10 Celebs With Literary Tattoos

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January 5th, 2011

Tattoos often get a bad reputation in the Western world, as people covered in body art are branded as unpredictable rebels. Having visible tattoos may even jeopardize your chances of getting a job, but as these celebrities prove, not all tattoos are tacky or frivolous. They carry special meaning for the inked individual, and if you look closely, in between the image of a dagger or skull might be a line of text or a reference to classic literature. Happy reading.

  1. Angelina Jolie: Perhaps Western Civilization’s most accepted tatted up mother is Angelina Jolie. Her body art was first a symbol of her bad girl ways — remember that Billy Bob tattoo that’s since been removed? — but they now seem to represent her spiritual, philosophical side. In addition to tattoos in Arabic script, Latin and Roman numerals, Angelina has a quote from Tennessee Williams, "A prayer for the wild at heart, kept in cages." The line comes from the subtitle of Williams’ 1941 play Stairs to the Roof.
  2. Megan Fox: Another supposed bad girl who’s actually settled down quite a bit — she’s a devoted wife and stepmother at the young age of 24 — Megan Fox may have gotten a bad rap because of her many tattoos. Besides an image of Marilyn Monroe, a crescent moon and several other tattoos, Fox has a partial quote from King Lear inked on her back. "We will all laugh at gilded butterflies" is the portion Fox picked out, plucked from a speech King Lear gives to his daughter Cordelia in Act V.
  3. Victoria Beckham: Formerly known as Posh Spice and now recognized as a legitimate style force and fashion designer, Victoria Beckham also has tattoos. In Hebrew, she has a quote from the Old Testament’s Song of Solomon, 6:3 across her neck and back, reading "I am my love’s/And my love is mine/Who browses among the lilies." Various other translations are listed here, if you’re a Hebrew expert.
  4. Colin Farrell: Irish actor Colin Farrell has several large, visible tattoos, including a Tahitian tribal design, a reference to his first wife, and a large Carpe Diem tattoo. While it’s now a phrase that’s thrown around almost cheaply, "Carpe diem" was first published in a poem by Horace, in a longer quote that reads, "Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero," or "Seize the Day, trusting as little as possible in the future."
  5. Keith Urban tattoo: Country singer Keith Urban’s tattoos reveal his romantic, free-spirited side. He has four tattoos in all — a thunderbird, eagle, the word love, and in Latin, the phrase "love conquers all." The text comes from Virgil’s Eclogue X, and in Latin reads "omnia vincit amor."
  6. Elizabeth Hand: Generation Loss author Elizabeth Hand has several tattoos and was interviewed by AbeBooks.com on their significance. One is particularly personal: it’s an image that comes from the Japanese edition of her first book, Winterlong, depicting an image of The Boy in the Tree, "a recurring figure in my work," she explains.
  7. Johnny Depp: Johnny Depp has several tattoos honoring his family and important moments throughout his life, remarking that his "body is a journal in a way. It’s like what sailors used to do, where every tattoo meant something, a specific time in your life when you make a mark on yourself." One of his most recent tattoos is a simple line of text reading "Silence Exile Cunning" that appears on his left arm. It’s a reference to James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and comes from a quote from Stephen Dedalus, who says, "…I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using my defence the only arms I allow myself to use — silence, exile, and cunning."
  8. Orlando Bloom: Actor Orlando Bloom has appeared in and starred in numerous films, but may be most remembered by certain fans for his work in The Lord of the Rings series, based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien. To commemorate his role, he and several other cast-mates got the word "Nine" tattooed on their wrists in Elvish. It stands for the nine actors who rounded out The Fellowship of The Ring in the films.
  9. Brian Keene: Award-winning author of Jobs in Hell and The Rising Brian Keene also keeps his stories close to himself. Keene gets his book covers tattooed onto his back. His goal is to have his entire back covered in four or five book covers, with his own spine mimicking the spine of a book.
  10. Freja Beha Erichsen: Model Freja Beha Erichsen is one of the most recognized faces in the fashion business, fronting campaigns and walking the runway for some of the world’s biggest fashion shows. She also has several tattoos, including the word "Float" on the side of her neck, an upside down triangle on the back of her neck, and "This Too Shall Pass," on the inside of her right arm. It’s a phrase that supposedly originated in writings by Persian Sufi poets and was also revitalized by English poet Edward Fitzgerald in the early 19th century.

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