A tattoo is made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to form a design. Tattooing, primarily of the face, is a custom used frequently in some of the cities in Essos where slavery is practiced, such as Volantis and the cities under its rule. Some slave tattoos are actually brands, burnt into the skin.
It is custom in Volantis to have the faces of slaves tattooed, to mark their status. It also prevents slaves escaping on the constant flow of ships. Such tattoos are often designed to reveal the slave's role. This custom is also practiced in the cities under the control of Volantis, like Selhorys.
Facial tattoos can sometimes protect slaves. For example, if soldiers of the Fiery Hand are aboard a ship captured by slavers, they can expect to be bought back by a red temple, since the flames tattooed upon their faces are their insurance.
Former slaves sometimes remove their tattoos. A faded scar is on the widow of the waterfront's cheek, from where she had her tear tattoo cut away after she was freed. Ser Marq Mandrake has a hole in one cheek where a slaver's mark has been burned away.
A rare few known tattoos appear to be unrelated to slavery. According to semi-canon sources, the freeborn citizens of Volantis tattoo themselves to show prowess in battle, and as a record of their exploits.
Known slave tattoos
The following slave tattoos are known to be used in Volantis and her associated cities:
- Squares of motley, from neck to scalp: fools and jesters.
- A wheel upon one cheek: driver of a hathay.
- A mask of blue feathers.
- A lightning bolt that runs from jaw to brow.
- A coin upon the cheek.
- A leopard's spots.
- A skull.
- A jug.
- Flies on the cheeks: slaves that collect elephant and horse dung.
- Flames across the cheeks: members of the Fiery Hand.
- Flames across the cheeks, chin, and forehead: priests of the faith of R'hllor.
- A horsehead on the cheek: workers in stables.
- Tiger stripes, green as jade, across the cheeks: slave soldiers.
- A single tear beneath the right eye: prostitutes.
- A ship's figurehead on one cheek: slave sailors bound to that ship.
- A demon's mask, branded on a cheek: a dangerous and disobedient slave.
Known tattooed characters
- Benerro: slave tattoos of flames cover his cheeks, chin and shaven head, as the priests of R'hllor have.
- Coryanne Wylde: allegedly, per A Caution for Young Girls, she was tattooed when she was a slave in Volantis.
- Cragorn: his chest is tattooed with a hawk, with talons that drip blood.
- Jorah Mormont: slave brand of a demon's mask on his right cheek.
- Moqorro: slave tattoos of flames covering his cheeks and forehead.
- Patchface: slave tattoos of motley covering his face.
- Shadow Men: known for covering their bodies in tattoos.
- Steelskin: his cheeks, brow, chest, and arms are covered with intricate green and black tattoos, allegedly ancient Valyrian sorcerer's signs.
- Sunset girl: slave tattoos of tears beneath one eye.
- Tessario: tiger stripes tattooed across his face and back.
- Tiger cloaks: slave tattoos of green tiger stripes across their cheeks.
- Webber: spider tattoos covering his head, chest and arms.
- A Dothraki slave overseer in Astapor: the harpy and chains tattooed across his chest.
- The Selaesori Qhoran's crew: fifty slaves bound to the ship, each with a crude version of the cog's figurehead tattooed upon one cheek.
His fool's face left no doubt of who he was. It was the fashion in the Free City of Volantis to tattoo the faces of slaves and servants; from neck to scalp the boy's skin had been patterned in squares of red and green motley.
Slave tattoos. Marks of evil.—thoughts of Victarion Greyjoy
—thoughts of Tyrion Lannister
—thoughts of Tyrion Lannister
- Wikipedia: Tattoo
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