CLOSE

12 Tattoos Inspired by Famous Books

1. Slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut

There are a lot of “So It Goes” tattoos out there, but Lacy’s is particularly nice in that she didn’t limit it to just text, but also incorporated the dandelion, that seems to flow so well with the themes of Slaughterhouse 5. In Lacy’s own words, “We are all free, it is just a matter of figuring out if we want to stick to a path (like the blowflower seeds when they are anchored) or go where the wind takes us.”

2. Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut may have inspired more literary tattoos than any other author out there. In fact, it would be very easy to write an entire article on tattoos inspired by his novels, but since this post is about all types of literary tattoos, here is another popular Vonnegut tattoo, the “Goodbye Blue Monday” bomb. While there are many, the coloring and chubby line work on Liam’s makes his design particularly attractive. Liam notes that, “while breakfast of champions is not my favorite Vonnegut book, it is the first book that made me love reading. I was 15 and after every page I kept thinking, ‘I never knew books could be like this.’ I read every single Vonnegut book after that.”

3. Alice In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

There are also plenty of Alice In Wonderland tattoos, but many of them are based on the Disney movie version and not the book. Eva’s Alice tattoo is delightful in that it is based on the original book illustrations by Sir John Tenniel.

4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

Similarly, there are ample Hitchhiker’s Guide tattoos—particularly those featuring the number 42, the words “Don’t Panic” or the book’s green mascot—but perhaps the least used (but most fun) idea is the falling whale and pot of petunias, a very memorable scene from the book. Emily Holodnick got the idea for her tattoo while attending Hitchcon ’09, which should tell you she’s certainly a big fan of the series. The work was done by Steve at Old School Tattoo in Bellingham, WA.

5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J. K. Rowling

The Harry Potter series has also inspired its fair share of tattoos, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one as cool as Chloe’s version of the Marauder’s Map. It looks like a blank scroll until you hold it under a black light, at which point the words "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good” appear. Unfortunately, you can’t read the message that well the in photo, but that’s understandable when you consider the difficulty of capturing something only visible under a black light.

6. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

While Good Omens might not be as famous as many of the other books listed here, it was written by two authors who are fairly big names in the geek stratosphere—Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. The particular passage Jodi chose to get tattooed describes the demon Crowley in a manner that gives you a quick glimpse of the style and humor of the entire novel – and the image seems more than fitting for the quote.

7. Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown

While the satellite might not be part of the original Goodnight Moon artwork, there’s no denying that this image was certainly inspired by the classic children’s book. As for why Jennifer chose the design, she explains, “I am in the Navy, just like many of the men who visited the moon. My husband and son are space fanatics, the Goodnight Moon window is for my daughter. She loves the book.”

8. Watership Down, Richard Adams

Livejournal user smallpio1990 might just have the most stunning Watership Down tattoo ever inked. The colors are gorgeous and the bunny is adorable. The quote is the last line in the book. Fittingly, the work was done by Rabbit Abby from Des Moines, Iowa

9. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Anyone familiar with The Great Gatsby will undoubtedly recognize the art deco artwork featured on the cover of many of the printings, as well as the famous quote, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." Craig R. found the quote to be particularly memorable and when his English teacher passed away unexpectedly, he found the quote truly reflected how we, as humans, live. As he explains, “We really are just boats against the current always going back to the past.”

10. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

At one point or another, just about everyone has been able to relate with Hester Prynne. Brent felt that way for so much of his life that he really identified with the character—enough to permanently brand himself with his own mark of shame. Let’s hope he isn’t quite as miserable as poor Hester.

11. The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

The more time progresses and our natural resources dwindle, the more people can identify with The Lorax. Flickr user jaundicedferret is one of these people, which is why she got this great tattoo from the most famous scene of the story, where The Lorax exclaims, “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing's going to get better, it's not."

12. Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Louis Sachar

As a kid, Sideways Stories was my favorite book series, even above Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, which is why I’m head over heels in love with Alex’s potato tattoo. What does a potato have to do with a kids' book you might ask? Well, it all relates to Calvin’s tale in the book, as Alex explains, “His dad decides to let him get a tattoo and everyone in class gives him all these suggestions. He considers getting a leopard fighting a snake, but in the end he gets a potato just above his left ankle. Everyone thinks it’s stupid, but he knows he made the right choice, or at least he’s pretty sure.” Alex, I think you made the right choice too.

Special thanks to Contrariwise, a site specializing in literary-inspired tattoos. This post originally appeared in 2012.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
George C. Beresford/Getty Images
arrow
literature
12 Facts About Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
George C. Beresford/Getty Images
George C. Beresford/Getty Images

Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella about venturing into the moral depths of colonial Africa is among the most frequently analyzed literary works in college curricula.

1. ENGLISH WAS THE AUTHOR’S THIRD LANGUAGE.

It’s impressive enough that Conrad wrote a book that has stayed relevant for more than a century. This achievement seems all the more impressive when considering that he wrote it in English, his third language. Born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857, Conrad was a native Polish speaker. French was his second language. He didn’t even know any English—the language of his literary composition—until age 21.

2. HEART OF DARKNESS BEGINS AND ENDS IN THE UK.

Though it recounts Marlow's voyage through Belgian Congo in search of Kurtz and is forever linked to the African continent, Conrad’s novella begins and ends in England. At the story’s conclusion, the “tranquil waterway” that “seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness” is none other than the River Thames.

3. THE PROTAGONIST MARLOW IS CONRAD.

The well-traveled Marlow—who appears in other Conrad works, such as Lord Jim—is based on his equally well-traveled creator. In 1890, 32-year-old Conrad sailed the Congo River while serving as second-in-command on a Belgian trading company steamboat. As a career seaman, Conrad explored not only the African continent but also ventured to places ranging from Australia to India to South America.

4. LIKE KURTZ AND MARLOW, CONRAD GOT SICK ON HIS VOYAGE.

Illness claimed Kurtz, an ivory trader who has gone mysteriously insane. It nearly claimed Marlow. And these two characters almost never existed, owing to their creator’s health troubles. Conrad came down with dysentery and malaria in Belgian Congo, and afterwards had to recuperate in the German Hospital, London, before heading to Geneva, Switzerland, to undergo hydrotherapy. Though he survived, Conrad suffered from poor health for many years afterward.

5. THERE HAVE BEEN MANY ALLEGED KURTZES IN REAL LIFE.

The identity of the person on whom Conrad based the story’s antagonist has aroused many a conjecture. Among those suggested as the real Kurtz include a French agent who died on board Conrad’s steamship, a Belgian colonial officer, and Welsh explorer Henry Morton Stanley.

6. COLONIZING WAS ALL THE RAGE WHEN HEART OF DARKNESS APPEARED.

Imperialism—now viewed as misguided, oppressive, and ruthless—was much in vogue when Conrad’s novella hit shelves. The "Scramble for Africa" had seen European powers stake their claims on the majority of the continent. Britain’s Queen Victoria was even portrayed as the colonies' "great white mother." And writing in The New Review in 1897, adventurer Charles de Thierry (who tried and failed to establish his own colony in New Zealand) echoed the imperialistic exuberance of many with his declaration: “Since the wise men saw the star in the East, Christianity has found no nobler expression.”

7. CHINUA ACHEBE WAS NOT A FAN OF THE BOOK.

Even though Conrad was no champion of colonialism, Chinua Achebe—the Nigerian author of Things Fall Apart and other novels—delivered a 1975 lecture called “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” that described Conrad as a “thoroughgoing racist” and his ubiquitous short classic as “an offensive and deplorable book.” However, even Achebe credited Conrad for having “condemned the evil of imperial exploitation.” And others have recognized Heart of Darkness as an indictment of the unfairness and barbarity of the colonial system.

8. THE BOOK WASN’T SUCH A BIG DEAL—AT FIRST.

In 1902, three years after its initial serialization in a magazine, Heart of Darkness appeared in a volume with two other Conrad stories. It received the least notice of the three. In fact, not even Conrad himself considered it a major work. And during his lifetime, the story “received no special attention either from readers or from Conrad himself,” writes Gene M. Moore in the introduction to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness: A Casebook. But Heart of Darkness managed to ascend to immense prominence in the 1950s, after the planet had witnessed “the horror”—Kurtz's last words in the book—of WWII and the ramifications of influential men who so thoroughly indulged their basest instincts.

9. T.S. ELIOT BORROWED AN IMPORTANT LINE.

Though Heart of Darkness wasn’t an immediate sensation, it evidently was on the radar of some in the literary community. The famous line announcing the antagonist’s demise, “Mistah Kurtz—he dead,” serves as the epigraph to the 1925 T.S. Eliot poem “The Hollow Men.”

10. THE STORY INSPIRED APOCALYPSE NOW.

Eighty years after Conrad’s novella debuted, the Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now hit the big screen. Though heavily influenced by Heart of Darkness, the movie’s setting is not Belgian Congo, but the Vietnam War. And though the antagonist (played by Marlon Brando) is named Kurtz, this particular Kurtz is no ivory trader, but a U.S. military officer who has become mentally unhinged.

11. HEART OF DARKNESS HAS BEEN MADE INTO AN OPERA.

Tarik O'Regan’s Heart of Darkness, an opera in one act, opened in 2011. Premiering at London’s Royal Opera House, it was reportedly the first operatic adaptation of Conrad’s story and heavily inspired by Apocalypse Now.

12. THE BOOK ALSO SPARKED A VIDEO GAME.

In a development not even Conrad’s imagination could have produced, his classic inspired a video game, Spec Ops: The Line, which was released in 2012.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Dan Bell
arrow
Design
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.

[h/t Kottke.org]

All images by Dan Bell

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios