CLOSE

17 Famous Literary Characters Almost Named Something Else

“Bladorthin the Grey” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Gandalf the Grey,” does it? Good thing J.R.R. Tolkien decided to do some name swapping. Turns out he’s in good company: here’s the story of Gandalf and other famous characters who experienced an identity change before publication.

1. The only Pevensie child who escaped from the first drafts of the Chronicles of Narnia series with his name intact was Peter. In an early version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter is the youngest child - not the oldest - and his siblings are Ann, Martin and Rose.

2. It’s a small change, but a significant one, especially to arachnologists. In Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White originally named his beloved eight-legged character “Charlotte Epeira” after the Grey Cross spider, or Epeira sclopetaria. He later discovered that he had mistaken the identity of the spider that served as his muse: she was actually a barn spider, not a Grey Cross. Accordingly, White matched the character's name with her species, Araneus cavaticus, making his wise webspinner's name “Charlotte A. Cavatica.”

3. Bladorthin the Grey? Yeah, not so much.

But that seems to have been J.R.R. Tolkien’s original thinking. In pencilled notes on early drafts of The Hobbit, Tolkien noted that “Gandalf” was the name of the chief dwarf and “Bladorthin” was, of course, the great wizard. After the author decided to switch the names around, Bladorthin became the name of a dead king who is mentioned just once in all of Tolkien’s prolific writings.

4. Philip Marlowe is one of the toughest private eyes ever created, so you might agree that naming him “Mallory” may not have done justice to his ruggedness. Raymond Chandler originally wanted to pay homage to English author Sir Thomas Malory, but got points with his wife when he listened to her opinion that “Marlowe” was the better name.

5. “Puckle,” Hermione Granger’s original surname, “did not suit her at all,” J.K. Rowling once commented. Deciding that her heroine needed a name that was more appropriate for her serious nature, Rowling eventually came up with something that doesn’t make you think of that taste you get in your mouth when you eat Sour Patch Kids.

6. Would Marshall the Paranoid Android have been as popular as Marvin? That's what Douglas Adams called his depressed robot in early drafts, after friend and comedian Andrew Marshall. Adams describes Marshall thusly:

“You’d be with a bunch of people in the pub and Andrew would come up and you’d say, 'Andrew, meet John, meet Susan...' Everybody would make introductions, and Andrew would stand there. And once everybody else had come to a finish in whatever they were saying, Andrew would then say something so astoundingly rude that it would completely take everybody’s breath away. … I would go over to him and say, 'Andrew, what on Earth was the point in saying that?' And he would say, 'What would be the point of not saying it? What’s the point of anything?'”

7. John Falstaff, the chubby knight who makes appearances in three of Shakespeare’s plays, was called “John Oldcastle” in Henry IV, Part 1 before descendants of the real Sir John Oldcastle complained.

8. Another small but significant change: Charlotte Brontë’s Villette protagonist had her chilly surname swapped for another one. Said Brontë, “At first - I called her ‘Lucy Snowe (spelt with an ‘e’) which ‘Snowe’ I afterwards changed to ‘Frost.’ Subsequently - I rather regretted the name change and wished it ‘Snowe’ again. A cold name she must have.”

9. Author Eoin Colfer once thought the title character of his Artemis Fowl books would go by the name Archimedes. In his words:

“Artemis was originally Archimedes, because I wanted a classic Greek name that would have an air of intelligence and genius about it. But I thought people would think it's a book about Archimedes. Artemis was the goddess of hunting. But the name was sometimes, very seldom, given to boys as kind of an honorific if their fathers were great hunters. Fowl was because there's an Irish name Fowler, and fowl sounds like foul. Because he's nasty, or he was in the beginning. It's the nasty hunter basically.”

10. Scarlett O’Hara was almost named Pansy. In fact, the iconic character didn’t receive her iconic name until just before the story went to print.

11. In early drafts of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly was named Connie Gustafson. Side note: Truman Capote is thought to have based Holly on several different women, including Gloria Vanderbilt, Oona Chaplin, and Walter Matthau's wife, Carol Grace. His own mother was probably also an inspiration.

12. Bram Stoker’s notes on Dracula reveal that he had been referring to his famous vampire as “Count Wampyr.” During research, Stoker came across Vlad II of Wallachia, who went by the name Vlad Dracul. He was intrigued enough to change his character’s name.

13. Similarly, Arthur Conan Doyle made notes that indicated he'd been considering the name “Sherringford” for Detective Holmes.

14. If that doesn’t throw you for enough of a loop, consider this: Holmes’ assistant was originally going to be called "Ormond Sacker." Arthur Conan Doyle decided the name was a bit too bizarre and changed it to the decidedly duller “John H. Watson.”

15. Before “Nancy Drew” was decided upon, names kicked around for the plucky young heroine included Stella Strong, Diana Drew, Diana Dare, Nan Nelson, Helen Hale and Nan Drew.

16. Small Sam, Little Larry and Puny Pete were all in the running before Charles Dickens settled on “Tiny Tim” for the sickly sad sack in A Christmas Carol.

17. Little Orphan Annie was nearly Little Orphan Otto, until Harold Gray’s publisher at the newspaper syndicate suggested his character looked more female than male and told him to stick a skirt on it.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Lists
10 Things You Might Not Know About Wine
iStock
iStock

by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Between the vine and the liquor store, plenty of secrets are submerged in your favorite bottle of vino. Here, the author of Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma spills some of the best.

1. DIGITAL EYES ARE EVERYWHERE IN VINEYARDS.

Certain premium estates in Bordeaux and Napa are beginning to look a little more like an army base—or an Amazon.com warehouse. They’re using drones, optical scanners, and heat-sensing satellites to keep a digital eye on things. Some airborne drones collect data that helps winemakers decide on the optimal time to harvest and evaluate where they can use less fertilizer. Others rove through the vineyard rows, where they may soon be able to take over pruning. Of course, these are major investments. At $68,000 a pop, the Scancopter 450 is about twice as costly as a 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon!

2. THERE ARE ALSO LOTS OF COW SKULLS.

They’re not everywhere, but biodynamic farming techniques are on the rise among vintners who don’t want to rely on chemicals, and this is one trick they’ve been known to use to combat plant diseases and improve soil PH. It’s called Preparation No. 505, and it involves taking a cow’s skull (or a sheep’s or a goat’s), stuffing it with finely ground oak chips, and burying it in a wet spot for a season or two before adding it to the vineyard compost.

3. FEROCIOUS FOLIAGE IS A VINTNER’S FRIEND.

The mustard flowers blooming between vineyard rows aren’t just for romance. Glucosinolates in plants like radishes and mustard give them their spicy bite, and through the wonders of organic chemistry, those glucosinolates also double as powerful pesticides. Winemakers use them to combat nematodes—tiny worms that can destroy grape crops.

4. WHAT A CANARY IS TO A COAL MINE, ROSES ARE TO A VINEYARD.

Vintners plant roses among their vines because they get sick before anything else in the field. If there’s mildew in the air, it will infect the roses first and give a winemaker a heads-up that it’s time to spray.

5. VINTNERS EXPLOIT THE FOOD CHAIN.

A trio of wines
iStock

Small birds like blackbirds and starlings can clear out 20 percent of a crop in no time. But you know what eats little birds? Big birds. Falconry programs are on the rise in vineyards from California to New Zealand. Researchers have found that raptors eat a bird or two a day (along with a proportion of field mice and other critters) and cost only about as much to maintain as your average house cat.

6. THE BIG PROBLEMS IN TASTING ROOMS ARE VERY SMALL.

Winemakers are constantly seeking ways to manage the swarms of Drosophila melanogaster that routinely gather around the dump buckets in their swanky showrooms. You know these pests as fruit flies, and some vintners in California are exploring ways to use carnivorous plants to tackle the problem without pesticides. Butterworts, sundews, and pitcher plants all have sweet-sounding names, but the bugeating predators make for terrific fruit fly assassins, and you’ll see them decorating tasting rooms across wine country.

7. WINE NEEDS CLEANING.

Winemaking produces hard-to-remove sediments. Filters can catch most of the debris, but winemakers must add “fining agents” to remove any suspended solids that sneak by. Until it was banned in the 1990s, many European vintners used powdered ox blood to clean their wines. Today, they use diatomaceous earth (the fossilized remains of hard-shelled algae), Isinglass (a collagen made from fish swim bladders), and sometimes bentonite (volcanic clay). Irish moss and egg whites are also fine wine cleaners.

8. ATOMS HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.

About 5 percent of the premium wine sold for cellaring doesn’t contain what the label promises. So how do top-shelf buyers avoid plunking down serious cash on a bottle of something bunk? Most elite wine brokerages, auction houses, and collectors use atomic dating to detect fraud. By measuring trace radioactive carbon in the wine, most bottles can be dated to within a year or two of the vintage.

9. FINE WINES GET MRIs.

Even with atomic dating, there are certain perils involved in buying a $20,000 bottle of wine. Leaving a case in the hot trunk of your car is enough to ruin it, so imagine what can happen over a couple of decades if a wine isn’t kept in the proper conditions. Back in 2002, a chemistry professor at University of California at Davis patented a technique that uses MRI technology to diagnose the condition of vintage wines. Not planning any $20,000 wine purchases? This is still good news for the consumer. This technique may soon be used at airport security, meaning you’ll be able to carry on your booze.

10. THERE’S A TRICK TO AGING YOUR WINE.

If you end up with a bottle of plonk, Chinese scientists have developed a handy solution. Zapping a young wine with electricity makes it taste like something you’ve cellar aged. Scientists aren’t quite sure how it happens yet, but it seems that running your wine for precisely three minutes through an electric field changes the esters, proteins, and aldehydes and can “age” a wine instantly.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
arrow
fun
New Book Highlights the World's Most Depressing Place Names

If you like a little ennui with your wanderlust, we've got a book for you.

As Hyperallergic reports, the popular Instagram account @sadtopographies recently got the coffee table book treatment with the beautiful and gloomy Triste Tropique, Topographies of Sadness. Since 2015, master of misery Damien Rudd has been compiling Google Maps screen shots of real-life locales like Melancholy Lane, Mistake Island, Hopeless Way, and Cape Disappointment on the social media platform. Scrolling through them will make you laugh and marvel at how these names even came to be.

Created in collaboration with French publisher Jean Boîte Éditions, Triste Tropique includes 89 locales accompanied by amusingly poetic captions (called "romances" by the publisher) from writer Cécile Coulon. "Anyway, does it even really exist?" she writes of Doubtful Island. Each place is printed to scale with its exact location provided. The title is a reference to another glum book: Tristes Tropiques by anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss.

This isn't the first time @sadtopographies has been made into a book; last year's Sad Topographies: A Disenchanted Travellers' Guide delved further into the origins of depressing place names. "I have not been to, nor is it likely I will visit, any of the places in this book," Rudd wrote in that 2017 title, but perhaps you'll feel differently.

See the cover, featuring Disappointment Island, below. While you're at it, check out 14 of the most depressing place names in North America here.

Triste Tropique, Topographies of Sadness cover
Jean Boîte Éditions

[h/t Hyperallergic]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios