Who are you calling pug-face?
[Over the sniggers and guffaws comes the rumble of knobbly clubs being prised from their sheaths...]
Uruk-Hai #s 3-17, 19-45, 49-72: Fight! Fight! Fight!
Uruk-Hai #s 19-22, 46-47 (as they lie, trampled half to death on the Tolkienesque sod): "Riders of Rohan"! Ha ha! That’s so so so soooooooo funny!
I should point out that once the rout had started, this air of mockery would most certainly NOT be apparent if you were sitting at the top of the hill on your proud stallion — if you were, in short
No. I’ll have to start that sentence again. Fit of the giggles. It’s just got to me. Sorry.
OK. Cool it, Whirl. One. Two. Three...
I should point out that once the rout had started, this air of mockery would most certainly NOT be apparent if you were sitting at the top of the hill on your proud stallion — if you were, in short, a "Rider" of "Rohan".
Rider 1 (of Rohan): Look how they quake and quiver in their boots!
Rider 2 (of Rohan): Hobbitskin boots, I’ll be bound: the footwear of choice for craven cowards!
Rider 3 (of Rohan): ‘Tis our name they fear! Rohan!
Rider 1 (of Rohan): And our riding prowess, our saddle skills!
Rider 2 (of Rohan): Though our capes are pretty good too!
Rider 4 (of Rohan): Yes, let’s not forget our capes! We’re known for them almost as much as our riding prowess and our saddle skills!
Rider 3 (of Rohan): Capes crocheted by our womenfolk! Womenfolk almost as revered for their clothing as we menfolk are for our riding!
Rider 2 (of Rohan): In Rohan!
Rider 1 (of Rohan): In Rohan, aye — and beyond!
Rider 4 (of Rohan): But hark, fellow riders—
Rider 2 (of Rohan): Of Rohan!
Rider 4 (of Rohan): Of Rohan, yes. Riders! Methinks those barbarian grunts are actually the belly laughs of unrestrained mockery!
Rider 2 (of Rohan): Then let us make ready our charge while they are wrong-footed, helpless, prone!
Rider Leader (of Rohan) (who’s been sitting at the back looking a total ponce for the past five minutes) (of Rohan): Instruct the womenfolk to remove the crocheted nosebags from the horses! And iron the capes!
What the hell was Tolkien thinking when he came up with that duffer?