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)

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