Over the years, I’ve been cold-emailed and messaged by soon-to-be parents, fantasy nerds, and general weirdos on the internet asking me “what’s it like to have a name like Thorin?”
I’ve also been asked, “Is that Norwegian?” “Are you a viking?” “Are you Scandinavian?” “Is that your real name?” and, more rarely, “Like, from The Hobbit?” (The number of people who make this connection is slim, even after the release of most recent Hobbit movies, perhaps because the movies were bad).
At a retail job I had in my 20s, someone who’d seen my name on the time sheet–but never met me–thought I was just some goth kid who’d changed their name to something “gothy.”
I’ve been called: “Lorin,” “Thorn,” “Lorn,” “Dorn,” “Dorin,” “Torin,” “Ian,” and “Thor.” Sometimes people will just latch onto a name they’re more familiar with that sounds vaguely similar, like “Nathan” or “Darren.” This has gotten worse with the pandemic, where I have trouble enunciating my name clearly through my mask.
Sometimes I wonder if “Thorin Klosowski,” as a name meets some specific balance of “sounding sort of foreign” but also “familiar,” where people don’t feel weird asking me about it. Maybe everyone in America with uncommon names gets questioned about them. Or maybe it’s just because I’m a white dude. In any case, I’d love to hear about other people experiences with less common names.
Throughout my life, I’ve gone through waves of embarrassment, pride, ennui, and acceptance. I’ve given various nods and agreements over the years to stupid questions, depending on the circumstances or my mood. I answer differently to “Is that a viking name?” if the question comes from a meathead of a man looking to crush my entire forearm with a handshake than if it’s asked by an elderly person with a curious glint in their eyes. I do not correct people who mispronounce my name if I do not think I’ll ever see them again. This has bitten me on the ass before, as there’s one cyclist dude who still calls me Lorin.
When someone asks, “Where’s your name from?” I typically perform some basic mental math in the moment, first attempting to gauge their interest and familiarity with The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, then deciding if that’s something they’ll appreciate or scoff at. Sometimes I’ll toss in that my parents were hippies, to deflect the question and make clear that it’s my real name. Occasionally I’ll just say it’s from a book my parents liked, if I really don’t feel like talking about it.
There’s a strangeness to being named after a character in a hugely popular book that most people don’t seem to actually remember the characters from, beyond perhaps Gandalf or Bilbo. Even with people familiar with the books (or movies), Thorin doesn’t seem to stick in people’s memories, despite the character’s importance in the plot. Maybe the name just gets mushed together with the other dwarves in the book.
If anything, I feel like people are sometimes disappointed when they meet me in real life after reading my name, especially if they mentally link it to Thor. I’m not big person, on the short side, and I have the arm strength of a wet noodle. When people think of Thor they think of the literal opposite. Where I’m more like, well, a Thorin.
Let’s just finish this with an FAQ:
Is that Norwegian?
Are you a viking?
Are you Scandinavian?
Like the comic book hero?
No, that’s Thor.
Like the Greek god?
No, I think you’re thinking of the Norse god. Or you’re thinking of Zeus.
Like the Norse god?
No, that’s Thor.
How’d you get a name like that?
This question feels rude to me?
Is that your real name?
Yes. Also, that’s a rude question.
What’s it like to grow up with a name like Thorin?
Honestly, it’s fine. But also that’s a rude question to ask someone. What if my childhood sucked? What if that brings up painful memories?
Anyway, as a child, the most common bullying tactic was to call me “thorn bush.” As a kid this seemed terrible, but in retrospect barely makes any sense. Is a thorn bush bad? Is it good? Is the simple act of poking fun at a child’s name all it takes? I’m confident that, had I had a different name, the bullies would have found plenty of other outlets, four-eyes or “scrawny” were always right there.
Like, from The Hobbit?
So, are you big into the books?
They’re fine, but I’m pretty indifferent about fantasy as a genre. More of a sci-fi and mystery person, really. I enjoy watching the Lord of Rings movies every couple years around the holidays. I’ll likely never watch The Hobbit movies again, but the cartoon is great.
Do you like your name?
Sure, yeah, it’s fine. It’s good. It’s a name. It’s my name.