EtymologyThere was a period of time where I wondered if Serah was actually a name.
Names are very important to me. I can’t understate how crucial it is for me to name a character before I start writing about them - I have to find that perfect name, and if the name I’ve selected isn’t, I simply haven’t found the right one yet. The reason for this is that names have power: they shape a character and what they’ll eventually be, as more than just a meaning. This holds true for Serah. Serah is Serah for a reason.
That all said, is Serah actually a name? Almost. It is and it isn’t; Serah is a corruption of Sera which is in turn a variant of Sara(h). Sarah’s meaning in Hebrew is lady, princess, noblewoman. If Princess Sarah sounds at all familiar, that’s probably because Serah’s name is a callback to the original Princess Sarah from the very first Final Fantasy. Like with Cid but not as common, a long running naming trope of the series is to call a princess character Sarah - for instance, Garnet of IX’s birthname is Sarah - and though not actually a princess, Serah upholds the same values that her effective predecessors have stood for, and she’s that heroine behind the hero(ine)… quite literally, because she’s a Sarah.
Serah has that sort of grace to her, that princess like quality of someone with unshakable faith and will. Yet she is also the one who must be saved, the focal point for Lightning and Snow - they must save their princess, no matter the odds. This is later flipped on its head when Serah is allowed her own agency, as she realises she has to save herself, and if she wants to be with the people she loves again, she can’t afford to sit idle. No one’s going to save her. She has to do it for herself. Is that a complete deconstruction of the trope, or a rebirth? Maybe a little of both. It’s very gratifying when a princess is given the opportunity to become her own protector and do the saving in return.
Let’s go back to the corruption from Sera.
Sera, in turn, is a short form for Seraphina. Seraphina is the feminine latin form of Seraphinus and is derived from the biblical seraphim. First, seraphim are angels. Second, they are literally known as “firey ones”. Both these meanings say a lot to me about who she is, and all of it is true. Serah dies but her soul doesn’t leave: her presence doesn’t quite fade. The events that lead up to her death mould and shape her, and she is forged in fire - everything happens all at once and Serah has to react to it. Like Lightning, Serah’s better elemental skills lie in fire as well as thunder (obviously, because her surname, Farron, does mean thunder).
Princess, angel, fire, thunder… these words provoke an image - an image that would give anyone a good impression about who she is to become prior to stepping into the world of Final Fantasy XIII.