[Allergy Warning: Contains excessive pedantry, trace amounts of humour, and was produced on a line that handles nuts.]
For those of you who don’t know, The Originals is a hugely popular television series about unreasonably attractive vampires, werewolves, and witches that is a spin-off from The Vampire Diaries, another hugely popular television series about unreasonably attractive vampires, werewolves, and witches. I think there are a few humans in there, too. Also unreasonably attractive.
The titular “Originals” are a set of blood (I’m not sorry) siblings called the Mikaelsons that, through magical shenanigans on the part of their witch mother, became the first vampires and thus spawned every single vampire since. Each one of them was an antagonist in the original show at some point or another, whether they were acting alone or as part of a squabbling family group.
What makes them so interesting is that despite their constant back (and heart) stabbing, intense rivalry, and general disfunctionality the Mikaelson children have often gone to extreme lengths to come to each others’ aid. The bonds in that family have remained strong for centuries and their constant drama apparently warranted the creation of a whole new series just to contain it (which I, and IMDB, rate higher than The Vampire Diaries.
Let’s introduce them shall we?
In the order pictured above we have Finn, Elijah, Klaus, Rebekah, and Kol. In season 2 of The Originals they are joined by their presumed long-dead older sister Freya. Did I mention that they are supposed to have been born to the Old Norse culture sometime in the 11th century?
If you saw that last sentence, shook your head sadly, and said “I understand your pain” (and meant it) you win an internet. However, if you can’t see anything wrong with that apparently-normal collection of names allow me to mount my high horse and elaborate.
First of all we might as well start with the family name Mikaelson. Following the standard Old Norse practice of patronymic surnames we establish that the Originals are sons of Mikael and… oh… what about Rebekah? Yep, apparently she’s one too, although she should have the surname "Mikaelsdottir" (Mikaels daughter. Got the hang of it yet?).
Mikael himself is the ultra-violent patriarch and father of all of the above (though not by blood in Klaus’ case, his mother had an affair with a werewolf Native American. Just roll with it) and immediately we’re starting to run into a few snags. The name is, as you probably guessed, a Scandinavian variation of the name Michael which is quite biblical in origin.
Though at first this seems a bit anachronistically out of place for an 11th century Viking, Christianisation of the Norsemen was fairly well established by that point and though many of them still practiced the Old Norse religion (The Mikaelsons are seen referring to them in flashbacks to the period) many at least took on the pretence of conversion so I’ll let this one slide. We'll cause this 'The Mikael Clause'.
Next we may as well talk about his wife, and the witch that created the vampires (and a whole lot of problems), Esther. Nope, not Viking. Despite seeing use in English, French, Spanish, Dutch, and Jewish contemporary societies the name didn’t really catch on in Scandinavia until fairly recently. We may try to make the same argument as we did for Mikael with the spelling ‘Ester’ but it seems even more of a stretch to even bother trying.
Suggested name: Alfrún ("she who possesses hidden knowledge").
From now on we may as well go in order of age, so any of you who haven’t watched The Originals past half way through season 2 may want to skip the next entry.
Freya (Old Norse: Freyja) is an apparent witchy older sister to the Mikaelson vampires who just so happened to turn up one day claiming to have been put under a spell by their aunt Dhalia (I’ll get to her later). Here the naming hit the nail right on the head with the Norse goddess of war, fertility, and love, and though the convention of naming children after deities wasn’t as common back then she has the most historically-accurate name out of the lot of them.
Second-born, and oldest male, comes Finn. He hated his siblings (and himself) after they all became vampires, but that’s a different story. His name was actually around in the times of the Norse (in the form Finnr) it literally means “from Finland”, but can also be taken to mean "magician" due to the Norse belief the Finns (more specifically the Sámi) were big practitioners of magic. Considering in The Originals he is brought back in the body of the witch Vincent I think this is a fairly good effort.
It starts to go downhill from here, though.
Elijah is the moralistic, bleeding heart of the family who is on a constant quest to find redemption for his siblings (especially Klaus). Unfortunately his name is very biblical, and definitely not Norse, not even with the 'Mikael Clause' to try and back it up. The closest we can get is the modern Scandinavian derivative of ‘Elias’ but that’s far too much of stretch to even bother.
Suggested name: Aðalbert ("noble, foremost, premier").
Playing piggy in the middle here is the eternally ruthless bastard son of Esther and a werewolf, Niklaus Mikaelson. Being Swiss-German, the name is arguably close Scandinavian but its roots are Greek and thus with little connotations in the original spread of Christianity to the Norse, really only becoming popular since the 12th century. Again we fail to even apply the ‘Mikael Clause’, though I can imagine Klaus himself would love to disassociate himself from the man as much as possible.
Suggested name: Fjolmóðr ("emotional; courageous; wrathful").
Then we have the youngest male of the family, Kol, possessing of a name apparently made up for the character. The name seems to be derived from the Hebrew word for “Voice” and is theorised to be a modification of the name ‘Cole’, which itself is derived from the Old English byword ‘Cola’ (meaning dark-featured), and though Old English would have been contemporary of Norse the name is so far removed from anything grounded in reality I can’t even… that’s it: I just can’t even.
Suggested name: Næmr ("one who is very composed and confident").
Finally we come to the youngest of the original vampires, the second female of the Mikaelson children, and possibly the only one who wants a normal human life, Rebekah. The name is an uncommon variant of the biblical name Rebecca and is found in modern Scandinavia in the form of Rebekka. Utilising the ‘Mikael Clause’ we can try and apply the same thought processes but considering the lack of popularity in even modern times it would be too far-fetched to even try to reconcile this.
Suggested name: Fjorleif ("life, vitality").
Worth an honourable mention is Henrik Mikaelson. He was the youngest of the brood but never became a vampire like his siblings as it was his death at the hands of the local werewolf tribe that prompted Esther to cast the spell which created them. Henrik gains some points from the start because we already find the name in great prevalence in modern Scandinavia, and what’s more it has the variation ‘Hinrik’ found amongst the Icelanders (who are basically Vikings with more manners), thus making it especially likely that the name would have been used by the Old Norse. In conjunction with Freya he creates a bizarre name sandwich for his siblings, with the bread being two period-accurate names surrounding a bland filling of anachronisms.
While I’m on a roll we may as well bring up Dahlia, sister of Esther and aunt to the Mikaelson children, who turned up out of the blue with Freya in season 2 of The Originals. Though the flower for which she is named is in turn named for the Swedish botanist Anders Dahl, the man wasn’t even alive until 1751 so we needn’t bother trying to make excuses.
Suggested name: Álmveig ("strong, powerful").
Despite all of the above pedantry I still continue to enjoy watching the Originals and have come to notice a few historical points which go some way to redeeming it in my eyes.
During flash-backs the show looks to go out of its way with accurate sets and costuming, which is not so difficult with the numerous 18th century and roaring 20s scenes we see but goes a long way to constructing a sense of realism behind the history of these vampires. Also, in a bizarre contrast to the Name Issue, the flashbacks that go as far back as their human lives seems to project a fairly accurate representation of Old Norse armour, clothing, weaponry, dwellings, etc. Definitely more so than certain other shows I’ve been watching lately (but I won’t mention Who).
Also worthy of note is that all of the Mikaelson women (inc. Dahlia) have been witches in one incarnation or another. In Norse times, magic (or Seiðr) was primarily a female profession withwomen practitioners held in high regard as religious leaders and frequently visited for advice in day-to-day life. Furthermore, in Old Norse mythology it was the Vanir goddess Freyja who introduced the Seiðr to the Æsir tribe of deities and is seen as presiding over magic and its associated rituals.
In conclusion we can establish that The Originals is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to historical accuracy but I, and many others, can attest that the gripping writing and complex main cast of characters more than make up for this fact and create an overall enjoyable viewing experience that just compels you to watch it.