“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.