Some Old Unfinished Thoughts About New Names

For some reason, the words of songs from the musical Don Quixote have been running through my head.  The book itself I read several times, but long ago.  The musical, of course, departs from the book quite a bit, but its message rings true.  Don Quixote, a mentally unstable old man with a love of stories of chivalry, imagines himself to be a knight, cons a local into being his squire, and rides off in search of adventure.  What I have been pondering upon is how his illusions became real for some people, changing their lives for the better.  The most significant, I feel, is the story of Dulcinea.  Don Quixote, searching for the epitome of womanhood who will inspire his feats of courage, meets a prostitute at an inn and believes her to be his Dulcinea.  My old brain does not remember her real name, but that is not important, because as the play ends, the woman has begun to be Dulcinea; by treating her with the chaste love and respect of a knight, by seeing her for who she can be rather than who she has been, he inspires and empowers her to accept that new name as her real one.  The song she sings of her life and her past, a song of being rejected, betrayed and used, is powerful, harsh, and strident.  The song she sings with Don Quixote at the end, as he lies dying, is his song of belief in his “Impossible Dream,” sung with sweetness and hope. This pitiful old man, who had fantastic dreams of chilvalry and honor and dared to try to make them reality, despite being mocked and ridiculed, did not change any major history in the world.  What he accomplished, at least, was to change one person, freeing her from her past.

I have been rereading the first three books in Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance cycle, because the last one was recently published, and I’d forgotten much of the earlier three books.  Perhaps that is what got me started thinking about names, because in the stories, a fantasy series about dragons and their riders, the main character, Eragon, learns of the importance of knowing one’s true name.  Your true name embodies who you are, and you must discover it for yourself.  If someone else can figure out your true name, he would have the power to enslave you.  The significant thing Eragon learns, however, is that your true name can change as you change and grow.  Your name defines your essence but does not limit it.

This is as far as I got with this one, almost a year and a half ago.  I have long since finished reading the final book in the Inheritance Cycle,  I haven’t been humming Don Quixote songs lately, and I no longer remember where I was going with this blog……I know that I still am having a hard time figuring out how to actually post things, so maybe I was done and just never got it up on the board.  Here it is…..

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