Every avid Harry Potter fan, who’s also a fan of tattoos, has probably at some point thought about combining their two passions and getting a fantoo (a word which will never be repeated again).
I think for a lot of people, Harry Potter is about more than just a book series, and more than just some kid called Harry. It’s about love. It’s about sacrifice. It’s about the dangers and privilege of being able to claim to be apolitical, it’s about child-soldiers, it’s about manipulation, it’s about war, it’s about magic, it’s about friendship.
Perhaps all children’s literature is dystopian. That is, Harry Potter certainly has dystopian features. Is this because the grown-up world is just too scary, and too awful, to be embraced? From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to the Winnie the Pooh series; children exist in a bliss that the real world ruins. Their dangers are emphasised. Their fears contorted. Perhaps this is why it’s all so important. I won’t summarise Harry Potter properly for any of you. You all know the plot. It’s as complicated or as not complicated at you want. An evil dictator obsessed with symbolism craves complete control, he almost succeeds but is thwarted by a miracle child, and then spends the next 11 years recovering ready to attack him again and plunge the world into his cruel and controlled state. He succeeds in part, and that child grows up and becomes a freedom fighter. Eventually ‘winning’. The evil dictator falls, democracy rules, humanity gains. Whatever. It’s important. It’s worthwhile even if it isn’t part of some supreme elitist literary canon.
But it’s important. And people want to immortalise that.
There are so many ways of immortalising something, and tattoos are often chosen. The most obvious ones are various characters’ faces, as well as the Hogwarts house symbols.
Some people go for the three stars (***) that appear in the page corners of certain editions of the series. These are the Deathly Hallows, or perhaps they’re the Golden Trio themselves, or the whole emphasis on the three that our darling JK goes for frequently. Another popular one are the chess piece, lightbulb, and lightning scar. There are a few variations on this- sometimes the lightbulb is a sock, sometimes the scar is a pair of glasses. The Golden Trio are a huge part of the series, and people want to immortalise their strength and friendship.
The Deathly Hallows symbol is a controversial one in my opinion. Its use as a symbol by fans is almost a reappropriation of it. A friend of mine likened it to the reappropriation of the word ‘queer’ by the queer community. Although I don’t necessarily agree with this comparison, I can understand where it comes from. As demonstrated by Krum at Bill and Fleur’s wedding, the symbol of the Hallows was a symbol of dark magic during Harry’s childhood and adolescence. But of course fans, like Mr. Lovegood, know its true meaning. It reflects peace, and an absence of fear, a unison, a trio once again, and so so much more.
The Dark Mark is another controversial one. Of course an individual getting it makes it a symbol of the series, rather than an active agreement with the policies and practices of the Dark Lord. Of course a lot of people, especially the ‘edgier’ of us, might associate with the Death Eaters. Of course we hope they don’t actually. The Dark Lord of course asked them to get the tattoo as a means of summoning his Death Eaters to him, and to permanently brand them. It all goes back to his control issues.
After the obvious ones, there are quotes of course. Harry Potter is filled with inspirational quotes. People have drawn strength from these books. Things like ‘lumos’ and metaphors about light are so abundant. It’s funny, that so many people with so many complex issues have been drawn to the series. Obviously not all fans do. But it seems that part of the Harry Potter series’ strength is its ability to provide so much hope to those who are struggling. We all know this. It’s about escapism. So people want to mark their bodies with things that reflect that. It’s why there are whole Tumblr blogs dedicated to this kind of thing. There’s something empowering about light and finding it in dark places. There’s something necessary. The whole Dementor thing is a good old metaphor for depression. Self-harmers love ‘lumos’, especially written in white ink. Survivors love Hermione. All us bushy haired, smart girls, who might not necessarily be white, love her. Every character in Harry Potter is relatable, even Tom Riddle who we should all hate. But good old JK makes us pity him and that sucks.
Basically Harry Potter is clever because it makes you think and it provides a source of entertainment and enjoyment. It’s engaging. And tattoos are fun. Just maybe don’t go for a lightning scar right in the middle of your forehead…