Als von des Drachen Wunden | floß das heiße Blut,
Und sich darinne badete | der kühne Recke gut,
Da fiel ihm auf die Achseln | ein Lindenblatt so breit:
Da kann man ihn verwunden; | das schafft mir Sorgen und Leid.
Das Nibelungenlied (928), Karl Simrock (1868 transcription)
Last year had some pretty rough patches for me because feelings. I’m so fastidious about my life that I tend to get in an especially dangerous kind of rut – smooth sailing. Easily navigable squalls engender overconfidence. Then when a real storm comes I’m suddenly bailing for all I’m worth. I needed a permanent reminder that I’m not unsinkable, so I got a linden leaf tattooed on the left side of my back.
I’d toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo for about a decade now, but always backed off because I couldn’t settle on anything that I’d be fine with permanently. I thought about this one good and hard for around 6 months and didn’t change my mind.
I did it on April Fool’s Day. I posted about it on Facebook, and, of course, no one really knew what to believe. My family will certainly think I’m the fool. It was a pretty good experience. First off, I was sexually harassed the entire time by my pals at Kollective Studio. I also felt a little bashful taking my shirt off in front of these pretty tattooed ladies. I bartered some computer work, so it was free. I was told I have beautiful skin that is perfect for tattoos. I told them that they tell all first timers that so they can get repeat business. A stuffed jackalope witnessed my inking.
It felt like critters burrowing under my flesh, and burned the next day like a sunburn. I like the result. So far so good.
For those in need of context, The Nibelungenlied, from which Wagner based his epic opera cycle, which in turn engendered the Chuck Jones his masterpiece What’s Opera, Doc?, is an old Middle German epic that’s just a giant Mulligan stew of rip-roaring adventure all the way through. Fritz Lang made a great silent movie about it, if you’ve got 5 hours. It’s got Odin, shapeshifters, magical rings, nymphs, evil dwarves, beautiful maidens, frightening dragons, and an epic hero, Siegfried.
See, Siegfried kills the dragon Fafnir and then bathes in his blood. This makes him wholly invincible, except where the leaf from a linden tree fell on his back.
It’s a permanent reminder to me that I, too, have a weak spot.
When from the wounded dragon / reeking flowed the blood,
And therein did bathe him / the valiant knight and good,
Fell down between his shoulders / full broad a linden leaf.
There may he be smitten; / ’tis cause to me of mickle grief.
The Nibelungenlied (902), George Henry Needler (1904 translation)