The Conjuring 2 spooked us with The Nun, The Crooked Man and the events of the Enfield Haunting... but within the movie, all of these scares were simply the tool of one greater demon: Valak. At the end of The Conjuring 2, Lorraine Warren (played by Vera Farmiga) casts the demon out of the Hodgson home by speaking its true name.
It's a creepy addition to the movie, but the idea that the true name of a thing (or a person) holds power over it is an ancient one.
The True Name in Philosophy, Religion & Folklore
The concept of the true name and its power is present in many different philosophical and religious backgrounds. Socrates pondered whether language is merely a method of ascribing random sounds and letters to a concrete thing, or whether the two are intrinsically linked.
The true name of God is discussed in both Judaism and Christian tradition, as well as polytheistic religions: Egyptian god of the sun Ra lost his power to Isis when she tricked him into revealing his true name to her. In more recent times, you may have heard a version of this trickery in Rumpelstilstkin, who is thwarted when his name is spoken aloud.
Do you think that a True Name really holds power over a thing or a person?
The True Name in Popular Culture
There are about a gazillion uses of a True Name wielding power over an opponent in popular fiction. These include, but are not limited to:
- Ursula Le Guin, The Rule of Names: "The name is the thing, and the true name is the true thing. To speak the name is to control the thing."
- Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away: Yubaba steals her subjects' names to keep them loyal.
Doctor Who, 'The Shakespeare Code': The Carrionites use words as magic, with the most effective words being names, which can only be used once. The Doctor's true name is never revealed in the series (although writer Stephen Moffatt did once joke that his name is Mildred).
Bleach: Every shinigami must learn the true name of their zanpakutou.
- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter: Everyone is afraid to speak Voldemort's name but Harry and Dumbledore. Once the name is revealed, Tom Riddle's secrets can be picked apart and he is eventually defeated.
- Arthur C. Clarke, The Nine Billion Names of God: Tibetan monks discover every single name of God, which ends the universe. Oops.
And, of course, the process of naming received a more light-hearted treatment from American Horror Story: Asylum.