I know some novels or sagas where the title of the work appears to be some variation of the protagonist's name. For example, the Aeneid is named after Aeneas. In high fantasy, the Belgariad is named after Belgarion, and the Silmarillion is named after the Silmarils (although the Silmarils are not protagonists, they are at the centre of the story).

Presumably when authors like David Eddings and Tolkien do this, they are following the trope of some older literary tradition.

In what literary tradition did this become a trope? Greek epics? What are more examples of this phenomenon? And how are these 'variations' generated?

  • 1
    I'm not a literary scholar but I would suppose that giving sagas a formal, commonly known title at all is relatively recent. Simply referring to the story about hero X as "The things about X" is already a basis for titles like "Aeneid".
    – Jos
    Jan 7, 2020 at 12:57
  • I have posted an "answer" but confess I don't understand precisely what you mean by "saga" and what you mean by "trope" in your question. If somehow you clarified your question better answers would come forth. Jan 9, 2020 at 23:54

1 Answer 1


One example is Icelandic sagas. Two of the most famous such are Egil's Saga and Njal's Saga, bearing personal names. Others, such as Laxdæla saga have place names in their titles.

The examples of the Iliad and Odyssey from another cultural tradition show the same mix: place name and personal name, respectively, in this case.

In classical Greek literature there are works with titles like Antigone, Philoctetes, and so on, named for people, and (from the same author) Women of Trachis naming a place, and Oedipus at Colonus naming both a person and a place. A different writer gave us Electra, Andromache, Hecuba, and The Trojan Women, with all but the last naming people; yet another gave us The Persians, Seven Against Thebes, and Agamemnon, naming places and a person. Another used Lysistrata, The Frogs, and The Clouds, naming a person, a kind of animal, and a natural phenomenon.

Zipping forwards a few millennia we have The Magic Goose of Cairo and The Marriage of Figaro, naming an animal, a place, a ritual, and a person.

Then there are the classical pansori works with personal name-derived titles: Chunhyangga, Simcheongga, and Heungbuga.

So across the world and across time literary works have borne the names of people and of places. Is this a trend, a trope? Examples of the sort listed above could be multiplied, but without understanding more precisely what you are really asking, I'll forbear.

Or maybe you are asking for when the word "saga" was used to mean "the story of", as in titles like The Forsyte Saga or The Herries Saga or the generic AGA Saga. In the 20th century, I'd guess. When did the word begin to be used to mean "long story" in English? Numerous citations in the OED suggest the 19th century. I would further guess that this was under the influence of the 1816-1818 Deutsche Sagen by the brothers Grimm. Nowadays the term is a staple in the word-store of the writers of jacket-blurbs.

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