Saturday, April 25, 2015

Literary Tattoos

Some book lovers have found a new way to express their literary devotion: by getting inked. ♦
Tattoo culture is finally breaking out of its stereotypes. Gone are the days of bikers and sailors being the only members of society who sport them; according to, fourteen percent of Americans have at least one tattoo. "Ink" now comes in all shapes and sizes.
      One main appeal of tattoos is their permanence. Sometimes when people choose to get tattoos, they do it because a symbol or image simply appeals to them, but more often people get tattoos to connect more deeply with something that has a personal meaning to them. Literary tattoos usually fall into the latter category. Literature can have such an effect on people that they might want a quote or an image to always be with them. Some may view this as extreme, but to others, it is proof of literature’s timelessness — that literature can be important enough in people’s lives to demand permanence.
     Dayton resident Kaitlyn Hunter, age 22, is the proud possessor of nine tattoos. While most of her tattoos are word-free designs, her eighth is a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella Le Petit Prince, or The Little Prince. The quote reads: “On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux,” which in English means, "It is only with the heart that one can rightly see, the essential is invisible to the eyes."
  “That really strikes true," Hunter says, "because I believe that you cannot judge a book by its cover. You have to know someone before you can pass judgment. There is more to a person than what you can see on the outside.”
     Hunter read the book when she was younger and explains how that early reading experience impacted her choice of design: “I chose to keep [the line] in French because that was the language in which I read The Little Prince, and French is such a beautiful language.”
    In fact, her love for the book inspired a work of art with her tattoo, which uses an atypical, beautifully-stylized font. The tattoo represents her feelings about the novella and its message: “I think it's a beautiful story, and so unlike anything I had ever read before. I think it has something that everyone can relate to.”


      Kait Bell, an undergraduate student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, has a small, one-word tattoo, but its meaning is just as impactful as a longer quote: “I chose to get my tattoo to remind me that unconditional love exists,” Bell says. “The direct quote is from Professor Snape [in Harry Potter] when he finally admits that he has always loved Harry’s mother and that love made him want to care for Harry as well. The quote simply says, ‘Always.’”
      Josh Morgan, tattoo artist at Oxford’s Silkworm Tattoo, has a “fair amount” of people who come in with literary tattoo requests. Many of these people have symbols and quotes from the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series in mind. (“I’ve done so many Deathly Hallows symbols!” he says.) However, these prominent literary series are not the most common literary theme he encounters.
    “Eighty percent of the quotes I do are biblical," Morgan says. "Sometimes full quotes, or sometimes just the book and verse number. ‘Philippians 4:13’ is extremely popular.”
    People express their love of literature many ways, but a tattoo, with its combination of words and illustration, can beautifully convey literature’s permanence as well as the lasting connection between a reader and her favorite book.
  • About the Author
    Katie Zak is a senior at Miami University majoring in English Literature. After graduation, she will be teaching for the Institute of Reading Development in San Francisco. She loves yoga, dogs, and Greek yogurt.

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