Game for a dragon, sword or direwolf tattoo?

The Circle tattoo parlour in London (left) was offering free Game Of Thrones tattoos as part of a promotion by Now TV, a British streaming service. Designs included dragons (above) and phrases such as "Winter Is Coming".
The Circle tattoo parlour in London (above) was offering free Game Of Thrones tattoos as part of a promotion by Now TV, a British streaming service. Designs included dragons and phrases such as "Winter Is Coming".PHOTO: NYTIMES
The Circle tattoo parlour in London (left) was offering free Game Of Thrones tattoos as part of a promotion by Now TV, a British streaming service. Designs included dragons (above) and phrases such as "Winter Is Coming".
The Circle tattoo parlour in London was offering free Game Of Thrones tattoos as part of a promotion by Now TV, a British streaming service. Designs included dragons (above) and phrases such as "Winter Is Coming".PHOTO: NYTIMES

LONDON • Two weeks ago, Ms Rebecca Gosnell, 24, stood outside The Circle, a tattoo parlour in London, waiting to get her first tattoo.

It was going to be of a sword, called Needle, from the hit television series Game Of Thrones (2011 to present).

In the show, that sword belongs to Arya Stark, a young woman trying to make her place in a man's world, not unlike Ms Gosnell herself.

But there was also a simpler reason she had decided to get it done.

"It's free," she said.

Ms Gosnell was one of about 30 people, mainly women in their 20s, in a line to get complimentary Game Of Thrones tattoos, offered as part of a promotion by Now TV, a British streaming service.

The show, a fantasy epic produced by HBO, is now in its final season.

Now TV's offer sounded like a desperate bid to get some media coverage and maybe sell a few subscriptions in the process.

There have been many headline-grabbing stunts recently that a cynic could roll their eyes at: Fender, the guitarmaker, for instance, introduced a range of Game Of Thrones instruments last month.

Yet, many standing in line for the free tattoos spoke passionately about how the show had inspired them and it was hard to be cynical about that.

"There're so many characters in the show who are underdogs and they get really badly treated by life and people, so they have to rise up," Ms Gosnell said.

She had been bullied herself and was coming out of a bad break-up, she added. Looking at the sword tattoo would empower her, she said.

Game Of Thrones tattoos are nothing new, said Lauren Winzer, an Australian tattoo artist who designed them for the Now TV promotion and had flown out for the event.

Visitors to The Circle could choose from 16 of her designs, including phrases such as "Winter Is Coming" written in Gothic script and a picture of the show's famous Iron Throne. More than 6,000 people applied for 50 slots, a Now TV spokesman said.

In Sydney, Australia, where Winzer is based, many fans at first wanted tattoos of the direwolves, she said, animals in the show that bond with and defend some characters.

She even tattooed one on Sophie Turner, one of the lead actors in Game Of Thrones, with the phrase "The Pack Survives" underneath.

"It's just getting something you love and relate to," Winzer replied, when asked why people wanted Game of Thrones tattoos. "I mean, I've got Simpsons and Addams Family tattoos."

Recently, fans were getting more obscure ones so they stood out, she added.

In London, she tattooed a fan with a door that had the phrase "Hold The Door" written on it, she said, a reference to a climactic scene from Game Of Thrones season six.

Around the corner from the Now TV promotion, in another parlour called Gypsy Stables, Cesar Pimenta was preparing to ink an image of a leopard onto a customer who appeared to have little space left for new additions.

He said he has seen people getting Game Of Thrones tattoos for years, but has done only three himself. "I did two dragons on someone's hands, and then I did this crest from the show of a dead man on a cross," he said.

"It looks like a guy getting tortured."

Was that not too dark a symbol to tattoo on someone?

"It's cool, so why not?" he said.

Pimenta added that he is not as obsessed with Game Of Thrones as some of his customers are, but did get fans' obsession with wolves, an animal he said he feels a special bond with.

"It's one of the few animals with spiritualism," he said. "I lived in Finland before, and listening to the wolves at night, howling in the forest, is a beautiful feeling. It gives this kind of magical touch to your soul."

Back at The Circle, the parlour's five chairs were fully occupied and a steady trickle of Game Of Thrones fans emerged from the basement with their new and free tattoos. None was of wolves. They were mostly dragons.

Ms Ashleigh Quelch, 25, a maintenance engineer in the car industry, came up from the basement with a seven-pointed star on her wrist.

She had chosen a subtle tattoo, she said, so it was not obviously connected to the show.

"I appreciate people having images of movies and bands and things, but it's a bit obvious," she said. "This is classy."

Why does she think people are so obsessed with the series?

"It's just a massive soap opera - a soap opera with dragons," she said, and viewers could identify with the characters. But it was also because it was a simple escape.

"I read something interesting the other day," she said. "That we were born 100 years too late to explore the Earth and 100 years too early to explore space. We are in this boring middle bit. So we have Game Of Thrones instead."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2019, with the headline '... or a dragon, sword or direwolf tattoo?'. Print Edition | Subscribe