Naming things is a messy business.
I’m not talking about naming children, or pets, or countries. Those names can be changed. Kids can get nicknames. Pets only respond to the word “food” anyway. And there is no such thing as Swaziland anymore.
However, it is much harder to change the name of a good book.
Let’s pick a famous book: Dracula. While I’m not really sure what Bram Stoker’s readers thought of the name when it first came out, it sounds a lot better than the alternative name he considered: The Dead Un-dead.
But consider this: while Dracula sounds a lot cooler, isn’t The Dead Un-dead a much better explanation of the plot?
Why can’t we try changing the titles of books in order to make the plot clearer?
Well, this is a blog. Of course we can. Here’s some. (FYI, I picked children’s books because I don’t want to spoil anyone’s reading list. And to all the children reading this, I am truly sorry.)
The Lion, The Witch And the Wardrobe, or Don’t Take Candy from Strangers
If Edmund hadn’t gone and literally taken candy from a strange lady in a strange land, the story wouldn’t have happened. Or at least all the troubling bits.
The Little Prince, or Depression for Young Children
If you want a child to have a one-eighth life crisis, you could let them read this book.
The Giver, or This is Why Old Pictures Were Black and White
I read this right after reading other dystopian classics like 1984 and Brave New World, so really, the most important thing I learnt from The Giver is that when things change from monochrome to colour, that’s a good thing, and that sometimes, it’s okay to have a happy ending.
The BFG, or How the Queen Saved the Day
You would have thought that Dahl would have at least gotten some minor award for having the Queen save the day, but alas, he only got a landmark (or something) named after him.
The Hobbit, or The Dangers of Leaving Home
Actually, the first lesson here is not to let strangers into the house. But, if you do, well, don’t follow them out. And, well, if you do that, don’t get eaten by the dragon. Or the trolls. Or the elves. Or the humans. Or even the skinny little munchkin (read: Gollum).
The Borrowers, or Perfect Excuses for Losing Things
If you give this book to a child, well, just expect (or accept) that they’ll come back telling you that their absent-mindedness about their own belongings is because little people took it and hid it. (At that point, you could remind them that they’re little people too.)
While there are a lot more books that we could rename, I kind of gave up when I ran out. (I discovered that my reading of children’s books included too much Horrible Histories, Geronimo Stilton, or Roald Dahl for much else.)
But what other books do you think deserve a clearer (or funnier) title?