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This page is for examples of I Know Your True Name in literature.


  • In Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, Mr. Nancy (Anansi) and his sons apply this trope in a few ways, one of which being the humiliation of a major villain.
  • In Awake in the Night Land this is the reason that prevents the Lovecraftian horrors of the Night Land from having proper names, otherwise they would be able to invade people's thoughts. Instead, they are called by their attributes, like: "The Watching Things", "The Thing That Nods", "Silent Ones", "Slowly Turning Wheel", etc.
  • Jonathan Stroud's The Bartimaeus Trilogy: Magicians lose their names when they start training and choose new ones to be called by later on.
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    • Unfortunately, unlike most examples, this still doesn't work — the new names aren't nearly as powerful as their birth names for magical purposes, but can still be used to mess with them.
    • Demons are also summoned and controlled through their names, though its revealed that this is less because it's their true name, but that when a magician first summons a demon he gives it a name, and that name can then be used to call them. Bartimaeus and many other demons also have many names, but only Bartimaeus actually seems to have power over him.
  • In Glen Cook's The Black Company series, saying "I name your name, ______" with the person's True Name will strip them of their supernatural powers. Guessing wrong about which ancient wizard you're naming can be hazardous to your health, since using the wrong name means you've revealed your intent to nullify a very powerful being without actually doing anything. This is also why the most powerful sorcerers in the setting are universally Evil Sorcerers. Any magic-user not willing to suppress his true name by any means necessary will not remain a magic-user for long. The only good wizard of sufficient power in the series is able to do so because, as the result of some peculiarities at the time of his birth, he has no true name, only a nickname.
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  • In The Changing Land, by Roger Zelazny, one of the characters is a demon named Melbriniononsadsazzersteldregandishfeltselior. Usually conjurers trying to summon him messed up his name during the summoning and binding ritual - which left the demon free and ready to have fun. Unfortunately for the demon, another character, wizard Baran, was from a land with very complex language - so the name of the demon was quite manageable for Baran.
  • The Chronicles of Amber series by Roger Zelazny, in Guns of Avalon, when Strygalldwir comes to Corwin's window. He offers his name but says "Conjure with it and I will eat your liver." Only seems to apply to that certain brand of demon, though.
  • John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos: In The Titans of Chaos, a god casts a spell on the title characters who have three sets of names apiece; he fails because one of them hid one set from him. Granted, someone named Quentin Nemo should have been a clue.
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  • Actually an important point in the Chronicles of the Emerged World, where the Orcish-like Fammin serving the Tyrant all have names which are actually magical words used to force them to obey the orders. This is the Wrong Ones' main source of fear and Angst.
  • In The Book of Three, the first volume of The Chronicles of Prydain, Prince Gwydion is the only one who can defeat the Horned King because he's the only one who knows his real name, which is never revealed.
  • All of the Insequent from the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant can be compelled by their true names, and as such they usually go by imposing sounding titles (the Theomach, the Vizard, the Mahdoubt, the Harrow, the Ardent, the Auriference, etc.). It's implied that any Insequent knows (or can readily discover) any other Insequent's true name, but they go to great pains to conceal them from outsiders. Only two are revealed in the novels- Kenaustin Ardenol (the Theomach) and Quern Ehstrel (the Mahdoubt). The Ardent manages to make the Harrow back off in one scene merely by threatening to reveal his true name to the gathered companions.
  • Cold Cereal by Adam Rex turns this into a Brick Joke. The main character is established with the name Scottish Play. He got his name when his father, a struggling actor, got a break that changed his life and promised he'd name his firstborn son after the role. At the end of the book, when Queen Titania uses all the heroes' names to incapacitate them, Scottish Play manages to break free of her spell because that wasn't his true name and that it's not supposed to be spoken out loud.
  • This trope is referenced in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - the protagonist/narrator once fools the people into thinking he has done magic, by claiming to command an evil spirit by "thine own dread name" and then just making up a long nonsensical word.
  • Susan Cooper's novel The Dark Is Rising (part of The Dark Is Rising series). Merriman Lyon defeats Maggie the witch-girl (an agent of the Dark) through his knowledge of her true name.
  • The Death Gate Cycle, in one of its appendices, describes rune-magic in terms of true names. What a rune-magic spell does is change an object's name, thus causing the object itself to change. The Sartan and Patryn (battling Witch Species who use this magic) are each affected by it in different ways:
    • Sartan magic emphasizes the spoken runes; as such, a Sartan's true name in their own language can be used to control them. Most Sartan go by pseudonyms as a result, and when Samah introduces himself to a stranger by his true name, this is a sign of both his power and arrogance (since it shows he doesn't fear magical attack).
    • Patryns emphasize the written runes, which they tattoo on their bodies. A Patryn's true name is therefore not the spoken form but the "heart-rune" inscribed in the center of their chest. Messing with this rune can seriously screw up a Patryn's ability to work magic as Haplo found out the hard way.
  • In The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees-Brennan, demon-summoning requires knowledge of the demon's true name. In a subversion, it's eventually revealed that demons, who tend not to use language, don't actually care what name you call them—what matters is that you believe it's the demon's true name.
  • Katharine Kerr's Deverry sequence, where it applies to dragons.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Mort, it's briefly mentioned that, in the old days, students at Unseen University had to "memorise the true names of everything until the brain squeaked". It's not made clear that there's any magical advantage to doing so, however. Considering the attitudes of the Unseen University faculty, it's quite likely that most of the 'learning true names' curriculum was to keep the students too busy to bother them.
    • In The Last Continent, it's stated that the Librarian has removed all mention of his own name from University records to prevent anyone trying to turn him back into a human. Rincewind knows it, and so the Librarian dissuades him from telling anyone — by holding him over a ten-story drop.
    • In Pyramids: "All things are defined by names. Change the name, and you change the thing. There is a lot more to it than that, but paracosmically that is what it boils down to..."
    • A slight variation involves the fact that giving a name to something changes its nature, as in Interesting Times (with regards to Magitek Hex) "We should never have given you a name. A thing with a name is a bit more than a thing." Also comes into play when Agnes names her alter ego Perdita. She then develops a magical form of multiple personality disorder, as Perdita becomes an actual person living in Agnes' head with her and being everything Agnes wishes she could be.
  • Doctor Who – Expanded Universe: Inverted in the Eighth Doctor Adventures and Faction Paradox novels. During the Second War in Heaven, the Time Lords battle a race of entities referred to as "the Enemy". The Enemy does have a true name, but the Time Lords almost never use it, as by naming the Enemy, they create the risk of the listener misunderstanding the Enemy as a physical alien race fighting the Time Lords in a physical war. The system of time we know (a steady progression of entropy, cause and effect, Timey-Wimey Ball, etc) is an invention of the Time Lords, and the Second War in Heaven is fought to prevent the Enemy from replacing it with whatever system they would impose on reality. Thus, the War is so surreal and metaphysical by normal standards that naming the Enemy causes non-Time Lords who cannot understand the principles at work to view the Enemy as a hostile invading force (false), rather than a fundamentally different and opposing system of time. Thus, the Enemy is a process, an unnatural force of nature, a series of events, rather than anything concrete.
  • Doctrine of Labyrinths: In Melusine, Mildmay warns Ginevra not to use her real name when they go to meet Vey Coruscant. At one point she says his name out loud, but at the time she only knew him by an alias.
  • In the Dora Wilk Series, the main difference between demons and other hellians is that demons are bound to serve a person who uses their full name, which is why they use nicknames in day-to-day lives. Usually, only a demon's sire knows his/her true name, but in some cases he can give it to another person, and the demon has no say in the matter.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, all sentient beings have a true name — in this case, it's their actual name, pronounced exactly as they say it. The more parts of their name you know, the more power you can hold over them. If you know their full name and can pronounce it correctly, you have a direct magical and metaphysical link to them. A doorway to their being, if you will. Of course, a doorway goes both ways. That's why Harry's Badass Boast mentions his name in full, and then adds the addendum that you should "conjure by it at your own risk."
    • As the first book, Storm Front, demonstrates, there is something more stupid than revealing your true name to your enemy: Letting him hear the true name of the demon you just summoned to kill him.
    • In Grave Peril, Harry meets a Dragon named Ferrovax at a costume ball, and doesn't tell him his full name (going by just "Harry Dresden"). The incredibly powerful Ferrovax is able to force him to his knees with only the two names.
    • Harry gives people nicknames. "Lash" (Lasciel, the Temptress), "Ivy" ( the Archive), "Shagnasty" (the shapeshifter who feeds on fear), among many others. He even named the Black Council, and it probably isn't related in any way, but the only meaningful evidence to their existence started showing up after he nicknamed them.
    • Harry's habit of giving nicknames proves unexpectedly powerful as the names he gives them influence the very nature of beings like a skullbound spirit of intellect, the embodiment of all recorded knowledge, and the psychic imprint of a fallen angel. This somewhat backfires when he casually calls the archangel Uriel "Uri," and is told in emphatic terms to never do it again - that "el" is the part of Uriel's name that refers to God (the name as a whole means "Light of God" or "God is my Light") and he doesn't appreciate having it left off. There's also some Fridge Horror there: Harry has influenced things in part by giving them names, and it would be very bad if an angel as badass as Uriel were to forget the "of God" part for even a minute. Especially considering that other angel whose name prominently features something meaning "light".
    • Keeping one's names in reserve doesn't help when dealing with angels. Thanks to their intellectus, they automatically know the True Name of anyone they're dealing with, letting them flatten any mortal who tries to stop them from completing their tasks.
    • Then there's Outsiders, such as He Who Walks Behind whose true name is a few paragraphs worth of psychic impressions, mostly things like pain, contempt, and love of cold-blooded torture.
    • Harry also notes that while there is danger in providing your true name to someone, the constantly changing nature of humans means that the true name will only work for a short time, whereas demons, the fey, and other magical creatures are unchanging and risk a lot in having their true names known.
  • In the (A)D&D novel Pool of Darkness, a demon, due to a curse or another, had to speak his true name backwards, as a Verbal Tic. He used his backwards name as an alias in human form.
    • In fact, that had a second fiend (a succubus) whose human form also went by an anagram of her real name, and who was forced back into her natural shape when called by the latter (though it didn't seem to otherwise interfere with her power).
  • George R.R. Martin's book Dying of the Light has a line that invokes this, when the viewpoint character's ex-girlfriend, explaining how she disliked the pet name he'd given her, says (approximately), "Give a thing a name and it will somehow come to be. All truth is in naming, and all lies as well, for nothing distorts as a false name can, a false name that changes both the appearance and the reality...."
  • Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series is probably the Trope Codifier. Each person is given his or her true name (which is a word in the language of dragons) by a Wizard. People keep their true names secret, and have other names for common use. A woman who lost her true name was rendered semi-catatonic. It is implied by the books that one can't be given an unpronounceable true name.
    • In one of her short story precursors to the series, "The Rule of Names", two supposed wizards get into a battle that involves lots of shapeshifting. The wizard Blackbeard invokes this when his opponent turns into a dragon, naming him and forcing him into his true form. Turns out the opponent's true form is the dragon. Blackbeard is promptly eaten.
    • And it's not just people that have names; everything, from rocks to trees to sheep to the earth(sea) itself has a name, and can be controlled by one who knows it, thus allowing Reality Warping. Unfortunately, said control affects EVERYTHING that shares the name, as shown by the story of the man who accidentally turned an ocean of saltwater to fresh, when he only wanted a section of it to change. He was cursed by the gods to endlessly shovel the deposited salt back into the ocean, without being able to die.
    • And different parts of things have names. The whole ocean is a name. The western ocean has a name. This bay has a name. This shoreline has a name. Each raindrop that falls into the ocean has a name. Being a powerful wizard means being a walking dictionary of true names. Being a research wizard means using many tricks to learn true names.
    • Subverted by the titular character in A Wizard of Earthsea. While Ged originally falls into this trope, by the last of the stories about him he is so powerful that he just lets everyone know his name. Even dragons.
  • David Eddings:
    • At one point in The Malloreon, Ce'Nedra was possessed by Zandramas. Polgara forces Zandramas to admit her name, and by doing so is able to banish her. Polgara mocks Zandramas for "not knowing the power of a name." It eventually becomes apparent that Polgara was lying about this. Zandramas is better at messing with minds than Polgara is at spotting her, but is aware of her inferior education and (relatively) enormous inexperience, and is inclined to run in any direct confrontation. Polgara's bluff played to this.
    • Eddings also played a different version of this game in The Tamuli, in which the Child Goddess Aphrael speaks the true name of the Elene God to Patriarch Bergsten, to prove that she's not a demon.
  • In the Evie Scelan series, Evie is surprisingly casual about using her true name for someone who knows that magic exists and names can be used in it.
  • In Meredith Ann Pierce's The Firebringer Trilogy, knowing someone's true name doesn't necessarily give you complete power over them - it just makes them a lot more vulnerable to other spells.
  • Forgotten Realms:
    • In The Icewind Dale Trilogy, R.A. Salvatore uses true names a little differently than in Dungeons & Dragons, where they are different from the creature's given name and hard to find out, even though the books are set in the Forgotten Realms setting. (It's not the last time he gets the details wrong from the existing lore.)
    • In The Crystal Shard, the demon Errtu's true name, as opposed to being something hidden, is just "Errtu", the name he openly uses. He can sense the name being pronounced at a distance, though doing that gives one no power over him.
    • In Streams of Silver, a wizard tortures the spirit of another wizard by using his true name.
    • This was sometimes the case in Forgotten Realms. Ariel Manx in the Avatar Trilogy, for example, usually uses the pseudonym Midnight as a protective measure.
  • Gentleman Bastard:
    • In The Lies of Locke Lamora, mages can mentally puppeteer anyone whose true name they know. The Bondsmage finds out the hard way that Locke Lamora is not the protagonist's real name.
    • In the third book, The Republic of Thieves, the Bondsmages reveal Lockes true name - which ALSO turns out to be only a nickname. Deception upon deception...
  • In The Gift by Patrick O'Leary, dragons can be commanded by their true names… except that, as it turns out, they all have the same one (the ancient word for "dragon"). They were purposely conditioned that way centuries ago by wizards who wanted to keep them in line.
  • Similarly used in Good Omens where the Anti Christ, having been accidentally brought up by a normal middle-class family, is sent a Hellhound. The Hellhound has a bit of internal monologue all about "The Naming", saying that its master's name will give it its purpose. When said Hellhound is simply named "Dog" since that's all the boy wants, however, it ends up becoming... a dog, and all that the name implies. It's a happy-go-lucky, cat-chasing, normal, everyday dog.
    • When Crowley is given the baby Antichrist, he is asked to sign for him- and he is specifically told to use his real name. He does, but he is clearly loath to do so.
    • Pepper's proper name is Pippin Galadriel Moonchild. "There are only two ways a child can go with that name, and Pepper had chosen the other one."
  • Gor: Low caste Goreans frequently hide their true names from others due to a fear of this trope.
  • This is how the Glam works in The Gospel of Loki. As Loki says "A named thing is a tamed thing". Odin actually alters Loki's nature right at the beginning by naming him.
  • In Delia Sherman's "Grand Central Park", the main character plays truth or dare with the Queen of Central Park (a fairy). She asks the Queen to tell her her true name.
  • In Griffin's Daughter, The Nameless One's true name had been stricken from the history books to keep someone from invoking this in an attempt to invoke him, enslave him or claim his power.
  • The Yn shamans from Janet Kagan's Hellspark use name magic. The protagonist uses this to talk one down from a rage, pointing out that she doesn't actually know the true name of the person she's angry with and her curse is likely to go awry.
  • In Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle, knowing the true name of someone lets you control them. They also have Elvish as a Language of Magic. Basically, everything has a name, and knowing it lets you control the thing; by saying "rock" in the Ancient language, you can control a rock. It's said that by finding out the name of the Ancient Language, a spellcaster would be able to change the meaning of words and essentially have complete control over magic in the world. In the final book, Galbatorix finds out the name, and explains how he plans to use it to stop anyone from being able to use magic again.
    • Also, a person's True Name isn't set in stone. As they grow and mature, and their personality changes, their true name will also change to reflect this. This can come in handy, since if someone is using your true name to enslave you, you can escape by changing yourself enough for your name to change. It isn't easy, but it's possible. It also has a more mundane use. If you find your own true name, it can act as a form of magical self-introspection that enables you to understand every aspect of yourself at once, the good and the bad. While this might be seen by some as a bad thing, it's portrayed as positive since it enables you to accurately assess your faults and find where you have room to grow.
  • In The Iron Dragon's Daughter, knowing someone's - or even something's - true name can give you almost total power over that someone. Main character Jane, being a human not of that realm, doesn't have a "true name".
  • In Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins, the protagonist's father accidentally introduced himself to the captain of the hunters' ship using his secret name rather than his common name. He later fell in battle, and his people blamed the public use of his secret name for it.
  • The reason why it's so hard for the title magicians in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell to find and summon the Raven King is that they have no idea what his real name is. They ultimately settle for a ritual that summons "the king", using items of personal significance to the Raven King in it, so that there is only one possible king they could possibly be referring to.
  • Diana Wynne Jones:
    • According to The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, avoiding this is the real reason so many Fantasylanders have apostrophes in their names.
    • In Drowned Ammet, saying the lesser name of one of the gods causes an island to come up out of the sea and break your enemy's ship in half. "What happens if you say his big name?" It causes a tsunami... even if you're miles from the sea. Unsurprisingly, he's known by his nickname, the Earth Shaker. His wife's names also have dramatic effects.
    • In Power of Three, a major threat to the Dorig and Lymen is to simply mention that one has the name of an enemy in mind, as having a person's name allows you to curse them. Ceri scoffs at the 'giants' for giving out their names so freely.
  • The Kane Chronicles:
    • In The Red Pyramid, this is how the heroes manage to enslave Set.
    • They also use this to revive Ra and save the world, but Set tricks them to return his true name to him along the way, thereby losing their control over him in the second book.
    • Also in the second book, Sadie has to convince a barely conscious and dying Carter to give her his secret name, or "ren", so that she can use a healing spell and save his life.
  • In Emily Rodda's The Key to Rondo, giving the Blue Queen your true name gives her power over you, and she can command you to do anything, up to and including suicide. In her first appearance she gains control over the heroine's beloved dog through this means; however, she doesn't gain control over the heroine, first because she believes the heroine to be someone else (and thus uses the wrong name), and then because the hero knows the heroine only by a nickname and therefore, despite calling her by her name repeatedly, doesn't reveal her real name.
    • In the final showdown, the Blue Queen learns the hero's name, and controls him as a hostage from that point on, effectively removing him from battle and threatening his life for a Friend or Idol Decision.
    • In the third book, The Battle for Rondo, it's how they managed to defeat the Blue Queen. After Leo figured it out and tried to use her true name, Indigo, to stop her, the Blue Queen rejects it and suffered for it.
    • In another of Emily Rodda's books, Deltora Dragons, the dragons believe that knowing a fellow dragon's name gives you some type of power over them. When Lief calls them all for help in the finale they all learn each others names but can't use it against each other without the same being done to them.
  • In Krabat. Fortunately, The Hero doesn't know the real name of the girl who's able to save him. (Another one wasn't that lucky.)
  • In the novella Equoid, of The Laundry Files, the narrator comments on how "Bob Howard" is just a pseudonym he's calling himself in the reports; because he would never do something as daft as write his true name on paper and "give extradimensional identity thieves the keys to our souls."
  • A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle does not treat names themselves as being important, but the very state of being Named and of having someone know your Name is extremely important (as the cherubim Proginoskes put it, "He calls them all by name, and someone has to know who He's talking about.") This is the job of Namers, because without being Named, a person cannot know who they are, and are vulnerable to someone else pushing them around. The secret to naming? Love.
    • Reversed by the Echthroi, the closest thing L'Engle had to monsters: they can "X" a person, un-Naming them. Echthroi can be "rescued" from their state by Naming them.
  • Although no specific reason is given, the Ents in The Lord of the Rings are likewise surprised at people giving out their real names, though the long-winded Entish language probably makes it moot for them (an Ent's true name can go on for days). Gandalf also complains that Bilbo was smart enough not to tell Smaug the dragon his name, but could have avoided rather more trouble if he hadn't told Gollum.
    • While not exactly magic, calling Sméagol/Gollum by one name gets a very different reaction than calling him by the other.
    • The protagonists also rarely speak Sauron's name out loud, usually using his title "Dark Lord", instead. Though it isn't explicitly stated, it's implied that speaking it too often in wrong situations could make him aware of the speaker. Also, when Pippin uses a Palantír and accidentally makes contact with Sauron, the first thing the Dark Lord does is demand his name, which Pippin refuses despite the resulting mental torture - again, it's implied that telling your own name to Sauron could make you fall under his power.
      • Sauron is older than the World, so his true name may be impossible to pronounce; at any rate it isn't Sauron – that's what the Elves call him. When he was manipulating the kings of Númenor he called himself Annatar, Lord of Gifts.
    • Tom Bombadil teaches Frodo Baggins an extended verse which will bring Tom to the aid of anyone within his territory who utters it, and this verse includes his name.
    • Dwarves in Tolkien are described as having true names in Khuzdul, which they never reveal, not even on their gravestones. The names they are known by (Thorin, Balin and so on) are by-names, taken (as is 'Gandalf') from the languages of Men of Rhovanion (represented as Scandinavian in Tolkien's 'translation', because their relation to Hobbitish is analogous to the relation of Scandinavian to English).
  • In The Lost Years of Merlin series, by T.A Barron, names are very important, magically; Naming is even one of the Seven Songs of Magic. If someone knows the true name of someone or something, they have control over it (only Merlin knows the true name of Excalibur, so he's the only one with total control over it. Merlin also learns his own true name at the end of the last book.
  • One series where the wizard does have a huge, unpronounceable name is Larry Niven's The Magic Goes Away.
  • Make Way For Dragons concerns the proper name for things. Renaming means reshaping. It's a very tricky situation, as reversing is impossible.
  • In Malediction Trilogy anyone who knows a troll's true name can give them an order the troll must obey. Therefore, willingly giving up one's name to another is the sign of ultimate trust.
  • Patricia A. McKillip:
  • In the Mercy Thompson books, the fae can use someone's true name to control them. True names aren't any sort of magical secret knowledge, although older entities seem to prefer using nicknames and aliases for this reason. In Hunting Ground a fae greets Anna with her full name and the name of her pack in order to subtly threaten her. Later in the same book, a fae addresses one man with the name he was given at birth and his parents' names, and uses that power to issue him an order he can't resist.
  • Everybody has true names in Messenger, and they're given by the psychic Leader. This is a benevolent version as the true names help people discover their purpose in Village (eg. the man now called Mentor becomes a schoolteacher), although they do seem to hold some power as seen when Matty is easily able to rein in his puppy after using its true name.
  • In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, telling your name is dangerous. And you need to force a demon to tell you its name to exorcize it.
  • Modern Tales of Faerie: In Tithe, Kay forces one of The Fair Folk to tell her his true name, not quite realizing that when she uses the name he has to do anything he's commanded to do.
    • Specifically, Roiben promises to tell her any three things she asks. After he plays literal genie with her out of habit/to protect her ("Shall I consider that your second question?") she asks for his name to piss him off. She only knows that fairies don't like to share their names, and finds out WHY when she uses a poorly worded insult.
  • The shadowhunters in The Mortal Instruments give their weapons the names of angels to make them light up and become stronger and fight them against demons. However, they must not use the name of the angel Raziel, even if it is never explained exactly why it is forbidden.
    • That goes for the fairies. Every fairy keeps their true name secret, or betrays it to very few other people, because someone else would gain power over the fairy when he knows their true name.
  • The Name of the Wind focuses heavily on this. Actually learning the names of things, though, is regarded as really, really difficult, and unless a person actually understands the name, he will only hear the common name for the object. Kvothe badly wants to study naming, but is refused by the somewhat-loopy but brilliant Master Namer.
    • At one point, Kvothe calls the Name of the Wind in mindless fury against Ambrose Jakis.
    • Tamborlin the Great was known to have the Name of most or all things, and his exploits were correspondingly astounding.
    • In the sequel, much more of Naming is revealed. One of the Masters of the Arcanum calmly sticks his hand in fire and plays with the coals after speaking the Name of Fire. Many things have names, as evidenced in the variety of first Names that Elodin's class had found.
    • As with much of magic in the series, it's one a scale of Awesome, but Impractical - mundane solutions are almost always best when possible, but Sympathy and Alchemy can do some things that can't be done a mundane way, and Naming can do some things even those arts can't.
    • Duels between Namers are terrifying things. A Namer with two or three names can tear up the surrounding area for miles with impunity.
    • In the very distant past, not only were there people who knew the Names of things, but those who created new Names. It was a time when humanity had godlike powers and created new realms.
  • In A Name to Conjure By, a Summon Everyman Hero spell brings the protagonist to another world where his full, exceedingly long name is a powerful spell. A magician tries to learn the name with a spell, but fails because he can't read the English alphabet.
  • In Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, the Fantastica side of the plot begins with the Childlike Empress getting sick because she "needs a new name." Bastian becomes a Fantastican hero because he has the ability to name things. This is natural, as words have obvious importance when the entire world exists in a story.
    • In the second film based on the book, Bastian is called back to Fantasia in order to name the new threat ("The Emptiness") which should give them the power to fight it properly.
  • In Simon Green's Nightside series, the second book features the Speaking Gun that can unmake anything ever created by saying its true name backwards. It's touted as the only actual item that can destroy an angel, whether nefarious or holy. (Little difference between them. Nefarious angels will destroy you because they are evil and enjoy it. Holy ones will destroy you because you're either in the way of the Plan, or simply because you're flawed.)
  • Andre Norton:
    • In Witch World novels, name magic is routine, and so powerful that the witches of Estcarp hide them from everyone.
    • In Dread Companion, Kilda is saved from being hunted by a creature that calls the name of the hunters. Later, he tells her that they must obey their names, it is the law.
  • In Not Long Before the End, the most powerful wizard alive is known only as "The Warlock". He is so powerful that this nickname becomes a generic name for wizards. His parents decided to protect his True Name to the limits of their ability. They had a demon give him a name no human can pronounce (to put your name in a spell it must be pronounced). They then bound the demon to a pentagram (nobody can summon it to ask his name) tattooed on his back (they can't ask in his absence), and bound it to protect him with its life (it won't tell you anyway).
  • Stina Leicht uses both this and Words Can Break My Bones in Of Blood and Honey. Using someone's true name gives you power over them; you can call them to you or command them. However, it has to be their complete true name: Liam's parents survive Henry's trap because Henry doesn't know Liam's full name, and thus Liam can resist long enough to break through the stone circle.
  • Old Kingdom: Though not strictly necessary, knowing the true name of a spirit you're trying to use necromancy to bind adds power to the spell. Chlorr of the Mask serves Hedge in part because she was bound "by her secret name" Clariel, and in the last book Lirael is able to dispose of a Greater Dead spirit with relative ease owing in part to her using a quick spell to discover its name before it could attack her.
  • In Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos, the narrator does not give his real name as a POW, only the official name he's using; when his daughter is born, affairs are more organized, and she is issued both a name she can use and a secret, real name.
  • In Orion by Ben Bova, the title character attempts to introduce himself to a stone-age tribe. Due to belief in this trope, things go very badly.
  • Paranormalcy's Faeries run by this trope, which, when combined with Adults Are Useless (or Adults-Are-Too-Pigheaded-To-Realize-The-Consequences) leads to some serious trouble. Especially since some of the Faeries are resentful about it and are all to willing to get revenge in any way they can. A good example is Reth, who does a pretty spectacular job at twisting every command given to him, though he's not particularly nasty... until later.
  • In Elizabeth Bear's The Promethean Age series, names have power, as is demonstrated in the Wham Chapter of Blood and Iron; Elaine gives her true name — and her soul — away, thus rendering herself immortal and therefore capable as taking over as the Queen of the Faeries. She occasionally still answers to the name, though; magic is magic, but you still need a way of getting someone's attention across a crowded room.
  • Quantum Gravity: True Names exist and work on all sapient species ... while in Alfheim, home to the elves. They work on elves anywhere, but especially in Alfheim. It's the type of power that makes the target do something, though the exact power has yet to be confirmed: It made a target do something he didn't want to, but was worded very specifically and whether the action went against his nature is unknown.
  • The Quantum Thief: Fractal Prince features a scifi variation of this trope in the City of Sirr, where True Names are a part of an elaborate control system that allows baseline humans limited use of certain posthuman technologies that should be too complicated for them to operate, while simultaneously keeping them inaccessible to the posthuman Sobornost who would forcefully assimilate the city if it was unprotected.
  • Carol Berg's Rai Kirah series: For Ezzarians their own names are true names, not to be shared lightly, and sharing them is an act of connection and trust. This is because Ezzarian culture is centered around their war with demons, and a demon knowing one's name is dangerous. Someone's name is also needed to help them magically, including for examination. This also means that being required to share one's name in slavery is a major violation.
  • In Robin Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings series, no dragon could lie to someone who demanded the truth with her true name or used it properly when asking a question. Nor could a dragon break an agreement if she entered into it under her true name.
  • Spider Robinson once wrote of a wizard so ancient that he guided the evolution of humanity in such a way that modern larynxes simply can't form the sound of his True Name.
  • In Salamander, the name a wizard uses must be their true name (or a shortened form of it), or else their magic fades. A superstition in-story is that naming a child after a dead wizard will give him some of that wizard's power. The tradition was started by an immortal wizard who wanted to be able to hide without changing his name.
  • Ted Chiang's SF short story Seventy-Two Letters uses this trope as one of its themes. In the story scholars engage in research to discover new names to give to clay golems that will imbue them with the ability to perform various tasks.
  • A major part of the mythology of Skulduggery Pleasant, and the reason why the magically inclined go by self-referential nicknames. In the Skulduggery Pleasant books, everyone has a True Name (theoretically; the only known listing of them was destroyed) and a Given Name (your full given name, e.g. on a birth certificate), and may also take a Taken Name.
    • Your Given Name can give someone else power over your actions... to an extent, sorta like hypnotic suggestion. Taking a new name seals your given name, preventing its misuse. However, if someone else learns your True Name, they gain absolute command over you. However, if you learn your own true name (but not as a result of a command), you gain a direct link to magic itself and turn into a Physical God. It's generally advised to then use a magical ritual to seal your True Name to prevent others manipulating you.
  • In Patricia C. Wrede's Snow White and Rose Red, a character casts a Love Spell on one of the heroes. The spell requires his name, however, and she's unaware that he doesn't go by the name he was baptized under. Consequently it has no effect on him whatsoever.
  • In the SPQR novel The Tribune's Curse, the eponymous tribune has discovered the secret name of the city of Rome (see Mythology below) and used it amongst many other such names to publicly call down a curse against a political enemy. This is one of many reasons the Everyone Is a Suspect in his murder. Or rather his apparent murder. He faked his death in order to escape punishment for his act of forbidden, sacrilegious magic.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • New Jedi Order: Traitor has an interesting bit of philosophy that seems to be the inversion of this trope: its proponent states that in naming a thing, you limit it, and in doing so you are saying a half-truth, or worse, a lie.
      • At least superficially, this view of words somewhat matches up with a few religions and philosophies, like Zen. If the universe is One whole, then the mere act of trying to describe the Oneness, or one's experience of it, divides and diminishes it into misleading categories.
    • There is also the Firrerreo race introduced in the novel The Crystal Star, who have a superstition about speaking someone's name out loud in order to have authority over them. As a result, they never tell others their real name unless necessary, revealing another Firrerreo's name is considered a sign of grave disrespect, and one of the highest displays of respect is to not use the name of a Firrerreo even though you know it.
    • Conversely, there's the Gand race, for whom the name you use to refer to yourself is a significant indication of how important you are. If you're just another schlub, you refer to yourself as "Gand" (as in "Gand went to the store today"). If you're slightly more important or recognizable, you can use your last name ("Obama went to the store today"). If you're a major figure, you can use just your first name. Only individuals who have achieved truly staggering feats or become exceptionally important can use pronouns like "I" or "me", since it's assumed that everyone will already know who this person is. If you're feeling ashamed or have committed a faux pas, you might go down a step or two, to indicate that you acknowledge your mistake.
  • In Robin McKinley's Sunshine, vampires use name magic. One laughs at the narrator for asking him his name, and later reveals it as a gesture of trust. Unlike most works, in Sunshine, the name is the name — or names — you use. The narrator is as vulnerable through her nickname "Sunshine" as through her name "Rae," and more vulnerable through either of those than through her long-disused birth name "Raven Blaise."
  • In Cate Tiernan's series Sweep, everything has a true name, from plants to people. One of the main characters actually finds out her father's true name and uses it to put a binding spell on him so the other characters can strip him of his powers.
  • Elizabeth Haydon's Symphony of Ages novels live on this trope. Especially in her first three books of the series, true names are bandied about or kept secret so they can't be abused as plot points practically every five pages.
  • In the Tales of Kolmar trilogy, knowing someone's true name gives power over them - they can be controlled when their true name is used. The Kantri (dragons), for example, have long names like Khordeshkhistriakhor, but they use a diminutive of their true name for everyday use (for example, that dragon is known as Akhor), and share the true one only with their lover and possibly best friends.
  • The Tale of the Five series, by Diane Duane, also uses the trope. People have powerful, secret true names, though most don't know what theirs is.
  • The short story "True Names" by Harry Turtledove is a parody of this trope. It's set After the End in "Eastexas", where the remnants of the American people have reverted to ignorant barbarism. A tribal shaman finds a book about taxonomic classification and believes the scientific Greek names given for animals to be their 'true names' that grant the one who knows them power over them.
  • Invoked, referenced, and played as straight as a non-fantasy can play it in Vernor Vinge proto-Cyberpunk story, True Names, in which the dangers of using your real name on the Internet is a major plot point. Criminal hackers (computer wizards) must keep their identities hidden from each other or risk blackmail or worse.
  • The Wandering Inn: Be very careful to whom you reveal your full name, as a scrying spell allows the user to see the whereabouts of the target, wherever it is, as long as he is aware of the full name.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has many examples, so naturally so does its literature segment:
    • The Horus Heresy novel False Gods has Temba whisper Horus's name to his warp-tainted sword, before fighting with new skill.
    • In the later novel Prospero Burns, a demon is able to control all the Space Wolves present by pulling their names from Kaspar Hawser's brain. Only one marine, called Bear, is immune to the control. When Hawser later asks why the demon couldn't control Bear, he learns that the demon pulled the names from his mind, and Hawser's gotten Bear's name wrong from day one. Bear's name is actually Bjorn.
    • Zygmunt Molotch, the villain of the Ravenor series, can subdue an opponent by speaking their full name using a Chaos skill called "Enuncia". (He can also briefly stun them using less than their full name, but this is much less effective.)
      • Toros Revoke, of the same series, is much better at using Enuncia as a weapon. He's able to shatter bones, burst internal organs, and drive back a daemonic assassin using it.
    • In Grey Knights, Ligeia's gibberish is actually the True Name of Ghargatuloth, and Alaric is the only one to realise this. It pays off.
    • Saying the name of a greater daemon while in its presence will send them instantly back to the warp. Their true name, mind. If a greater daemon of Khorne says its name is "Bob", it's probably lying.
    • The Grimoire of True Names. Incredibly rare and potent artifacts, guarded by the Daemonhunters (who else?). In the Grey Knights novel, Ligeia finds such a Grimoire - known as the Codicium Aeternium, thought to have been lost for centuries - after the capture of a rogue Inquisitor, which sets the Grey Knights off on the quest featured in that book.
    • In The Unremembered Empire, a daemon tells its true name to Damon Prytanis just before it goes to kill him, believing that it already knows his true name. It didn't stop to think that Prytanis wasn't his real name.
    • In the Thousand Sons trilogy, the sorcerer Ctesias specializes in binding daemons by learning their true names, breaking them down into their component syllables, and holding those syllables within psychic traps in his mind. In this way he can summon and control some of the most powerful daemons in the setting, including Doombreed. As he puts it:
      Names are more than titles. They pin our existence in place. Unname something, break its title, undo its calling, and you pull it apart. Ahriman did not want to talk to the Oracle – he wanted to chain him, and he had brought me to forge the links.
    • Note that saying or even knowing a daemon's true name is not free. An Imperial saint lost her sainthood using a daemon's true name to banish it, which purportedly included knowing many other true names. Others have gone insane from holding a true name in their head. Even a fragment of a true name can be debilitating or lethal to the untrained.
  • In Barbara Hambly's Winterlands series (that begins with Dragonsbane), everything, even inanimate objects, have true names. Any spell stronger than basic telepathy (which can be used to discover someone's true name) requires you to Know Your Target's True Name, and you have to power the spell by "sourcing" energy from things you know the true names of. Our Dragons Are Immune To Magic because nobody can figure out what their true names are. It turns out that dragons' true names are Magic Music.
  • The Wiz Biz/Wizardry series by Rick Cook; this also semi-averts people not realizing the best protection, as the hero is from another world and after a near-brush with revealing his true name, only goes by two different convenient nicknames. Other wizards also go by a nickname, or only a portion of their name, for the same reason. This comes in particularly handy when a bad guy sics an ultra-powerful demon onto the hero; said demon is dangerous because it can hunt and kill anyone whose name has ever been spoken in that world. This would be a perfect plan except for the "from another world" thing.
  • Diane Duane's Young Wizards series has the wizardly Speech as the Language of Magic. Knowing someone's true name does not let you control them, but it is needed to perform some types of spells on them. Wizards must "sign" spells with their name in the Speech, which comprise not only spoken names but personality and sense of identity. And writing the name of something differently in the Speech changes the thing so named, so they must be treated with extra care.
    • Nita exploits this in the climax of So You Want to be a Wizard when she's reading from The Book Of Night With Moon: She rewrites the last character of The Lone Power's name so instead of being trapped as evil forever, he has the option to turn back.
    • Another example occurs in A Wizard Abroad where to repay a debt, one of the Sidhe whispers what is presumably his true name to Nita, instructing her to speak it to call for aid one time if she needs it. It comes in handy when they encounter creatures that are immune to their spells and speaking it calls out said fey and The Cavalry (literally).
    • All of the words in the Language of Magic are the true names of the things they stand for. Which makes sense, since it was the language with which reality itself was written.
    • In Wizards at War it is revealed that The One's (God's) true name cannot be known to anyone in existence. There is so much power contained within the name itself that it could rewrite reality if misused. Because of this, one of the Powers That Be is given the name "Guardian of the Divided Name".


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