Research article
Issue: № 4 (12), 2017


The paper aims at exemplifying the characteristic features of onomastic space of a fantasy text. The authors examine the notion of a ‘mythonym’, systemize different approaches to classifying mythonymical units. The conducted study permitted to work out a thematic classification of mythonyms from the novels “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” by J.R.R. Tolkien and “A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones” by G.R.R. Martin and to draw the conclusion on mythonyms’ role in fantasy literature.


Fantasy fiction today has become a major publishing phenomenon. In spite of this, there is still much contradiction when it comes to giving a definition or singling out the criteria, which are specific for the genre of fantasy and which distinguish it from related genres, such as science fiction, escape fiction, surreal fiction, etc. The authors of the Encyclopedia of Fantasy point out to the primary feature of a text referred to as a fantasy text: “when set in this world, it tells a story which is impossible in the world as we perceive it; when set in an otherworld, that otherworld will be impossible, though stories set there may be possible in its terms” [7]. In other words, a fantasy writer aims primarily at violating what is generally accepted as impossible and there are various ways and techniques, which allow him to do this. B. Attebery, the author of a rigorous research on the fantasy tradition in American literature, states that there are certain ways for a story to proclaim its fantasy nature: “It can involve beings whose existence we know to be impossible, like dragons, flying horses, or shape-shifting men. It can revolve around magical objects: rings, hats, or castles possessing wills, voices, mobility, and other attributes inanimate objects do not, in our experience, possess” [6, P. 2]. The names of these magic beings and objects form onomastic space of a fantasy text. Such Russian linguists as A.V. Superanskaya and N. V. Podolskaya define onyms, functioning in fantasy texts, as mythonyms: “Mythonyms are proper names which function in the onomastic space of a fiction text describing the name of any sphere of onomastic space in myths, epics, fairy tales and folk epic stories” [4, P. 124–125], see also [5, P. 180]. Mythonymia as a linguistic phenomenon has not been thoroughly investigated yet, as in most cases the attention of the researchers is focused mainly on “natural proper names” and “literary proper names” [5, P. 22], leaving out mythonyms from the research scope. The aim of the present paper is to analyze the mythonymic space of the English-language fantasy literature on the works of such genuine fantasy writers as J. R. R. Tolkien and G. R. R. Martin and to examine the semantic load and a hidden associative background characteristic for the units of mythonymic space.


The system of methods used in the work combines the method of philological research and the method of comparative linguistic analysis of the mythonyms, selected from the novels The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien and A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones by G.R.R. Martin.


Mythonymical space of a literary work is characterized by a high degree of heterogeneity. One of the most common approaches, often applied within the framework of folklore studies is to divide the units of mythonymical space into ‘theonyms’, i.e. onyms, referring to deities and ‘demonyms’, onyms referring to names of demoniac creatures (see eg. [2]).

V. V. Belousova suggested classifying mythonyms into neomythonyms and author’s myth appellatives as two forms of onyms, used by the authors in creating the artistic imagery in science fiction of the XX–XXI centuries. According to the scholar, neomythonyms are onyms derived from myths, fairy tales and legends, but which underwent the process of derivative and semantic changes. Neomythonyms are not limited by the boundaries of the text, within which they came into being, while myth appellatives, on the contrary, exist only within the source text, marking peculiarity of the linguistic personality of the author [1, P. 94].  

N. V. Podolskaya in The Dictionary of Russian Onomastic Terminology presented a generalized scheme for structuring mythonymical units into several groups: mythoanthroponyms, mythotoponyms, mythopersonyms, mythozoonyms, mythophytonyms [3, P. 124–125].

The International Council of Onomastic Sciences (ICOS) has worked out a list of frequently-met terms for designating different groups of onyms or proper names, including anthroponyms, astronyms, charactonyms, chrematonyms, endonyms, ergonyms, ethnonyms, exonyms, hodonyms, hydronyms, oronyms, theonyms and others [8].

The described above classifications of mythonymical units are based on different criteria and aim at giving a generalized picture of mythonyms as a whole. Our task was to study the onyms, comprising mythonymical space of a fantasy text. Before embarking on the discussion of the semantic load and an associative background characteristic for the mythonyms under analysis, it seemed vital to us to present a detailed classification of these units, showing their complexity, high degree of variability and extreme diversity. Having analyzed more than 1000 mythonymical units, selected from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien and A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones by G.R.R. Martin we distributed them into several thematic groups.

Groups of mythonyms from The Lord of the Rings by J. Tolkien: 1. collectives: Beleriand, Beornings, Bucklanders, Сounsels of the Wise and Great, Hobbitry-in-arms, Last Alliance, Nine Servants, Ringwraith Shirrifs, Shire-muster, White Council etc.; 2. books: Book of Mazarbul, Elven-lore, Here and Back Again, Herblore of the Shire, Old Words and Names in Shire, Reckoning of Years, Red Book of Westmarch etc.; 3. races and representatives: Big Folk, Bounders, High Elves, Firstborn, Wise People, etc.; 4. names of characters: Adelard, Ancalagon the Black, Aragorn, Balin, Barliman Butterbur, Celebrimbor, Deagol etc.; 5. periods of time: Black Years, Days of Dearth, Li, One Gross, Tweens etc.; 6. territories: Anduin, Blessed Realm, Carn Dum, Eastfarthing, Ithilien, Longbottom, Middle Earth etc.; 7. forests: Chetwood, Golden Wood, Greenwood the Great, Mirkwood, Woodhall etc.; 8. mountains: Amon Hen, Barazinbar, Blue Mountains,  Cloudyhead, Emun Muil etc.; 9. water sources: Brandywine, Bruinen of Rivendell, Esgalduin, Great Sea, Long Lake, Mirrormere etc.; 10. bridges and crossings: Bridgefild, Buckleburry Ferry, Stock-brook, Tharbad etc.; 11. settlements: Annuminas, Arnor, Bag End, Caras Galadhon, Eldamar, Hobbiton, Rivendell etc.; 12. titles: Chief of the Dunedian, Elder King, Free Lord, High king at Fornost, Mayor of Michel Delving, Thain etc.; 13.  languages: Bree-dialect, Common Speech, Fair elven-tongue, Language of Rohirrim, Westorn Speech etc.; 14. battles: Battle of Dagorlad, Battle of Five Armies, Battle of Greenfields, War of the Ring; 15. plants: Athleas, Elanor, Longbottom leaf, Niphredil, Old Toby etc.; 16. weapon: Aeglos, Durin's Axe, Glamdring, Orcrist, Spear of Gil-galad, Sting etc.; 17. Fortresses: Amon Sul, Budgeford, Citadel of the Stars, Dol Guldur, Minas Anor, Osgiliath, Thangorodrim etc.; 18. great rings: Elven-ring, Master-ring, One Ring, Ruling Ring, Presious etc.; 19. taverns: Forsaken Inn, Golden Perch, Green Dragon, Inn of Bree, Prancing Pony etc.; 20. stars: Evenstar, Netted Stars, Remmirath, Star of the House of Feanor etc.; 21. pyrotechnics: Backappear, Dwarf-candels, Elf-fountains, Goblin-barkers etc.; 22. minerals and materials: Calacirya, Elessar, Elfstone, Hithlain, Mithril, Silmaril; 23. miscellaneous: Ann-nnath, Argonath, Black Breath, G 3, G for Grand, Ghash, Lembas, Smial etc.  

Groups of mythonyms from A Game of Thrones by G. Martin: 1. names of characters: Aemon, Benjen, Cerenna, Desmond, Grey Worm, Hizdahr zo Loraq, Jaehaerys, Jaqen H'ghar, Khal Drogo, Maege Mormont etc.; 2. nicknames: Arrogant, Beggar King, Blackfish, Conqueror, Damphair, Hound, Imp, King-beyond-the-Wall, Lord of Bones etc.; 3. organizations: City Watch, Iron Bank of Braavos, Iron Fleet, Kingsguard, Night`s Watch, Sons of the Harpy, Unsullied etc.; 4. peoples and races: Andals, Children of the Forest, Dothraki, Faceless Men, Rhoynar, Whights, Wildigs etc.; 5. mythical creatures: Aurochs, Basilisk, Bloodfly, Direwolf, Dragon, Hrakkar, Shadowcat etc.; 6. locations: Arbor, Blackwater Rush, Braavos, Casterly Rock, Dothraki Sea, Free City of Norvos, Iron Islands, Riverrun etc.; 7. titles and professions: Defender of the Vale, First Steward of the Night's Watch, First Sword of Braavos, Grand Maester, Hand of the King, Knight of the Gate, Master of coin, Voice of Oldtown etc.; 8. houses: House Allyrion, House Clegane, House Estermont, House Greyjoy, House Mallister etc.; 9. mottos: As High As Honor, Fire and Blood, Hear me Roar, We Do Not Sow, Winter Is Coming etc.; 10. dragons: Arrax, Balerion, Dreamfyre, Grey Ghost, Sheapsteller, Viserion etc.; 11. miscellaneous: Dance of the Dragons, Drowned God, Greenseer, Longclaw,  Skinchanger, Valar morghulis etc.  

The comparative analysis of the thematic groups of mythonyms from the works by J. Tolkien and G. Martin shows, that mythonymical space of both texts has the onyms from the same thematic groups, such as proper names, locations, races, collectives, titles and miscellaneous. In most cases, these mythonyms carry a vividly expressed semantic load, have an unusual sound image and a hidden associative background. It seems worth mentioning, that though the characters of A Game of Thrones mainly do not believe in mythical creatures, the author inhabits his world with a great quantity of them (e.g. Direwof, Firewyrm, Bloodfly, Little Valyrian, Lizard-lion). Special attention is given to dragons – the symbol of the House Targaryen (e.g. Drogon, Rhaegal, Viserion, Balerion). One of the main difference between the world of Middle-earth and Westeros is that the majority of mythical creatures of The Lord of the Rings are sensible or intellectual. For this reason, they are considered as representatives of races and can not be allocated to a group of magical beasts.

Certain attention should be given to the thematic group labelled as ‘Miscellaneous’. J. Tolkien coined the names of diseases (e.g. the Fark Plague, Isildur`s Bane), public events (e.g. the Shire-moot, the Free Fair, Bilbo`s Birthday Party), symbols (e.g. G3, G for Grand, Elvish letters). G. Martin’s creativity resulted in devising the names for religions (e.g. Drowned God, Many-Faced God, Faith of the Seven, R`hllor), historical events (e.g. Dance of Dragons, Age of Heroes, War of Conquest, Sack of King`s Landing), legendary weapons and combat styles (e.g. Longclaw, Water Dancing).

Both authors use a wide range of onyms For example, in The Lord of the Rings the onyms from Frodo`s neighborhood allow readers to imagine their appearance (e.g. Bolger, Bracegirdle, Proudfoot, Goodbody, Twofoot), character (e.g. Gamgee, Bracegirdle), occupation (e.g. Grub, Chub, Hornblower, Burrow), origin (e.g. Underhill). As for the mythotoponyms, in most cases J. Tolkien implicates a particular concept in the names of locations and territories. For example, the mythotoponym Mirkwood means that this place is poorly explored, travelers are often lost there and there are many dangerous and mysterious creatures. On the contrary, Greenwood the Great indicates that the forest is safe and does not constitute danger for wanderers. Such onyms are characterized by a certain degree of

G. Martin uses such “meaningful” onyms to inform his readers about the typical traits of locations and their inhabitants. For example, the main events of A Game of Thrones take place in the northern and southern parts of the continent, bearing a certain resemblance to the medieval England. The names of continental locations and territories possess transparent inner form and can easily render the meaning the author implied in the process of their coining: King`s Landing, White Harbor, the Eyrie represent the stage for the inland internal strife. On the other hand, the lands extending beyond the Wall and on the other side of the Summer Sea are referred to as wild territories; their inhabitants are called wizards or wildings. The names of these places underline their foreign origin. They present certain difficulties for comprehension: Braavos, Ghiscari, the Dotraki Sea, Yi Ti. These locations serve as the main sources of mythical creatures and people, which in their turn may possess : the Faceless Men, the Children of the Forest, Giants. Such mythopersonyms as Sir Preston Greenfield, Jon Snow, Jaqen H`ghar, Yezzan zo Qaggaz emphasize the origin of the characters. Thus, the desired communicative effect is achieved.


Authors working in the fantasy genre often create a unique otherworld for their readers to ponder about. Onomastic space of a fiction text plays a vital role in proclaiming fantasy nature of the text.  An author of a fantasy text often acts as a mythmaker, creating unique fictional proper names or borrowing, modifying and adapting mythonyms from other sources. Applying a wide range of onyms possessing a vividly expressed characterizing function fantasy-writers add different associative meanings easily perceived by the readers from the context or even without it.

The conducted analysis of the mythonymical space in J. Tolkien’s and G. Martin’s texts has shown that the fantasy worlds of both novels are characterized by complexity, high degree of variability and extreme diversity. The imaginary worlds created by both writers are very different in terms of their structure and quantitative characteristics. Within the framework of fantasy texts mythonyms serve the purposes of rendering the communicative intention of the author by way of showing the reader an imaginary world and its characters. At the same time, mythonyms provide an excellent possibility for the author to realize his or her creative intention.  Finally, mythonyms serve as culturally bound words reflecting the specificity of culture, history and traditions of an imaginary world presented as a real one.


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