The Last of Us Part II is a game packed with symbolism. From the fretboard on Joel’s guitar to the pin badges on Ellie’s backpack, nearly every visual detail of Naughty Dog’s stunning sequel is designed to evoke an emotion. And the game is certainly emotional. The Last of Us had its fair share of heartbreaking moments but the sequel goes even further with somber themes and some downright heartbreaking plot turns.
We first got to see Ellie’s new look, featuring her now-famous arm tattoo, back in 2016 – and naturally, fans were eager to unpack the true meaning of the ink. The tattoo, designed by Los Angeles artist Natalie Hall, depicts a butterfly delicately perched upon some fern leaves. For some fans, the elegant design was the perfect way to represent their fandom with their own tattoos.
We got in touch with a few of the fans with The Last of Us ink, to find out the deeper meanings behind their body art.
“The Last of Us changed my life. It was my first game on PS3, and I really identified with Ellie’s life and her decisions,” explains fan Sophie, who goes by CreepyNezuko on Instagram.
For Sophie, it was the growth of Ellie’s character that struck a chord. In Part II, Ellie continues to grow and further relate to her father figure, Joel.
“The second game impressed me because Ellie really changed. She learned and also suffered the consequences of being saved by Joel and that was so hard to see.”
It’s clear that many players were inspired by the bond between The Last of Us protagonist Joel and Ellie. Instagram user _onesandzeros_ also shared the meaning behind her The Last of Us tattoo.
“Definitely the idea of Joel doing virtually anything to protect Ellie, literally almost killing himself at the university just to protect her connected with me,” she says. “I think we all wish we had a dad like that.”
Mike Kerrigan also sports a variation of Ellie’s tattoo. For him, the themes of The Last of Us held a more specific emotional weight, which inspired him to get his own ink.
“I played The Last of Us when it originally came out in 2013. It hit home because I recently lost my Dad and also had my third child. Joel had this disconnect with Ellie but grew to love her as a daughter and would do anything to protect her… even if that meant lying to her.”
Kerrigan goes on to explain his interpretation of the design.
“I personally interpreted it as ‘finding the light in the darkness and a constant strive for it’. My kids are a bit older now, and where they may not always think I’m on their side, I’m always striving to do what’s best for them. Not necessarily lying to them like Joel did, but in a way that they may not realise at the time.”
If you’ve yet to play The Last of Us Part II, catch up on the story so far with our plot recap.