What’s In a Name?

The Emperor has been expecting you.

I know, father.

So, you have accepted the truth.

I’ve accepted the truth that you were once Anakin Skywalker, my father.

That name no longer has any meaning for me.

It is the name of your true self. You’ve only forgotten. I know there is good in you. The Emperor hasn’t driven it from you fully. That is why you couldn’t destroy me. That’s why you won’t bring me to your Emperor now.

I think we take for granted just how important a name can be.  Think about it…if you didn’t have your name, who would you be?

Luke and VaderMy name is Kiri.  My name is of Maori origin and means shining and bright, which suits my energetic, happy personality.  I love watching, writing and reading about Star Wars. I love drinking tea.  I could eat a whole jar of olives in one sitting.  My favorite day would consist of it raining outside, putting all responsibilities on hold, snuggled up in bed with a cup of tea next to me and reading a great book.  Because of my name, I have always had trouble introducing myself.  It is now wrapped up in my identity so much that I cannot imagine meeting someone and them not having a problem pronouncing my name, asking me how it’s spelled, or where it is from.  Attendance was always difficult in school, as is telling people my email address over the phone.  My name is so intertwined with who I am, that I would not be able to distinguish it from my personality.  If I was named Isabel, would I still like tea and reading?  I’ll never know, because all I know is Kiri: the person who eats olives, drinks tea, loves Star Wars and sometimes dreads introducing herself.

So when I watched ROTJ this past Christmas break, this scene stood out to me.  I can’t imagine how hard it would be for Luke to find out that the galaxy’s most feared person (along with the Emperor) is his own father.  But Luke is smart…he realizes that the man that was his father, and who possibly loved his mother, was not the same man that is before him today.  That man was Anakin Skywalker.

And see how Vader reacts when Luke says his original name?  He lashes out quickly in fear.  “It no longer has any meaning” to him.  That part of him is dead, or so he believes.  By speaking Vader’s original name, it brings up his “true self”, and he does not want to see that again.

Because who was Anakin?  Anakin was a person who was powerful, but full of emotion.  Within those anakin vaderemotions was love and compassion.  Love for his secret wife, love for his mentor, love for his mother.  Compassion for those less fortunate than him, like slaves still captured around the galaxy.  Anakin was ambitious but felt stifled with his powers.  He was powerful, but always held back.  In short, he was a boiling pot of emotions.  Just like my name is so intertwined with who I am, it’s the same with Anakin.  Isn’t it so much easier just to compile all of those emotions and channel it into rage, unlimited power, and hatred?  And when you ignore and push down this other side of you, why not become your new name?

When we look at the saga as a whole, I noticed that it’s only the Sith that give themselves new names.  The Jedi do not.  But then again, why would the Jedi need to?  The Jedi never grow into something different from themselves.  Taken from their families at a young age, they keep their names while they train to become a Jedi.  So becoming a Jedi is intertwined with their name and identity.

Though not all Sith chose a new name, most did.  Most of the Sith we see in the movies had a different name originally: Vader = Anakin, Sidious = Palpatine, Tyranus = Dooku.  The only exception is Darth Maul, who had a history similar to the Jedi, in that he was given to Sidious as an infant.  Therefore his name was wrapped up in his identity as a Sith since he didn’t know any different.  When researching the EU, I see that most adopted a new name for themselves when they became a Sith Lord.

We see this constantly throughout literature as well.  Either characters choose a name for themselves and create a new identity, or they work hard to break away from a forced name to become who they really are.  I am not referring to a nickname that is Liz from Elizabeth or Joe from Joseph.  In Harry Potter, Dumbledore was not afraid to speak to Voldemort and use his real name of Tom Riddle.  He certainly never feared calling him Voldemort around others either for he believed that, “Fear of a name king arthurincreases fear of the thing itself.”  Voldemort was similar to the Sith in the way that he chose a name to create a new identity and to cover his old one.  King Arthur was once known as Wart, a naïve, unassuming boy who breaks out of his mold to reach his full potential as King Arthur.  And to bring it back to Star Wars, Luke’s nickname in the original script was “Wormie.”  Like King Arthur, he would have had to break out of that nickname to show his true colors and embrace his original name.

But if you have an adopted name, given or forced upon you, isn’t it always a burden?  Your “true self” is hidden and waiting to emerge given the right set of circumstances.  Maybe those circumstances never come to play, but perhaps they might as we see with Vader and Luke. What if Luke had not started off his first conversation in ROTJ with Vader using his true name?  By telling Vader that when he calls him father, he is referring to Anakin, he creates a pattern that he uses over and over throughout ROTJ, slowly chipping away at the “Vader shield” that Anakin hides behind.  He invokes memories of Anakin’s true self and slowly begins to win his battle against the Emperor.  He didn’t need to defeat the Emperor, all he needed to do was defeat Vader.

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21 thoughts on “What’s In a Name?

  1. what is the correct way to pronounce Kiri?

    excellent post. This reminds me of one I want to do about superheros. When I was growing up, it seemed that a superheros secret identity was known only to a few. If someone knew found out the identity, something happened like their demise or they went away or the classic amnesia trope.

    Nowadays it feels like more people know the secret identity of a superhero (Arrow, Flash, Smallville — maybe it’s a CW thing) than can feasibly be sustainable.

    • Ha, yes, actually I really wanted to bring up superheroes. I also wanted to bring up a friend I had who changed her name after high school and became a “new” person. Then she came back last year and was exhausted/burnt out and said she wanted to go back to being “Laura”. But yeah, I did want to bring up superheroes too but I was afraid the post would just get toooooo long.

      I did enjoy writing this post! It’s been on my mind since I watched ROTJ and it flowed really naturally.

      I guess the right way to pronounce my name is Keer-ee, that’s as close as possible to phonetically writing it.

  2. I also watched ROTJ this holiday! (along with ANH) funny, because i also remember this scene very vividly, reflecting on what Luke must have been thinking, and how he trusted his father to do the right thing. Anyways, another funny thing about this name topic, is that on my travels to China this holiday season, i was given a Chinese name, but it didn’t have the same effect and my real one. interesting post 🙂

    • Did your Chinese name mean anything? Did it have a literal translation behind it and was it given to you the way Native Americans would give names to their children when they came of age? Or was it just a name?

      I guess for it to have the same effect as your real name, you would have to change into that name and become that name, forgetting your real name.

      • i am not aware that my chinese name meant anything, but it was translated to sound almost the same: Fang Lan Ke – Chinese, and Frank – real name. we could choose our last name, out of like 20 surnames. and i chose Fang (surnames come first) because it made the most sense. i grew to react to that name over the days passing, but i guess they only really gave it to me to experience the chinese culture… I’m not sure 🙂

  3. Oh, so many responses! First of all, this is my absolutely favorite scene in ROTJ. There is so much to unpack in it!

    Secondly, I’ve actually had many hours of discussion with a friend of mine about how name influences personality. My parents are always saying things like, “You know, we’ve never met anyone named ‘Frank’ that we liked!” (And I say, “You know that’s the Emperor’s name? Episode I, he says, ‘Your Majesty, I must be Frank’ 😉 ;)). I’m always thinking, “I never get along with anybody named Denise or Melissa.” It’s even in Oscar Wilde, “I have known several Jacks and they have all, without exception, been very plain indeed” (“The Importance of Being Earnest,” which is all about names, choosing and accepting names). Or in Men In Black 2 when Jay says, “Man, Kevin? You just don’t look like a Kevin.” And how much of an idiom is that — “You just don’t have a ‘___’ face.” How can it be that something has such a subtle influence on character? It’s fascinating!

    And finally, I am right there with you about the difficulty of your name, except I did it to myself. When I was born, my mom wanted to name me “Megan-Marie Grace,” after her grandmother, but relatives talked her out of it (she went with the safe “Megan Marie”). I ended up paying $64 for my name (that’s another interesting idea, paying to get a name), but it’s part of my identity that I “should” have been named one thing and chose to make it right myself. “Grace” was for my mom’s grandmother, an amazing woman who died 3 months before I was born. I always felt such a connection with her because I never got to meet her, and I wanted to have her in my name. But what nobody ever warned me about was the horrible hyphen: credit cards, airlines, and online applications don’t know what to do with me. I’m always having to tell people, “Megan-Marie, with a hyphen,” and you wouldn’t believe how often I have to explain what a hyphen is! The place I just bought my car from gave up entirely and put “Megan M.” on the title. My story has gone from, “My name is Megan Marie, but it should be Megan-Marie Grace” to “My name is Megan-Marie; that’s hyphenated.” But as it gets nearer to a decade since I “fixed” my name, I’m satisfied 🙂 Names are such a cool part of the self.

    • I’m glad you liked the post! I know…there was SO much I wanted to go into here. SOO much, but then I would have gone on forever and I’m glad I was able to contain myself. And how could I forget The Importance of being Earnest??? One of my favorite plays!! Great reminder on the importance of a name (pun intended).

      And great post as well! It is SUCH a great scene. I’ve never liked how he said “Then my father is truly dead,” because if that was the case, why does he continue to call him father throughout the end of the movie? Oh well. Minor nuance.

      I love that you changed your name AND paid for it! That’s pretty awesome. I had to pay to change my maiden name, but that’s a normal situation and it is quite a hassle to change your name on everything after that. I can only imagine adding the hyphen problems on top of that! Ugh. How old were you when you changed your name, then? You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, but I feel like you were under 20?

      So true about people saying, “I’ve never met a ____ I liked”. For me, I’ve never met a Danielle I liked. I always have problems with them for some reason. Hahaha.

      • I almost feel like when Luke said “Then my father is truly dead,” there was an element of tantrum to it. There’s some definite ice in his eyes at that point, but by the time we see him again in the throne room, he’s had some time to reflect — and then he also comes into contact with the emperor and realizes the enslavement Anakin is trapped in, which causes him to redouble his efforts.

        I was 22 when I finally did it, it hasn’t quite been 10 years yet, and I might have put it off indefinitely except for several things coincided: I had to renew my driver’s license, I was getting my passport, and I couldn’t find my social security card. I thought, since I had to put in for a new SS card and update my license anyway, now is the time to do this! I’d been saying for years, “As soon as I turn 18!”, but it seemed to go in my favor that I’d put it off, because the judge even said “I guess you’ve been thinking about this for awhile!” He may not have agreed if it had seemed flippant. But it does make me want to get together some kind of “People For the Legitimization of the Hyphen” league, lol. I don’t want to have to explain to a TSA person that my ID doesn’t match my ticket because the form wouldn’t let me put in a hypen! But actually nobody official has ever bothered me about it.

        • You had to go before a judge?? Oh my goodness. I definitely didn’t have to do that. I guess getting married doesn’t warrant a judge since they see your marriage certificate (so easy to fake though, but that’s something else). Your changing your name sounds kind of like me getting my Star Wars tattoo. I kept saying, “If I still want this in 10 years, I’m going to get it.” Then it turned to 6 years, then 4, and then 2 years over the said 10 years, haha. But I finally did it since everything lined up perfectly!

          • Well, and changing last names for marriage is pretty common. Changing a first name is much more unusual. I had to prove I wasn’t doing it to dodge debts or anything, lol. Now I don’t remember a lot of the process, but I did have to set up an appointment with a judge and talk with him briefly in his office about why I wanted to do it before he signed the paperwork. Then I also had to take out a notice in the local paper announcing that I had changed my name. My dad and several other people I knew thought it was weirdly pointless to go through all that trouble, but I could tell it pleased my mom — and since I did it just before I graduated college, my diploma says “Megan-Marie G.” on it, which was very satisfying. I think when you end up making a big life decision after over a decade of thinking about it, you aren’t likely to regret it!

  4. (oh and ps, Return of the Jedi is totally a legit Christmas movie. I watch it every December! . . . and October, and July, and February . . . er . . . okay, bad example.)

  5. So you pronounce your name like Kili from the hobbit, but with ‘r’ instead of an ‘l’?

    I have tried multiple times throughout my life to create some sort of alias for myself becuase i thought it would be cool to have a second name, but i always end up falling back on my actual name. One because no one follows along and calls me by my ‘new’ name or it just doesnt feel like me. Glitch is my most recent attempt and certainly my most successful but i like my name still.

  6. Ahhh I had forgotten about “Wormie!” Nice job working that in.

    My real name is of Irish origin, which I like because I am Irish and have red hair, but it’s also fairly common. Unlike my good friend Siobhan–I had no idea how to pronounce that when we met.

    Your name is really easy to write in Japanese. That has nothing to do with anything, just figured I’d tell you.

    • Lol isn’t it a kind of tree only found in the Japanese royal gardens? I think it means lonely on Japanese, right?

      You pronounce that Irish name brenna or something? My friend is a twin and he’s from Ireland and I think that’s his sisters name. Well I know her name is brenna but it’s the spelling that throws me off and I believe that’s it.

      Glad you liked the wormie touch. I like mei mei! It’s so easy.

      • I actually have no idea about the meaning in Japanese…I’ll have to go look it up 🙂 Might have several meanings, depending on how it’s written.

        “Siobhan” is like “shi-von.” I’ve never quite understood Irish spellings–I’d love to learn more Celtic so I can pronounce things properly.

        Mei-Mei is also pretty easy to write in Japanese lol

  7. Now I’m really curious to find out how my friend’s twin spells her name, but it’s something like what you pointed out where you’re just like…what? I actually took a Gaelic class two years ago since I love Celtic mythology and the Irish mysticism that gives rise to a lot of fantasy novels. It was a fun class but I had no reason to continue it. I really want to go to Ireland but not sure how soon it’ll happen and what use would it do me here? And I’m horrible with languages once it starts getting past introductory.

    I looked up the Japanese meaning of my name online and it said “mist”. I wonder where I got lonely from. Ha.

  8. Pingback: Costumes and Characters Part III: Luke Skywalker | Star Wars Anonymous

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