Ed Sheeran


This week Ed Sheeran and Cherry Seaborn announced the birth of their baby daughter, Lyra Antarctica Seaborn Sheeran, causing His Dark Materials to trend on Twitter. 

Lyra, of course, is the name of the protagonist in Philip Pullman's trilogy, which Sheeran choose as his castaway book on BBC show 'Desert Island Discs' in 2017.

Lyra is a fine chose of role model: smart, fearless and extremely adept at riding polar bears (a useful life skill if ever there was one).

It got us wondering what other baby names new parents might take from the world of literature, and what each choice might mean for their new bundle of joy.

Scout - To Kill A Mockingbird

Perhaps the most famous child in literature, Scout is an adventurous soul with a big heart. Her burgeoning sense of morality and fairness is shaped by Atticus Finch (perhap the most famous dad in literature ) and his courage to take a stand against the racism that pervaded mid-30s America. 

Matilda - Matilda

The hero of one of Roald Dahl’s finest books, Matilda has emerged in recent years as a feminist icon and a sort of patron saint for quiet but intelligent girls who are underestimated by bullies and blowhards, at their peril. So clever she can move things with her mind, any Matildas are sure to be destined for greatness – or at least an excellent book collection.

Arya - Game of Thrones

While there may be a few sheepish parents out there who named their child Daenerys at the peak of Game of Thrones mania, before seeing exactly how the show’s finale played out (don’t let her play with the birthday candles, is all we’re saying), Arya Stark was as wonderful at the end as she is throughout the (still not finished) books. If you want to raise a true free spirit who can take care of herself, an Arya it is.

Zuleika - The Emperor's Babe

Zuleika – or Zee for short – is the star of one of Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo’s earliest novels, The Emperor’s Babe. Living in Londinium AD 211, she is taken as a teen bride by a passing nobleman but bravely resists her gilded cage to follow her own idea of happiness. Charming, resourceful and wickedly funny – who wouldn’t want a daughter like that?

Gerasim - The Death of Ivan Ilyich

OK, we’re going very highbrow for a moment. Leo Tolstoy’s novella about the protracted death of an unremarkable man may be one of the most morbid works of literature in history, but nestled within it is a character of true nobility. The protagonist’s butler is a young man of endless patience and empathy, who brings Ivan comfort in his dying hours as his family abandons him. He's so great, students of palliative care are often encouraged to study him as part of their training. 

Montag - Fahrenheit 451

We know: his first name is actually Guy. But the surname of Ray Bradbury’s famous protagonist is pretty cool too, don’t you think? In any case: Guy Montag is a fireman who job it is to burn books, until one day he sees the light and rebels against a society that has outlawed literature. Brave enough to be a fireman and battle against an oppressive totalitarian regime? Sounds like a great namesake to us.

Emira - Such A Fun Age

The protagonist of Kiley Reid’s hilarious, Booker-longlisted debut novel Such A Fun Age worries she doesn’t have her life together compared to her friends. But the way she deftly deals with her neurotic boss and domineering boyfriend – both of whom try and make her the salvation of their own anxieties about race – in order to forge her own path makes her one of the most inspiring characters in new fiction this year. Plus the way she looks after Briar, the neglected toddler at the heart of the story, is a mini masterclass in child-rearing.

Ishmael - Moby Dick

“Call me Ishmael,” your child, Ishmael, can say throughout their life to the delight of anyone who has read Herman Melville’s towering classic (well, the first page at least). Less the protagonist than a sort of floating, all-seeing narrator, Ishmael nevertheless is in the driving seat of what is arguably the greatest work of fiction in American history, which isn’t a bad literary pedigree to drawn on. 

Robinson - Robinson Crusoe

It’s not all that often you meet a Robinson, and in the case of the hero of ‘the first novel in the English language’, Daniel Defoe’s 1719 classic, even less often: he’s shipwrecked alone on a desert island for years. By his own estimation Robinson isn’t the luckiest of fellows, but he sure is resourceful and capable of moments of great kindness. And if want a child with a sense of adventure - well, Robinson is pretty much the first word in it.

What are your favourite literary names? Let us know on editor@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk.


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