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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.

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From A Game Of Thrones to War and Peace: These are America's 100 Favorite Books
Denis De Marney, Getty Images
Denis De Marney, Getty Images

Die-hard classic literature lovers might quibble over Fifty Shades of Grey being placed on the same list as Jane Eyre, but alas, the people have spoken. Both are among America’s 100 favorite novels, according to a national survey conducted by YouGov.

The list was compiled in support of The Great American Read, an upcoming PBS series about the joys of reading. Set to premiere on May 22, the eight-part series will introduce the "100 best-loved novels" and feature interviews with famous authors, comedians, actors, athletes, and more. A few of the featured guests will include George Lopez, Seth Meyers, Venus Williams, and James Patterson. Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, A Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao author Junot Díaz, all of whom have books on the list, will also make appearances.

On the day of the series premiere, PBS will launch a round of voting to determine "America’s Best-Loved Novel." Viewers across the country will have the chance to choose their favorite book from the list of 100 and place their vote online, or through Facebook or Twitter using the #GreatReadPBS hashtag. The winner will be announced this fall.

The oldest book on the list is Don Quixote, a classic Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes (1603), while the newest is Ghost (2016), a young adult book by Jason Reynolds. The list includes authors from 15 different countries, and the books span several genres. Many of the novels are staples on high school summer reading lists, including 1984, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Scroll down for the full list of America's favorite books, arranged in alphabetical order.

1984
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Game of Thrones
A Prayer for Owen Meany
A Separate Peace
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Alchemist
Alex Cross Mysteries (series)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Americanah
And Then There Were None
Anne of Green Gables
Another Country
Atlas Shrugged
Beloved
Bless Me, Ultima
The Book Thief
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
The Call of the Wild
Catch-22
The Catcher in the Rye
Charlotte's Web
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Clan of the Cave Bear
The Coldest Winter Ever
The Color Purple
The Count of Monte Cristo
Crime and Punishment
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Da Vinci Code
Don Quixote
Doña Barbara
Dune
Fifty Shades of Grey
Flowers in the Attic
Foundation
Frankenstein
Ghost
Gilead
The Giver
The Godfather
Gone Girl
Gone with the Wind
The Grapes of Wrath
Great Expectations
The Great Gatsby
Gulliver's Travels
The Handmaid's Tale
Harry Potter (series)
Hatchet
Heart of Darkness
The Help
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hunger Games
The Hunt for Red October
The Intuitionist
Invisible Man
Jane Eyre
The Joy Luck Club
Jurassic Park
Left Behind
The Little Prince
Little Women
Lonesome Dove
Looking for Alaska
The Lord of the Rings (series)
The Lovely Bones
The Martian
Memoirs of a Geisha
Mind Invaders
Moby Dick
The Notebook
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Outlander
The Outsiders
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Pilgrim's Progress
The Pillars of the Earth
Pride and Prejudice
Ready Player One
Rebecca
The Shack
Siddhartha
The Sirens of Titan
The Stand
The Sun Also Rises
Swan Song
Tales of the City
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Things Fall Apart
This Present Darkness
To Kill a Mockingbird
Twilight
War and Peace
Watchers
The Wheel of Time (series)
Where the Red Fern Grows
White Teeth
Wuthering Heights

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15 Intriguing Facts About George Eliot
Image: London Stereoscopic Company, Getty Images. Background: iStock. Composite: Lucy Quintanilla, Mental Floss
Image: London Stereoscopic Company, Getty Images. Background: iStock. Composite: Lucy Quintanilla, Mental Floss

Born in England in 1819, novelist and poet George Eliot is best remembered for writing classic books like Middlemarch and Silas Marner. Despite the time period she wrote in, the author—whose real name was Mary Anne (or Marian) Evans—was no stuffy Victorian. She had a famously scandalous love life and, among other linguistic accomplishments, is responsible for the term pop music. Here are 15 things you might not know about the beloved British writer.

1. SHE WAS BORN ON THE ESTATE WHERE HER FATHER WORKED.

Eliot was born on the grounds of Arbury Hall and Estate, a sprawling mansion in Warwickshire, England with hundreds of acres of surrounding gardens and farmland. Her father, Robert Evans, worked for the estate's owners, the Newdigate family, as a manager and agent. His job entailed collecting rents from tenant farmers and overseeing the property's coal mine.

2. HER RURAL UPBRINGING INSPIRED HER LATER NOVELS.

Arbury Hall
Arbury Hall
Elliott Brown, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Eliot was just an infant when her family moved from Arbury Hall to a home in a nearby town. But Arbury and the Warwickshire countryside left their mark on her. In Scenes of Clerical Life (1858), Eliot's collection of three short stories, she wrote about the area and drew inspiration from real places and people. And some of her stories mirrored reality pretty closely. For instance, she turned Arbury Hall into Cheverel Manor, and Sir Roger Newdigate, Arbury's owner, into Sir Christopher Cheverel.

3. SHE EDITED A JOURNAL FOR PROGRESSIVE THINKERS.

In the early 1850s, Eliot wrote for The Westminster Review, a London-based periodical founded by philosophers Jeremy Bentham and James Mill, contributing essays and reviews using the name Marian Evans. She soon became the de facto editor of the progressive journal, though her role was anonymous. Years later, other writers reviewed Eliot's own pseudonymous works in the journal she once edited.

4. SHE WORKED AS A TRANSLATOR.

Throughout her life, Eliot put her language skills to work translating foreign works into English. She translated books like David Friedrich Strauss's Das Leben Jesu (The Life of Jesus), a highly controversial German treatise that argued that Jesus Christ was a real person, but not divine. (Upon reading her translation, one English nobleman called it "the most pestilential book ever vomited out of the jaws of hell.") Eliot also translated The Essence of Christianity by German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach and the Latin Ethics by Benedict de Spinoza, incorporating facets of these philosophical and religious ideas into her own writing.

5. SHE WASN'T A FAN OF MOST WOMEN WRITERS OF HER DAY.

Eliot was by no means a misogynist, but she did have some harsh words for fellow women writers. In an anonymous essay titled "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists," Eliot lamented the frivolous characters and unrealistic plots that she argued were nearly ubiquitous features of novels written by women at the time. Published in The Westminster Review in 1856, Eliot's essay asserted that these books, full of cliches and improbable romantic endings, made educated women look foolish. She also criticized the writing style of other women of her time, saying they mistook "vagueness for depth, bombast for eloquence, and affectation for originality." However, she did allow that not every book written by a woman fell into this trap, praising writers like Currer Bell (Charlotte Brontë) and Elizabeth Gaskell.

6. SHE WAS NOT CONSIDERED CONVENTIONALLY ATTRACTIVE …

George Eliot, circa 1868.
George Eliot, circa 1868.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Eliot's appearance was a source of avid discussion during her lifetime, and her looks continue to fascinate readers today. Eliot herself joked about her ugliness in letters to friends, and the novelist Henry James once described her in a letter to his father as "magnificently ugly, deliciously hideous." He went on to say that the "horse-faced" writer had a "vast pendulous nose," a low forehead, and bad teeth, among other physical flaws.

7. … BUT MEN LOVED HER.

Despite her plain appearance, men were drawn to Eliot. In the same letter where he called her "deliciously hideous," James explained his counterintuitive attraction towards her like this: "Now in this vast ugliness resides a most powerful beauty which, in a very few minutes, steals forth and charms the mind, so that you end, as I ended, in falling in love with her."

After various dalliances and a marriage proposal that she turned down, she spent more than two decades with the philosopher and critic George Lewes. But Lewes was already married, and as a result, many in Eliot's social circle (including her brother) shunned her. Though Lewes couldn't obtain an official divorce from his estranged wife, he and Eliot lived together as partners until his death in 1878, and she referred to herself as Mrs. Marian Lewes.

8. HER PEN NAME PAID HOMAGE TO HER LOVER.

In 1856, both to avoid the sexism of the publishing industry and distance her literary work from her scandalous romantic situation, she adopted the pen name George Eliot, a male nom de plume that paid homage to Lewes. In addition to adopting his first name, some historians have also suggested that "Eliot" derives from "To L(ewes), I owe it."

9. SHE MARRIED A MAN TWO DECADES HER JUNIOR …

After Lewes's death, Eliot channeled her grief by editing his writing and spending time with her lawyer and accountant, John Cross. Although Eliot was 60 and Cross was just 40, the two friends fell in love and married at London's St. George's Church in the spring of 1880.

10. … BUT THEIR HONEYMOON TOOK A DARK TURN.

After their wedding, the pair traveled to Venice, Italy for their honeymoon. Although Cross wrote a letter to his sister indicating that he was having a delightful time, Eliot knew something was wrong. Her new husband was depressed, agitated, and losing weight. She called a doctor to their hotel room and was speaking with him when Cross jumped off the balcony into the Grand Canal.

Cross was rescued by a hotel worker and the personal gondolier the couple had hired to take them around the waterways. The newlyweds eventually continued on their trip, and they remained married until Eliot's death later that year. Historians continue to speculate about the reason for his jump, and whether it was a suicide attempt—Cross may have had a personal and family history of mental illness—or some kind of heat-induced delirium. The mysterious incident was recently turned into a novel.

11. SHE INVENTED THE TERM POP

You probably don't associate George Eliot with Lady Gaga, but the Oxford English Dictionary credits the Victorian novelist with coining the term pop to refer to popular music. In November 1862, Eliot wrote in a birthday letter to a friend, "We have been to a Monday Pop. this week to hear Beethoven's Septet, and an amazing thing of Bach's played by the amazing Joachim. But there is too much 'Pop.' for the thorough enjoyment of the chamber music they give."

12. … AND A NEW MEANING OF THE WORD BROWSER.

George Eliot statue in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, UK
George Eliot statue in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, UK

Diamond Geezer, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Eliot coined a number of other now-common terms in her writing. For instance, she was the first to use the word browser in the modern sense of someone who is casually looking around (like a browser in a bookstore). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in the 16th century, the word browser meant “a person who cuts the leaves and twigs of trees to use as food for animals in winter." Later, it came to mean an animal that searched for leaves and twigs to eat. Eliot's historical novel Romola marked the first recorded time the word was used to mean a person generally surveying something. In it, she describes several friends of Florentine politician Bartolomeo Scala as "amiable browsers in the Medicean park."

13. SHE WAS ALSO A POET.

Although Eliot was most famous for her novels, she also produced two volumes of poetry. Her first published piece of writing was a poem called "Knowing That Shortly I Must Put Off This Tabernacle." Published in The Christian Observer in 1840, the poem refers to the Bible and imagines a person who is about to die saying goodbye to Earth. In a later poem, "O May I Join the Choir Invisible," Eliot argues that improving the world during one's lifetime is the only way to achieve permanence.

14. VIRGINIA WOOLF ADMIRED HER WRITING.

Author Virginia Woolf praised Middlemarch's mature prose, referring to it as "the magnificent book which with all its imperfections is one of the few English novels written for grown-up people." And modern readers seem to agree. In 2015, a BBC poll of 82 book critics from around the world named Middlemarch the greatest British novel of all time. Several authors, including Julian Barnes and Martin Amis, have also listed the book as one of the greatest English novels ever written.

15. HER FORMER HOME IS NOW A STEAKHOUSE.

Griff House, where Eliot lived as an infant until her early twenties, still exists, but it's now home to a steakhouse and hotel. Called the Griff House Beefeater & Nuneaton Premier Travel Inn, the spot also features a pond, gardens, and a play area for kids.

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