Part of using familiar archetypes in any novel is making them your own. When I began developing my gnomes and their culture, I wanted to give them a few weaknesses we didn’t often read about in fairytales and folklore but would still make sense.
The perfect opportunity came when I reread the classic fairytale, “Rumpelstiltskin.” I always wondered why Rumpelstiltskin made such a big deal about keeping his name secret. I also wondered why someone discovering his name would cause him to basically stomp the earth so hard he killed himself (depending on which version of the fairytale you read).
Then it hit me: What if speaking a gnome/dwarf’s name aloud gave you complete power over him (or her). That could explain why Rumpelstiltskin would keep his name so secret. It would also introduce an idea that by saying his name, the Queen’s servant had complete control of Rumpelstiltskin’s actions and actually commanded him to kill himself.
I decided to give my gnomes that weakness: being under complete control of whoever learns (and uses) their birth names, which can throw quite a twist into a story. Here’s an example from The Elysian Chronicles: Out of the Shadows.
Lorne and Theo dragged Klous into the room. He had bloodshot eyes, torn clothes, and unkempt hair. Several cuts and scratches lined his arms, and his jewelry was missing.
Klous struggled against the soldiers, yelling. “Don’t let me near him! Keep me away from Seraph. I’m not safe!”
Boronan trotted behind Klous, saying, “I searched his memory Davian. He’s innocent. I have no idea what he thinks he did.”
Davian flew to Klous, who shrieked. “Stay away from me! I’m not safe! I’m not safe!”
Davian held Klous’s head so he could stare into his eyes. “Klous, what’s wrong? What happened?”
Klous struggled against Davian’s grip, muttering, “Stay away; stay away.” He looked in every direction but Davian’s eyes. “Don’t you understand? They know my name.” Klous sank to the floor. “I betrayed you. Betrayed…”