I recently saw someone saying something about an early edition of Phantom mentioning that the phantom chose to call himself "Erik" because it's Scandinavian and therefor a "connection" to Christine. Is that true? Where in the book did it say that? It's been a long time since I've read any edition of the novel, but I know you're an expert so I thought you'd be the best one to ask.
Hi Anon! You are thinking of the serialized publication of Le Fantôme de l’Opéra that appeared in the Gaulois newspaper prior to the publication of Phantom’s 1st Edition. I’m actually just about to get to that section in my analysis of the Gaulois text, which I’m calling 15 Weeks of Phantom.
In the Gaulois publication of “Apollo’s Lyre,” Erik says to Christine about his name:
“Il me répondit qu’il n’avait ni nom ni patrie, et qu’il avait pris le nom d’Erik pour se rapprocher de moi qui étais Suédoise.”
Translation: “He replied that he had neither name nor country, and that he had taken the name of Erik to get closer to me since I am Swedish.”
In Leroux’s 1st Edition, this line was changed to:
"Il me répondit qu’il n’avait ni nom, ni patrie, et qu’il avait pris le nom d’Erik par hasard.”
Translation: “He replied that he had neither name, nor country, and that he had taken the name of Erik by chance.”
This was part of Leroux’s evolution of Erik’s character. As Raj Shah discovered in his research of one of Leroux’s manuscripts for Phantom, in an earlier draft of Leroux’s novel, Erik was actually of Swedish origin, and came from Uppsala, not far from where Christine Daaé was born.
Leroux then changed his mind, instead making Erik’s birthplace a town outside of Rouen (the city where Leroux’s parents were married). Here is the part of Leroux’s manuscript (in the Epilogue) where he makes the decision to have Erik originate in Rouen, and not in Uppsala. I have circled “Uppsala” (“Upsal” in French) and “Christine Daaé” and have underlined “Rouen”:
By the time Leroux published the Gaulois serialization of Phantom, he had changed his mind about Erik’s Scandinavian origin, but a shade of that idea may still have remained, which could explain why Erik tells Christine that he has named himself “Erik” in an attempt to appeal to her as a Swede.
Of course, Erik was either lying to Christine, or Leroux was unwittingly creating an anachronism, because Erik called himself “Erik” during his days in Persia, since the Daroga doesn’t know him by another name. This may have been why Leroux decided in his 1st Edition to change Erik’s explanation to him taking his name “by chance.”
Erik may have chosen the name “Erik” because it means “eternal ruler.” His real name is most likely something typically French. My personal headcanon is that his birth name is Pierre, which was a common boy’s name in the early 1800s.