Follow TV Tropes

Following

Take Away Their Name

Go To

"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 own 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?

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. Taking away the record of someone's name and deeds as opposed to magically removing them would render them an Unperson.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    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.
  • In Episode 32 of Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, the effect of Yuya's set card "Amnesia" robs the monsters of his opponent of their names, causing "Dizzying Winds of Yosen Village" to shuffle them back into his opponent's deck and "Yosen Whirlwind" to destroy itself since no "Yosenju" monster returned to his opponent's hand.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • The Fisher King in X-Men Red (2022) had his name psychically amputated in the prisons of Tarn the Uncaring, to protect him from the Vile Omnipaths. The Fisher King is a descriptive title he has chosen; the official description of him on data pages refers to him simply as "He Has No Name".

    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.
  • Enlightenments: "Wander" isn't actually used in the fic because it isn't a name so much as what you call a nameless person. The man in question considers his original name to have been killed a long time ago by the god he followed before Dormin. Everyone around him but his wife agrees, and she has a questionable grip on reality.
  • 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.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Thousand Year Door: In the original version, 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 
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In Curse Of The Azure Bonds, 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.
  • An Encounter and an Offer: The fae boy has his name stripped from him.
  • The Hands of the Emperor: After getting declared the Marwn, one of the cosmic keystones of the empire, everyone forgot Artorin's name, even his own parents. This was part of the magical rituals binding the Marwn, which included sacrificing their name (and entire life) to the empire. It is only after his unexpected succession to the throne that he gets told his own name at his coronation as the new emperor.
  • Inheritance Cycle: It's revealed that the dragons of Galbatorix's Forsworn had their names erased by the combined magic of the other dragons as revenge for taking part in the destruction of the Riders and dragonkind. People forgot their names, and any attempt to read or say their names aloud from written words would not work. This ended up driving said dragons and their Riders insane or at bare minimum dangerously unstable due to the mental trauma of the loss, which made it much easier to kill them in the years following the act. The exception to this was Galbatorix's own dragon, Shruikan, as he had been stolen as an egg and forced into service rather than willingly choosing to betray his kind.
  • Isekai ni Otosareta... Jouka wa Kihon!: One of the functions of the hero's gifts is erasing the names and altering the memories of the summoned heroes, so that they are able to act more effectively as heroes in the world that they are summoned to, rather than having lingering attachments to their old world/lives.
  • The Neverending Story: When humans who come to Fantasia overuse their inherent Reality Warper abilities —which are powered by their own memories— 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.
  • The Railway Series In "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.
  • Re:Zero: The Archbishop of Gluttony has the ability to devour the name and memories of his targets. This renders them comatose and erases all memory of their existence.
  • Spells, Swords, & Stealth: Servants of Kalzidar, the dark god, 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.
  • Tigana: 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 
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons 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.
  • Mage: The Awakening: Mages can bargain for the Thief of Names, an Abyssal entity, to exchange their true name with a chosen victim's though the Thief's Wrong Context Magic. However, they also gain all the metaphysical baggage of the victim's identity.

    Video Games 
  • Fallen London:
    • The "Seeking Mr. Eaten's Name" questline starts off as about finding the eponymous character's 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.
    • Over the course of the standard story, it's revealed that most of London has had their names stolen and replaced with their strange fancy titles, using reality-warping research called the Red Science. Part of this is for the purposes of natural segregation — when the names of London's streets were stolen with Red Science, it also hid the metaphysical identities of those streets; unless the player does metaphysical research to unlock the street (using a combination of physical tributes and metaphysical favors), no amount of regular walking is going to lead them to that street. To put it simply, the ability to judge the nature of a person at a glance has been stolen along with their names, and you can't understand more about them than what their titles imply unless you dig deeper with riskier stalking and stranger science.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door: The Chapter 4 boss robs Mario of both his name and identity, leaving him as nothing more than a shadow. It's implied that Mario is also unable to speak his own name while it's "stolen." The only way to break the curse is to guess the boss's name, Doopliss. Though it won't work if you already know his name beforehand, because he also stole the letter "p" from the game's keyboard.
  • 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.
  • Touhou Project: 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.
  • Warframe: According to the tale found in Dagath's Hollow, "Grandmother" of the Entrati family lost her name when she "gifted" it to a headless horsewoman she met out one Naberus night in exchange for not getting beheaded herself. Now called Dagath, that hollow rider was a cavalrywoman and a mistress of an aristocratic couple who lavished her with many gifts and pet names, but never dared utter whatever real name she might have had, "for names have power" and they are "for people, not possessions". Dagath eventually got revenge on her masters after they killed her pet horse because she dared to give it a name, and later tried to kill her too because her social status got elevated to the point a relationship with her was no longer seen as taboo.

    Visual Novels 
  • Divi-Dead: The true identity of the person you know as Nishizaki through most of the game may have been magically erased.

    Webcomics 
  • 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 it 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.
  • 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.
  • Tower of God has the Name Hunt Station, a legally sanctioned part of the Tower where Regulars are encouraged to fight each other. Anyone who has their backed touched for ten seconds will have their name stolen by the one who touched them, are are forced to be subservient to them unless they can get it back or steal someone else's name. The rules of the Name Hunt Station apply even after leaving, as the Tower will recognize the victim as a Nameless.
  • Wilde Life: Zulime the witch can steal a nearby person's name with a short incantation, bringing them under her control. Victims recover when they hear their name spoken. She uses this to kidnap Clifford for a bounty, and completely fails to use it against against Eliza, a much more powerful witch.
  • Whither: The town's guardian witch needed The Nameless child for the fabrication of Magic Mirror. So she had someone steal a baby's name. But Frost also replaced that baby with a changeling, for his own reasons, and the changeling grew up to be our protagonist, Emelind.

    Web Original 
  • Jenny Everywhere: "Jenny Nowhere" "lost" her name ages ago in mysterious circumstances, and it remains a sore subject with her. The title of "Jenny Nowhere" simply emphasises her Evil Counterpart nature to Jenny Everywhere, but it's not actually her name.
  • SCP Foundation: "Taboo" revolves around an extradimensional space resembling an endless forest filled with curious anomalous beings 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 rabbitlike historian then steals Dr. Japers' name and identity by giving him the new name of "fellow scholar".
  • Seen in this TikTok video.
    Barista: Hi, my name's Katy, how can I help you today?
    Customer: Uh, can I just get a large almond milk latte?
    Barista: Sure! Uh, can I have your name?
    Customer: Chloe.
    Barista: (writing) Is that with a "C" or a "K"?
    Customer: Uh, it's a C.
    Barista: That's a beautiful name, by the way.
    Customer: Thank you! It's my grandmother's.
    Barista: (reveals she's been writing "Chloe" on a name tag, which she uses to replace her old name tag reading "Katy") Uh, I'll get that latte started for you and it should be ready at the end of the bar in like, just a minute or so.
    (Long silence.)
    Customer: ...Did—
    Barista: Have a good day!
    (Another long silence. Twitchy Eye from Barista.)
    ...
    Barista: Hi, my name's Chloe, how can I—
  • Quest Den: In the adventure Tobak Quest, we're introduced to protagonist Dowser and his roommate Lyvy. Then it's revealed 'Lyvy' used to be Dowser's name, until he lost it to its current holder in a bet (in fairness to Lyvy, he didn't have a name before challenging Dowser for his, having suddenly found himself in need of one).

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In "Threat Levels", 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.
  • Frankelda's Book of Spooks: Gnomes offer a service in exchange for the victims names, unawares that this is how they trade places with them. The gnome steals that persons life, and the victim becomes a gnome themselves.


 
Feedback

Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Name Stealer

Top

Chihiro

Seeking to find a way to save her parents, Chihiro asks the witch Yubaba for a job in her bathhouse. After agreeing to give Chihiro work, Yubaba magically removes the girls' name until it's reduced to just "Sen" (1000 in Japanese).

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / MuggleInMageCustody

Media sources:

Report