Call Upon My Name

"I had to be strong for Serah, so I thought I needed to forget my past. And I became Lightning."

Lightning's names themselves are, at the least, an amusing and continuous batch of multi-lingual puns. But if you want to look deeper, her name transformation is rather telling. Relating Lightning's name change to our own world's attitude towards names can be an insightful look at her personality.

Codename: Lightning
(self-named at age 15)
Real Name (JP): Eclair
(means "lightning" in French)
Last Name: Farron
(means "thunder" in Gaelic)
Real Name (EN): Claire
(means "light colored" in French)

It's Childish

Do you remember trying to change your name in grade school? I sure do, and if you didn't, I'm sure at least some of your friends do. Some of us tried to create unique spellings for our seemingly ordinary names (Like changing Amy to Aimee). Some of us tried to use our middle names instead. And some made all our peers and family call us by a name made with initials (BJ, RJ, etc). Kids do this because they're trying to establish their identity at this time. It's the reason teens are always scribbling signatures for themselves. One part of doing this is experimenting with the thing we superficially connect with our identity - our name.

So what Lightning did at age 15 sounds cool, but is at the core, childish. I don't mean it in a negative way - she was a child. It was a perfectly normal and fitting thing to do at that age. She basically took the equivilant of what us gamers would name our avatars in a video game... and made it her real name. See? Unless you're a badass fated warrior like Light, the idea is characteristic of an adolescent escaping from the world. Furthermore, it's ironically funny. Light changed her name in order to be less of a child. Yet that act to become less childish was in fact childish in itself.

It's Dedication

You can also interpret her name change to be an indicator of how dedicated Lightning is to self-improvment. There are many actions that people, both real and fictional, use to symbolize a rebirth of themselves. Cutting your hair is one way. Moving cities, burning old items, stripping down to bare skin while watching the sunrise, etcetera. Lightning's name change is her action to represent completely leaving her past behind and becoming a stronger, better person. She adopts this new persona so seriously that she even convinces her little sister, who knows her real name, to call her by Lightning all the time. She also has "White Flash - call upon my name." engraved on her weapon, a little ode to her transformation.

When I pondered on Lightning's motives, I thought my own low points in life. During those trials and in that misery, all I could think was, "I never want to feel this way again." Sadness gives way to anger, which turns into a desperate resolve to do something, anything, to work towards never feeling that way again. And that's Light - she's productive. She never wanted to feel as helpless as she did when she was younger, so she resolved to become stronger, so that she would never have to be in that position again. Taking on a new name was the first step.

It's Tradition

Lightning follows the Final Fantasy tradition of having characters named after natural elements. Terra, From FF6, means earth. Tidus and Yuna, from FFX, is the sun and moon, respectively. Squall, from FF8, is a storm. Cloud, from FF7, is pretty self-explanatory. Nomura, the character designer, was surprised when he heard that they were keeping this tradition in FF13, thinking that it was time to let it go. But I'm glad that it's still there.

Some people joke that, eventually, Square will run out of names for their characters. Not so, my friend. There are plenty of languages in the world, and within them, plenty of words involving nature. Keeping the nature names tradition in the FF series is a good way to have cohesion across the games. This unity is especially needed in FF games because of the constantly evolving nature of the series, and because the main titles are not linked together by a similar narrative. We need the signature quirks to make each game "a FF game".