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Science Fiction & Fantasy Farscape, Babylon 5, Star Wars, Firefly, vampires, genre books and film.

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Old July 22 2009, 04:53 AM   #1
Mal
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Names have Power (or B5, Angel & Doctor Who)

I recently saw the Doctor Who Easter Special Planet of the Dead, and was pleasantly amused that the bionic woman wasn't mollified when he answered, "they call me The Doctor," to the question of his name. (That's not a name, that's a psychological condition.)

And then it occurred to me, this was the same issue with Jasmine, that the Angel team (actually Wesley - naturally...) finally figured out in 4x20 Sacrifice.

Who are you is a strain that runs quite deeply through Babylon 5. Lorien says explicitly that names have power, and is reluctant to just give his out. Of course the demon in Angel says basically the same thing (that humans are weak because they go around giving out their names freely).

Where does this concept come from?

Science Fiction & Fantasy draws (like all art) on culture. Lots of common themes run through our favorite stories (such as the messiah).

Where does the concept that names have power come from? What parts of our culture are these creators tapping into when they insert the concept in B5 and Angel and Who (and I'm sure, countless other SF&F's)?
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Old July 22 2009, 05:22 AM   #2
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Re: Names have Power (or B5, Angel & Doctor Who)

Names, or lack of them, having power was something that Blue Velvet and The X-Files explored as well.
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Old July 22 2009, 06:31 AM   #3
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Re: Names have Power (or B5, Angel & Doctor Who)

I'll try to answer the question:

Names are said to have power & great significance in cultural history. In the Bible, God's name is not known because ancient Mesopotamian cultures believed knowing the deity's name gave them power in spells and prayers. Hence, do not take the Lord God's name in vain means do not use it for an incantation or means to assert power over others. Its probably also why the name is given "I am that I am" in Exodus or Yahweh (YHWH) in Hebrew. Note: I'm not trying to covert anyone on any belief, but telling information learned from my college history & anthropology classes.

If you are looking for more information, I'd recommend researching articles or books concerning religion and mythology. For example, the History of God by Armstrong or Encyclopedia of World Religions by Merriam-Webster. Hope this answers the question.
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Old July 22 2009, 06:45 AM   #4
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Re: Names have Power (or B5, Angel & Doctor Who)

Some Arthurian legends talk about every person, creature, and object have a known name, and a true name. If you ever know somethings true name, you gain power over that thing.

Another example that I think might fit would be Rumplestiltskin. The princess had to find his true name in order to stop the goblin from taking her child.
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Old July 22 2009, 08:42 AM   #5
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Re: Names have Power (or B5, Angel & Doctor Who)

Osiris Aten wrote: View Post
In the Bible, God's name is not known because ancient Mesopotamian cultures believed knowing the deity's name gave them power in spells and prayers. Hence, do not take the Lord God's name in vain means do not use it for an incantation or means to assert power over others.

*snip*

If you are looking for more information, I'd recommend researching articles or books concerning religion and mythology.
fascinating! any links you would recommend to start with?


Kaziarl wrote: View Post
Another example that I think might fit would be Rumplestiltskin. The princess had to find his true name in order to stop the goblin from taking her child.
that's a great example. the wikipedia article talks about the power of a True Name.


Did you guys just grow up knowing this myth (of Name Power), because frankly, B5 was the first place I ever heard it?
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Old July 22 2009, 09:01 AM   #6
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Re: Names have Power (or B5, Angel & Doctor Who)

In the religion of Wicca a Name is a powerful entity and a name gives you the means to hold sway over others, a tool if you will allowing access to the "soul" or "will".
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Old July 23 2009, 06:34 AM   #7
Osiris Aten
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Re: Names have Power (or B5, Angel & Doctor Who)

Mal wrote: View Post
Osiris Aten wrote: View Post
In the Bible, God's name is not known because ancient Mesopotamian cultures believed knowing the deity's name gave them power in spells and prayers. Hence, do not take the Lord God's name in vain means do not use it for an incantation or means to assert power over others.

*snip*

If you are looking for more information, I'd recommend researching articles or books concerning religion and mythology.
fascinating! any links you would recommend to start with?


Kaziarl wrote: View Post
Another example that I think might fit would be Rumplestiltskin. The princess had to find his true name in order to stop the goblin from taking her child.
that's a great example. the wikipedia article talks about the power of a True Name.


Did you guys just grow up knowing this myth (of Name Power), because frankly, B5 was the first place I ever heard it?
Here is a link that I hope will help:
http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_10c7.htm
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Old July 23 2009, 04:38 PM   #8
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Re: Names have Power (or B5, Angel & Doctor Who)

It's a psychological fact (there's a bit of an oxymoron, I guess) that one can influence people a great deal by the use of their names. Our names are a frighteningly deep-rooted part of our identity, whether we're aware of it or not.
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Old July 23 2009, 06:58 PM   #9
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Re: Names have Power (or B5, Angel & Doctor Who)

Mal wrote: View Post
Osiris Aten wrote: View Post
In the Bible, God's name is not known because ancient Mesopotamian cultures believed knowing the deity's name gave them power in spells and prayers. Hence, do not take the Lord God's name in vain means do not use it for an incantation or means to assert power over others.

*snip*

If you are looking for more information, I'd recommend researching articles or books concerning religion and mythology.
fascinating! any links you would recommend to start with?


Kaziarl wrote: View Post
Another example that I think might fit would be Rumplestiltskin. The princess had to find his true name in order to stop the goblin from taking her child.
that's a great example. the wikipedia article talks about the power of a True Name.


Did you guys just grow up knowing this myth (of Name Power), because frankly, B5 was the first place I ever heard it?
I wouldn't say I grew up knowing it. I was always fascinated by myth, and reading, and just about any sort of philosophy I could get my hands on. And yes, even all the way back in grade school. And one thing I've noticed recently is that many of these concepts are portrayed in a very subtle way.

As one of my english teachers said, everything thats written recently is just a new iteration of an old pattern.
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Old July 23 2009, 07:45 PM   #10
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Re: Names have Power (or B5, Angel & Doctor Who)

Dennis wrote: View Post
It's a *snip* fact that one can influence people a great deal by the use of their names. Our names are a frighteningly deep-rooted part of our identity, whether we're aware of it or not.
Kaziarl wrote: View Post
As one of my english teachers said, everything thats written recently is just a new iteration of an old pattern.
That's what I figured. When I saw this common thread in the three shows (B5, Angel, WHO), I assumed it was something old written new again.

Of course so much of myth is really about us. And as Dennis points out, people really can influence us quite a bit simply by using our names. And isn't that the purpose of old (and new) stories: to teach us about ourselves?
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Old September 15 2009, 08:34 PM   #11
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Re: Names have Power (or B5, Angel & Doctor Who)

I was listening to This American Life, when at around minute 30 of the show, they played:


Act Two. The Man in the Well.
Original fiction by Ira Sher about a group of children who find a man trapped in a well but decide not to get him any help.
fuck. i finally understood the power of names.
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Old September 15 2009, 10:03 PM   #12
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Re: Names have Power (or B5, Angel & Doctor Who)

Towards the end of Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark you're trapped in one of the planes of Hell and must seek out a being called the Knower of Names to escape. You can spend huge amounts of gold (anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 apiece) to learn the true names of many of the NPC's and then have complete control over them. For instance when reach the big bad demon at the end of the game, rather than fighting him you can simply speak his true name and then command him to kill himself. Fun stuff.
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