Namestealer’s Journey

With “Namestealer’s Journey,” which was published in the Spring/Summer 1985 issue of Potboiler, I came up with a fantasy conceit which I now realize was so unwieldly that there was no logical way it would ever have worked in “reality.”

In my created universe, no one gets to learn his own name until he is about to die. The first time they utter it must be to the gods who will let them into heaven, and the tribe shares this information in a complex naming ceremony. When the mother of the protagonist dies without learning her own name—meaning that she will not be able to speak it to the gods—our hero tricks his friends in order to learn his own name so that he can go to the gods himself and lead her to heaven.

Obviously, there are too many ramifications to this naming concept to pass the suspension of disbelief test, but it sure seemed workable at the time …