The third and latest Thor movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe covers the apocalypse of Asgard, known as Ragnarok. Asgard is the world that Thor and the other Norse gods come from. In the movie (spoiler alert!), Odin – king of Asgard and the gods – dies, releasing Hela from her prison. She, the goddess of death, subsequently asserts her claim on the throne and exacts her injustice on all that defy her. Of course, I’m not here to review the movie – I’m here to discuss the names!
The movie has several Asgardian characters who I think are likely to affect baby naming in 2017 and 2018:
The title character and god of thunder has what can probably be described as the most “classic” name from Norse mythology in the U.S., as Social Security Administration birth data indicates usage stretching back over 100 years. Although Thor dropped from 2015 to 2016, chances are good that it will rise again in 2018 if not 2017! A decade or two ago, one could expect the birth of about 50 babies with this name every year. Since the films started, that estimate has doubled. There were only 87 Thor‘s born in 2016, but I can see two things going on there – 1) Avengers: Age of Ultron was a spring-release in 2015 (meaning less carry-over to 2016; most Thor movies come out in the late fall) and 2) Thor‘s 2016 appearances were restricted to short films and cameos. With Ragnarok’s hype and the upcoming release of Avengers: Infinity War next year, don’t be surprised if Thor spikes again.
Meanwhile, the name is being revived in parts of Scandinavia. Thor entered the Danish top 50 in 2015, and the Swedish top 100 last year. No word from Norway yet, where it fell out of fashion decades ago.
Loki has only been in use since the 90s, but in 2016 it was a more popular baby name than Thor! 92 boys were named Loki in the U.S., and it’s a top 500 name in England and Wales. To be fair, Loki looks more playful than Thor. I’d also say it’s a bit more low-key.
Curiously, a few parents have chosen the mischief god’s name for their daughters. This isn’t as strange as you might think. First, it’s increasingly common for semi-rare mythological names to veer unisex. Jupiter was even more popular for girls last year, despite its provenance as Roman king of the Gods. Secondly, there’s actually a myth about Loki turning into a female horse!
A new character! This is a name that has only appeared a few times in SSA data, and I don’t know if those occurrences are related to the comics persona. Hela is Marvel’s take on the Norse goddess Hel…I can see why they changed it. In the myths and comics, she is Loki’s daughter; in the movie, she’s Odin’s.
As a baby name, Hela (rhymes with Ayla) is more usable than Hel, which was recently rejected by the Icelandic Naming Committee for potentially harming its bearer. Despite being hell-bent on destruction, Hela is a fantastic warrior who looks rather like Maleficent-in-tights (and yes, there are a few young girls named Maleficent). Some parents seem to appreciate “evil but empowering” namesakes for their daughters, so don’t be surprised if the name Hela returns this year or next.
Meaning “chooser of the slain,” Valkyrie is already on the rise. 48 girls were given this in 2016, higher than ever before! This not-so-name is really a mythological designation for the women who observed battles, chose the dead, and served mead to them until they were needed to fight again in Ragnarök. In the movie, the Valkyries were a group of epic battle-maidens who were obliterated fighting Hela; the character Valkyrie was the only survivor. Regarding the name, I think makes for an interesting update on Valerie!
Odin‘s appearances might also have a small effect, but that name is already popular (#383) and rising on its own. Out of all the movie’s characters I think the Asgardian / Norse names generally will have the most impact on baby names, but there’s one more character name that won’t surprise me if it rises.
44 boys and 5 girls were given this name in 2016. Banner has risen steadily since the 2012 release of The Avengers. Bruce temporarily rose between 2011 and 2014, but is declining again. Banner is a more obvious, fresher reference to the character than Bruce, and probably the trendier of the two names.
Did you enjoy the movie? What do you think about these names? Are there any other character names you think might rise or appear? Let me know in the comments!