Selim Bradley's name has always struck me as out of place, and I just realized why. It's foreshadowing, and it's absolutely brilliant.
I consider Amestris to be mostly based on Germany (although I do see influence from other Western European nations) with the exception that its lore and alchemy are connected to ancient Persia. The main characters largely have Western European/German-sounding names, such as Edward, Alphonse, Hohenheim, Roy, and so forth, which makes sense considering the setting.
Except for Selim.
Selim Bradley is the only major character whose name is Arab-coded. As an Arabic speaker, I noticed this difference immediately, but I didn't think much of it. In Arabic, the word "selim" translates to intact, safe, undamaged. It's a common name, which is why it eluded my scrutiny.
When we meet Selim, he is all those things. Before we realize he is a homunculus, he is just a normal boy. A harmless, happy, normal boy, whose innocence appears whole and unblemished.
However, when Pride reveals himself, we see that the monster that lives inside Selim, that is Selim, is fragmented. Any innocence we thought he had as a child is completely shattered, along with whatever knowledge of his character we thought we had. As pride, Selim is literally made of dark, glass-shard-like shadows. In other words, he is the opposite of selim. Anything but intact, undamaged, and safe.
This serves three purposes in the narrative.
1. It sets Selim apart from the other homunculi. Because he is Arab-coded, it automatically gives him a stronger connection to the Persia-inspired lore of Amestris, and therefore a stronger connection to Father and Hohenheim's origin story. Pride was the first homunculus, the first one separated from the Dwarf in the Flask because it recognized its pride as the biggest threat to its plan to become "god." As Father's fatal flaw, he has the strongest bond to Father/the Dwarf in the Flask. It makes perfect sense that his human identity would bear that cultural connection in name and in design.
2. Selim, both in name and character, is foreign. Even if the viewer doesn't catch on to the Arabic meaning, any English speaker (or anyone familiar with English or Western European languages) can catch on to the fact that "Selim" does not sound like a European name. Even before we learn that he was "adopted" or that he is a homunculus, we feel like he doesn't belong there. The name alone has us questioning things before we know we should even be asking questions. This leads me into
3. Foreshadowing, but mostly in hindsight (unless your critical eye is sharper than Pride's knife tentacles). Apart from the uneasiness that his foreignness sparks, the subtle but brilliant irony of his name being Selim when he is concealing the broken, deadly mess that is Pride in the adorable, innocent body of a child becomes dramatic irony when we rewatch the show. And it's not just because we obviously know Selim is Pride while the characters don't yet, but because we are aware of a completely new layer of deception with the aforementioned details in mind. The meaning of his name is never brought up in the show, meaning that it's not just Selim/Pride who is deceiving us and the characters, it's Hiromu Arakawa. With just his name, Arakawa is telling us to trust this character. It's ok, it's safe. The same way Selim so easily deceives Ed, Al, and Roy--a disarming facade. All of this contributes to the horror of realizing that Selim Bradley, this cute little boy, is not cute, or little, or a boy. And if your critical eye really is as sharp as Pride's tentacles, then it is absolutely possible to put together the oddity of his name and the visual, more obvious hints dropped throughout the show, to figure out that Selim Bradley is not what he seems, and that he might even be connected to the homunculi.
To conclude, I am once again in awe of the storytelling master who is Hiromu Arakawa, but what's new? I have a feeling I'm going to be discovering ways in which I was fooled and didn't even notice for years to come.
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