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Identity like Tigana’s} ?> During my time in Norway, I was mistaken by a Norwegian for an American. I quickly corrected him, saying that was akin to me calling him a Swede. Touche.
As a Canadian, I am used to defining myself as “not American.” This is very common amongst Canadians. I’d argue that we Canadians do have our own defining culture, but we are more commonly defined by something that we are not.
In Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana, Tigana is a country of renown, and its people take pride in themselves and where they live. Tigana is the glittering gem of the five fingered peninsula. However, all that changes when the magician Brandin seeks to conquer the peninsula. When he allows his only son to lead the charge against Tigana, the son is slain, and in his grief Brandin vows to wipe Tigana off the map. Not only does he destroy them through military means but he also uses his magic to wipe the memories of Tigana from every person living except those born in Tigana before the casting of the spell. Those born there are able to remember and speak the name Tigana but no one else can hear
What does it do to the identity of a people when they can no longer be identified by the name they exalted and placed pride in? When so much of their identity now becomes a railing against, an identity of “not Corte?” The few survivors must struggle to maintain who they are and they hold fiercely to the name of Tigana, whispering it to each other as a way of holding on to that identity and maintaining focus as they seek to overthrow Brandin.
Brandin thought that he had won. By obliterating the name of Tigana, he demonstrated that he understood the power of names, but he underestimated the power that was in that name for the people who lived there. That name was the core and cornerstone of their identity. Even Devin, who was too young to even remember anything before the war, finds his identity irrevocably re-shaped when he first hears the name Tigana. It is the power of this name that eventually leads to Brandin’s destruction.
How do names shape us? Our given names, the names of where we live, the names of what or who we believe in? My identity as a Canadian means I pride myself on being polite, on being welcome in countries where Americans have a bad reputation, on being tolerant of cultural diversity. Maybe it’s time to focus on the good things that come with the name instead of simply defining it by what it’s not.
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