New Names for The Secret Garden

Updating the names in this beloved childhood classic

posted by: emilygc3 View all posts by this author

By Emily Cardoza

For those of us who are both name fans and avid readers, fantasizing about naming your future kids after your favorite characters can be incredibly tempting. I mean, how cute would a little Hermione be? But to save a child from years of the same comments – “‘Your parents are Harry Potter fans, huh?” – it might be a better idea to give a child an homage name, rather than a direct namesake.

In an effort to expand my interest in names, I’ve decided to flex my naming muscle by taking characters from popular literature and updating their names as an homage.

Today’s installment: The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, one of my favorites as a kid. There are also only a few main characters, which should make this first try doable. Let’s begin!

Mary Lennox….. Mari Elowen

I didn’t want to stray too far from Mary, which means “bitter” – an excellent adjective for the character at the beginning of the book— so I chose a Welsh variant of the name. As for Lennox, I considered the up-and-coming Lennon, but it was a bit too masculine to fit with MariLennox translates to “place of elms” in Gaelic, so I looked up names that mean “elm” and found Elowen! I like that the n-ending grounds the name, being that Mari is so light. “MarI ELowen” also flows together nicely.

Colin Craven….. Cole Perrin

Colin itself is a fabulous name, but I chose another diminutive of Nicholas slightly behind it in popularity – Cole. The meaning of the surname: Craven means “rocky place”. Perrin is a diminutive of Peter, which means “rock”.

Dickon Sowerby….. Rico Dumas

Much more Latin than the first two, I’ve continued the pattern: Rico is another diminutive of Richard, as is DickonDumas means “of the little farm,” an homage to SOWERby. Dumas also allows for a second literary reference in addition to The Secret Garden – Alexandre Dumas is known for the classic novels The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.

Martha Sowerby….. Mattie Leighton

The original first name struck me as rather fussy, so I’ve made it more modern and tomboyish. Mattie is a diminutive of Martha, among other names, that is currently at #958, while Leighton, which means “meadow town,” comes in at #540. The name is also upbeat and friendly, just like Martha‘s character.

Ben Weatherstaff….. Benjamin Robin

This is more of a guilty pleasure name than an homage, as Benjamin has always been a favorite. As for Robin Ben Weatherstaff talks a bit about his “friend,”  robin that hangs around him in the garden. Why not put the pair together in a name?

Archibald Craven….. Emery Mason

While Archie is climbing the charts in the UK, I still think of it as a name associated with fussy old men. Archibald, however, means “truly brave,” so I chose another name with the same meaning, Emery. It’s currently at #161 for girls and #687 for boys, and I think it works for either. Mason, while mega-popular at Number 3, isn’t heard much as a middle name – it’s strength is powerful when combined with Emery.

What do you think? What alternate names would you have chosen? And any suggestions for future books to try this out with?

Emily Cardoza, known on Nameberry as emilygc3, is a twenty-three year-old Bay Area resident who likes Netflix, birds, and names. When not unjamming copy machines at her day job, you can find her blogging at


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8 Responses to “New Names for The Secret Garden”

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New Names for The Secret Garden | Greatest Images and Reviews Says:

September 1st, 2015 at 10:52 pm

[…] Nameberry – Baby Name Blog […]

lesliemarion Says:

September 1st, 2015 at 11:24 pm

Oh goodness. I like the names how they are.

queenalynna Says:

September 2nd, 2015 at 10:16 am

I love this! Definitely do Harry Potter, though that might take several posts. Instead of dividing HP into books, you could divide it into groups: Renaming Weasleys, Renaming Gryffindors, Renaming Harry’s friends, Renaming Harry’s enemies……. So many names in that series.

Other book suggestions: Little Women, Jane Austen’s books, Jane Eyre, A Little Princess, rename all the Disney princesses, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, etc etc etc….

Thanks for the post!

New Names for The Secret Garden Part of Top Quality of Picture and Image Says:

September 2nd, 2015 at 3:47 pm

[…] Nameberry – Baby Name Blog […]

SimoneKadele Says:

September 2nd, 2015 at 6:26 pm

^^YASS do Harry Potter now!

Patty87 Says:

September 2nd, 2015 at 6:55 pm

Love this post!!!

denmama9 Says:

September 2nd, 2015 at 8:41 pm

Authors often give their characters names that reflect either personality or role. ‘Mary’ means bitter, and so the girl was. Sowerby, a common enough surname, is also reminiscent of a ‘sower’ or farmer, one who helps things grow, which is exactly the role of this brother and sister. Ben Weatherstaff is a gardener; his initial description talks about the weathered skin of his face. ‘Craven’ may mean rock, but it is also a synonym for ‘cowardly,’ which is exactly how Archie behaves, and the environment in which Colin is raised.

I find it difficult to rename these characters. I feel too constrained by character, role, and time period. Trying to cast some of that aside, I might try Miriam for Mary, or possibly Rowan. Rowan doesn’t mean bitter, but it’s a wild tree that flourishes in that area, and it might be unusual enough to seem aristocratic.

Martha and Dickon are harder. Their names are so homey and earthy, and so true to the area, they just fit. Maybe Maggie and Liam, or Eliza and Peter – classic and somewhat homespun names, warm and familial.

For Colin and Archie, the first names don’t matter to the character as much as the surname. Colin could be Barron or Dax or Indio or Griffin or Theo, almost anything; Archie needs a rich dad name, like Jameson or Alexander or Michael (not Mike). Last name should indicate their situation, like Peregrine (wanderer).

Ben Weatherstaff’s name is so tied to his job, it’s hard to re-do. A humble, simple first name, like John or Dan. A last name tied to the earth, like Vale or Riverside.

Playing the Harry Potter Name Game – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

September 29th, 2015 at 11:23 pm

[…] works of fiction in my Literary Names series on Nothing Like a Name. My last post for Nameberry, New Names for The Secret Garden, prompted a couple of requests to give the same treatment to Harry Potter characters. But since […]

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