For an action franchise, the John Wick films are full of symbolism. Not only do the character names echo Greek and Roman mythology, but the narrative structure is almost Shakespearean, and the action sequences are often balletic. For a trio of movies that started with a hitman pulled out of retirement to avenge the death of his dog, they’re surprisingly elegant. Their main protagonist, a man of economical word choice and surly charisma, also sports a fair amount of tattoos, and in fact, the ink is on display a lot throughout the films.
Is there any deep meaning behind John Wick’s tattoos, or like they’re just there to set him apart from all the other tough guys in Hollywood? Do the tattoos of the members of his elite assassin guild have any meaning, including the highest-ranking members, like The Adjudicator? Let’s break down the meaning of John Wick tattoos and tattoos of the John Wick Universe.
ten HE CAN BE A MARINE BODY VETERINARIAN
Although John Wick’s backstory has yet to be touched upon in the films, his impressive hand-to-hand combat skills, mastery of firearms, body language, and tattoos indicate that he has military training. Considering how he dispenses violent revenge against anyone foolish enough to get in his way, there’s good reason to believe he’s a Marine Corps veteran.
The tattoo on his back that reads “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat”, translated from Latin as “fortune smiles on the bold”, recalls the motto of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines. Their spelling is “Fortes Fortuna Juvat”, but its meaning is similar. Tattoos with similar slogans are not uncommon in many branches of the armed forces.
9 HE COULD BE (OR WAS) A MAN OF FAITH
In the shower scene from the first John Wick movie, we clearly see his tattoos. Below the scribbled Latin phrase, “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat”, we see two hands clasped in prayer. They are presented on a cross, with rays radiating from its three visible points.
This indicates that John might be a man of faith, so devoted to his higher power or point of worship that he got the pious tattoo placed between his shoulder blades. His mission of revenge is against most religions, but his archetype of some kind of anti-hero “fallen angel”, a once-good man tainted by the sin of his former life, would fit the narrative of the films. .
8 HE IS POSSIBLY A PAGAN
“Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat” has been interpreted differently by different Latin scholars, and since it is a dead language, they will continue to debate the meaning of the phrase. Some believe him to say, “Only the strong do Fortuna come to save.”.
Fortuna was the Roman goddess of fortune and luck, considered a guiding figure of opportunity and fate. She could bless or curse your actions, depending on her whim. Despite the praying hands on his back, John Wick could believe in Fortuna and hold more pagan beliefs, living his life according to the will of Luck’s guidance.
seven IT HAS BEEN SOME TIME
Considering his history with the Ruska Roma as an orphaned child and the fact that they are a High Table division filled with Belarusian assassins, Wick might have done some things on behalf of his adoptive family that would have caused him to suffer. drove to a Russian prison given the wolf tattoo on his right shoulder.
Snarling wolves, tigers or leopards are known as “oskals”, translated from Russian as “Big Grin”, and are placed on aggressive prisoners in the face of authority. If he wasn’t in a Russian prison, he might have gotten tattooed by the Ruska Roma themselves for insubordination in his youth.
6 HE WAS IN THE RUSSIAN MOB
In John Wick’s first film, we learn that he worked for the Tarasov family, an influential clan within the Russian mafia. Iosef Tarasov made the colossal mistake of stealing John Wick’s car and killing his puppy, a gift from his late wife, even though Wick had provided many years of loyal service.
In the underground club shoutout, Iosef is seen to have multiple tattoos, including a tattoo on his back (although not similar to Wick’s). It is possible that during his affiliation with this family, Wick got some of the tattoos he has on his back and shoulders, such as the growling wolf, the face in flames, or the cross on his left shoulder.
5 HE’S A FINE ARTS FAN
One of John Wick’s most prominent tattoos is the praying hands on his back above a cross. The hands themselves are an almost identical copy of “Study of the Hands of an Apostle”, a pen drawing by German artist Albrecht Dürer. It is considered one of the finest examples of white highlighting in black ink on blue paper.
Having the depiction of Dürer’s most famous work on his back could indicate that John Wick has a more sensitive and cultured side apart from all the violence. Given the lavish lifestyles of some of his associates and the prestige of the High Table, it stands to reason that he could have retired from the hitman’s racket with an appreciation for such fine craftsmanship.
4 HE IS PROUD OF HIS ADOPTED FAMILY
As revealed in Parabellum, John Wick’s real name is Jardani Jovonovich, and he grew up an orphan. He was adopted into the Ruska Roma crime syndicate and nursed back to health by the director, who turned him into the world’s most elite assassin. His demanding and decisive hand has shaped him as a fighter and a dancer, which is one of the reasons his movements are so fluid.
Her tattoos can commemorate her time spent serving the family, indicating her deep level of commitment and devotion. The other dancers are seen under the watchful eye of the director to also sport large tattoos that cover their backs, shoulders, and arms. The obsessive exercises she puts them through ensure that in the moment their bodies will move independently of their minds, and they will be ruthless killing machines without having to think.
3 TATTOOS COULD INDICATE ALLEGIANCE
Just as John Wick found refuge with the Ruska Roma and began his career as an assassin working for prominent Russian families, the tattoos of other characters in the John Wick universe could also indicate allegiances to their specific cohorts.
Russian mob and prison tattoos tend to reflect his deeds and accomplishments, so it stands to reason that assassins who join a clan under the High Table will acquire pieces of ‘ink with some specific contracts, like their first move, or most leading move.
2 TATTOOS REVEAL ASSASSIN ETHOS
John Wick chose “Fortis Fortuna Aduivat” to bow on his back above a pair of praying hands, indicating he is a decisive doer. His actions are bold, he is above fear, and he lives his life by his own moral code and terms of conduct.
The referee in John Wick Parabellum has the word “Einfühlung” tattooed on his neck. It’s a German word that translates to “empathy,” which is an ironic selection of ink considering the nature of his position within the High Table. It may be a reminder to express an understanding of another person’s frame of reference and to judge everyone fairly.
1 TATTOOS REPRESENT A DIVISION OF SOCIETY
The High Table and its secret guild of elite assassins is a group not unlike the so-called Illuminati – a mysterious entity outside of society but nonetheless involved in all of its machinations. All of its agents work within the bounds of its laws and doctrines, and seem to care very little for the rules of normal society.
This could be a reason why so many associates under the High Table have a lot of tattoos. Their ink visually signifies being apart from society in a symbolic way. A great example of this is the operators seen in john wick chapter 2, who play socially acceptable, but ink-covered roles that would not be suitable for the position in previous decades.
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