[Unsong Spoilers] Character names, in light of the ending...

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[Unsong Spoilers] Character names, in light of the ending...

Post by chel_of_the_sea » Wed May 24, 2017 5:56 pm

There's been a lot in the comments on Unsong's chapters about nominative determinism within the story, but I was thinking about them in retrospect:

Aaron Smith-Teller: Aaron meets both the overt and kabbalistic meanings cited in Chapter 10: he's the narrator, so he fits "one who tells a story", and he fits "one who calls down destructive celestial energies" both by (a) causing the apocalypse and (b) being the one to speak the Shem haMephorash. I don't remember this being mentioned in the story, but he's also a Smith in two senses: he is a roughly everyman narrator (Smith is a generic name) and he seeks to remake the world (as a smith does). But he's also a Smith-Teller - he is the one who tells the Comet King how to remake Hell.

Robin: Aside from the metaphor for Elisha Ben Abuyah's sparrow, she's a lady who tries to be good. In other words, a lady singer, a bird that sings, a songbird.

The Comet King: In retrospect it should have been obvious that he would return, because comets always do. There's also an etymological link: comet comes from Greek for long-haired, and the Comet King's hair is indeed long. But the most interesting link to me is the kabbalistic interpretations of the word comet, which if I had to write it Scott-style, would read:
The overt meaning of "comet" is "an astronomical body". The kabbalistic meaning is "a thing that brings destructive change".

We derive this from many sources. A massive comet impact on the Yucatan Peninsula killed the dinosaurs, paving the way for mammals. The word "Yucatan" itself comes from the Spanish contact with the Americas: either a misunderstanding of Maya ma'anaatik ka t'ann ("I don't understand you") or Maya uh yu ka t'ann ("Hear how [the Spanish] talk"). The Spanish contact destroyed the existing civilizations of the Americas, and paved the way for their modern history. Modern history produced the controversial state of Israel, whose Shavit ("comet") rockets were an offshoot of their ICBM project, and the Comet brand of abrasive cleansers. Comet soaps, in turn, were invented by Proctor and Gamble, a company named after a candlemaker and a soapmaker. Candles bring light by melting, soaps clean by destroying grime. Proctor and Gamble is currently run by a man named David Taylor. The kabbalistic interpretations of being named after King David are obvious, and Taylor comes from the profession: one who uses cuts to create a better shape.
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