The Surprising Original Titles of Famous Novels

atkins-bookshelf-literatureIt is unimaginable to think that one of the novels considered as The Great American Novels, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was originally titled Trimalchio in West Egg. (Trimalchio — a wealthy, but very vulgar freedman — is a character from the famous satirical novel, Satyricon, by Petronius written in 1 A.D.) Thankfully Zelda, Fitzgerald’s wife, and legendary editor, Maxwell Perkins, convinced him to select The Great Gatsby as the final title, inspired by Alain-Fournier’s haunting Le Grand Meaulnes (Augustin Meaulnes, the protagonist, searches for his lost love, Yvonne de Galais). Below are some of the surprising original or working titles of famous novels that were changed because the author changed his or her mind or a talented editor stepped in to shape literary history. The original or working title is followed by the actual title.

Alice’s Adventures Under Ground
by Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
by Harper Lee  (To Kill a Mockingbird)

All’s Well That Ends Well by Leo Tolstoy  (War and Peace)
Beauty from Ashes by W. Somerset Maugham  (Of Human Bondage)
Catch-18 by Joseph Heller  (Catch-22)

Dark House by William Faulkner  (Light in August)
The Eliots by Jane Austen  (Persuasion)

Fiesta by Ernest Hemingway  (The Sun Also Rises)
First Impressions by Jane Austen  (Pride and Prejudice)
The Kingdom by the Sea by Vladimir Nabokov  (Lolita)
The Last Man in Europe by George Orwell  (Nineteen Eighty-Four)
Pansy by Margaret Mitchell  (Gone with the Wind)

Something Happened by John Steinbeck  (Of Mice and Men)
Strangers From Within by William Golding  (Lord of the Flies)
Ten Little Niggers by Agatha Christie (And Then There Were None)
Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World by Jonathan Swift  (Gulliver’s Travels)
The Sea-Cook by Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island)
The War of the Ring
by JRR Tolkien  (The Lord of the Rings)

Read related posts: Who Are the Greatest Shakespeare Characters?
The Most Influential People Who Never Lived
The Power of Literature
The Most Influential Authors
The Most Influential Characters in Literature

For further reading: Brewer’s Curious Titles by Ian Crofton, Cassell (2002)
Now All We Need is a Title: Famous Book Titles and How They Got That Way by Andre Bernard, Norton (1996)


4 thoughts on “The Surprising Original Titles of Famous Novels

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.