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Take Away Their Name

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"So, your name's Chihiro? What a pretty name! And it belongs to me now."
Yubaba, Spirited Away

Names have power, especially true names. Declaring that He Had a Name is declaring that he was a person with his one life and worth. Names are often equivalent to the importance of their bearers—characters you don't need to remember will rarely be given names. What then does it mean when someone, usually with the help of magic, can literally take one's name away from them?

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After the name is taken, the name thief may rename their victim, or they may leave them as The Nameless. If someone's name is taken away or changed in a non-magical way, you're looking at a Meaningful Rename. Sub-Trope to Name Amnesia.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach: Ichibei Hyosube can erase people's and their weapon's names to depower them, since I Know Your True Name is needed to release a person or weapon's true power. However, when he tried this on Yhwach, Yhwach was able to counter the ability and remember his name after a bit of struggle.
  • Spirited Away: The witch Yubaba magically enslaves people by stealing their names, thus taking their memories of their past and their real name. She gives them new names, to avoid nameless confusion. They can only get free of her if they remember their real name.

    Comic Books 
  • In Mighty Avengers it's revealed there was a previously unmentioned king of the Inhumans between Agon and Black Bolt, whose Evil Chancellor convinced him Black Bolt and Maximus were plotting against him. When Black Bolt took the throne, he decreed that this king's deeds would be entirely forgotten. Even when he returns, he's only referred to as "the Unspoken".
  • Transformers: In Dreamwave's comic series Transformers Generation One, a character is introduced who is only ever referred to as "the Fallen," as his name/identity was taken away from him by his fellow Transformers after he betrayed Primus and sided with Unicron.
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    Fan Works 
  • Besides the Will of Evil: When the Big Bad Reiziger was defeated at the end of the Deer War in the distant past, his names were stripped from him by magic. When someone tries to say them now, nothing comes out but a jumble of disordered sounds. The only one still able to say his old names is Discord, due to his immense power and chaotic nature.
  • Pony POV Series: The criminal who murdered Cupid is only known as the Nameless Filly, after Venus asked Pandora to erase her name from existence.
  • In the original version of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Thousand Year Door, the Shadow Queen explains her origin story. She was once a girl named Josephine, and she gained her powers after a Deal with the Devil with a nameless demon. Part of her payment was to relinquish her name to the demon. Though she remembers her original name, she can feel it doesn't belong to her anymore.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Daffy Duck is told by Warner Bros. executives that they own his name. He claims this is absurd and tries to identify himself, but he can only gasp when he tries to say his name.

    Literature 
  • In John DeChancie's Castle Perilous, this was part of the spell which transformed the demon Ramthonodox into the eponymous castle. Remembering his name is the key to him transforming back.
  • Chronicles of the Kencyrath: Rawneth is effectually the lord of the Randir, and she practices multiple types of magic. She's sometimes called the Witch of Wilden. Some of her people botch an assassination attempt on a rival, and—now that their plot is reviled—they are hunted down by the same enemies. Rawneth decides she needs to punish them more though, and she takes away the dead would-be assassins' names to punish them.
    That was what Rawneth had done to the cadets who had failed to kill her son's rival: she had taken away their names. Without a name, soul and body crumble. No wonder they had been too wasted even to cast proper shadows. Soon, it would be as if they had never been born, except for an aching, nameless void in the lives of those who had loved them.
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons novel Pool of Radiance, the Nameless Bard is introduced. Formerly an arrogant and reckless bard named Finder Wyvernspur, he had been condemned to exile and had his name and music wiped from the memory of nearly everyone who'd known them after he'd caused the death of two of his apprentices in an ill-judged attempt to preserve his music magically in a clone of himself.
  • The fae boy in An Encounter and an Offer had his name stripped from him.
  • In The Neverending Story, this happens to humans who come to Fantasia and overuse their inherent Reality Warper abilities, which are powered by their own memories. When this occurs, the last memory that is consumed is that of their own name, after which they usually end up in the City of Old Emperors, left to wander it for all eternity with no way to return home. This happens to Bastian in the final chapters, but fortunately for him, Atreyu is able to find him there to at least give him his name back.
  • In the The Railway Series story, "Devil's Back", the Manager of the Culdee Fell Railway takes Lord Harry's name away as punishment for blocking both lines in a switch as a result of being careless with his coach in the previous story, "Danger Points". When he is put to work again, Lord Harry ends up going by his number, 6, until he rescues some injured mountain climbers on Devil's Back mountain. When one of the passengers suggests naming Number 6 after Patrick, a friend of his rescued by him, Number 6 agrees to this new name.
  • Servants of Kalzidar, the dark god of Spells, Swords, & Stealth forgo their very names as part of their service to him. One such nameless priest is the primary antagonist of the second book. Because of that, the NPC protagonists are immediately on edge when Elora initially refuses to give her name. In the fourth book, a priestess of Kalzidar describes the process as a trade, in which their name, and all the identity that goes with it, is taken by Kalzidar and returned as a form of Personality Powers related to their old life.
  • Taken Up to Eleven in Tigana, where this is done to a whole region rather than a person. During his conquest of the eastern Peninsula of the Palm, Brandin's son was slayed in a battle in the province of Tigana. Brandin is a sorcerer, and a father who dearly loved his son. In retaliation, he razed the province flat, and put a curse on it that no one who wasn't born in Tigana could remember its name.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons gets into this with its supplement for Truename magic. The unname spell requires that the caster have researched and identified the target's truename, but if the spell is cast and the target fails their saving throw, their truename is erased and they're Deader Than Dead - their body is obliterated, their soul is expunged, and reality itself is rewritten so that the victim cannot exist. Bringing them back is possible, but requires a two-hour ceremony in which a spellcaster has to undertake the ritual of renaming to create a new personal truename for the unnamed victim, followed by a true resurrection spell to revive them.

    Video Games 
  • The "Seeking Mr. Eaten's Name" questline in Fallen London starts off as about finding the eponymous's character true name, which was taken from him. Mr. Eaten is a nickname used to refer to his vengeful spirit. The name itself isn't much of a secret out-of-universe, as anyone with a single point of the relevant stat can learn it during Neathmas — your character will forget it quickly, but the fourth wall can protect you this time.
  • In Planescape: Torment, several NPCs note that knowing someone's true name gives you power over them, and not having a name or never sharing it keeps you safe. Notably, there's an NPC in Hive who goes by the title of Reekwind and can tell you the story of how he once met a magician. When Reekwind told him his true name, the magician ended up stealing it and putting a curse on Reekwind, which made him attract dirt and horrible smells, hence his current title of Reekwind. Ever since, Reekwind keeps advising people against sharing their names, so that they can stay safe from such terrible events.
  • In Touhou, Junko's special ability is the ability to purify beings to a primordial state by removing their True Name. She used this power on herself, too, in order to turn herself into an Anthropomorphic Personification of pure resentment, which is why she's the only character with no Boss Subtitles.
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    Visual Novels 
  • Divi-Dead: Divi Dead: The true identity of the person you know as Nishizaki through most of the game may have been magically erased.

    Webcomic 
  • In Digger, the hyena Ed had his original name "eaten" when he was cast out of his tribe for killing his wife because she was abusing their child. He considers his name to be gone, and we never find out what it was; however, the protagonist gives him the new monicker "Ed", which he gratefully receives. In an unusual twist, he still remembers his name perfectly well — there was no supernatural process to make unrememberable or unpronounceable — but still considers it eaten and gone.
    Digger: But can't you remember what it was?
    Ed: Of course it remembers! It remembers the rabbit it ate yesterday too, but rabbit still gone. Memory not life. Name dead, eaten, gone.
  • In The Dragon Doctors, Mori's family name was "destroyed" after her parents' trial, a process after which not even she could remember it. Even after the accusers make peace with Mori her decades later, they say they have no way to undo it.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: "Taboo" revolves around an extradimensional space resembling an endless forest filled with strange nameless creatures that can't be referred to by any consistent name or else horrible things will happen to the namer. The entity in the interviews with the Foundation scientist reveals that all the entities of the nameless grove were the faeries referred to in Bright's SCP-001 proposal who had their names stolen when they were driven from Earth by the Foundation. The gentleman with the rabbit head then steals Dr. Japers' name and identity by giving him the new name of "fellow scholar".

    Western Animation 
  • Played for Laughs in the American Dad! episode "Threat Levels", where Stan is organised into a bum fight with an enormous brutish bum. Apparently he is so savage that they can't even direct a name for him:
    Steve: He... killed his own name.


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