The movie Willow was released in May of 1988 — exactly 30 years ago this month. It didn’t do a thing for the baby name Willow, which hadn’t become trendy yet, but it did affect a couple of other character names: Sorsha and Elora.
The character Sorsha (played by Joanne Whalley) was the red-haired princess/soldier who was the daughter of the evil queen. She was also the love interest of Madmartigan (played by Val Kilmer). She started out as a bad guy, but changed sides mid-movie and was a good guy by the end.
The baby name Sorsha debuted in the U.S. data right on cue in 1989:
|Year||Usage of Sorsha||Usage of Sorcha|
|1992||5 baby girls||5 baby girls|
|1991||5 baby girls||5 baby girls|
|1990||.||6 baby girls|
|1989||5 baby girls [debut]||5 baby girls [debut]|
Curiously, parents opted for the spelling Sorcha as often as they opted for Sorsha. Why?
I couldn’t find any typos in contemporary sources — newspapers all used the more logical “Sorsha” — so my best guess is the baby name books.
Expectant parents wanting to know the definition of Sorsha would have instead encountered the Irish name Sorcha in those books. They would have learned the meaning (“bright”), but probably not the pronunciation, which is unfortunate because Sorcha isn’t pronounced SOR-sha. It’s more like SUR-kha. (Irish names that sound more like Sorsha include Saoirse, SEER-sha, or even the male name Seoirse, SHOR-sha.)
The character Elora Danan was the adorable read-haired baby at the center of the action. Her birthmark identified her as the one destined to depose Queen Bavmorda, so of course the queen wanted her found and destroyed. It was Willow’s job to deliver Elora Danan safely to those who would raise her.
The baby was given a good amount of screen time. Film critic Roger Ebert even complained about it: “One of the crucial problems…is that we see so much of this baby.”
|Year||Usage of Elora||Usage of Alora|
|1992||34 baby girls||72 baby girls|
|1991||63 baby girls||84 baby girls|
|1990||91 baby girls||108 baby girls|
|1989||87 baby girls||103 baby girls|
|1988||30 baby girls||11 baby girls|
Many similar-sounding names (like Ellora) also got a boost, and several (like Alaura and Allora) appeared for the first time in the data in the late ’80s. And I spotted even more spelling variants when I did records searches.
Speaking of the records…they revealed (unsurprisingly?) that many of the babies with these various Elora-like first names also had Danan-like middles. “Danan” was the most common spelling, but another I saw repeatedly was “Dannon” — possibly influenced by the yogurt brand being advertised on TV during those years.
…What are your thoughts on the baby names Sorsha and Elora? Which one would you be more likely to use for a baby girl?