The narwhal, or narwhale, is a sea-dwelling animal from the same family as the beluga whale. Narwhals can live up to 50 years and will spend the majority of their life in the Arctic waters of Canada, Greenland and Russia.
The way in which the narwhal gained its named is rather morbid. Nár is an Old Norse word that means “corpse” and relates to the animal’s mottled grey appearance, like that of a drowned sailor. Although, digging a little deeper, the nár in narwhal is also rather befitting to the animal.
Non-human related deaths of narwhals are due to falling prey to polar bears and orcas, but (even more tragic) when the sea freezes over, they can become trapped under an impenetrable layer of ice and suffocate.
Narwhals are often referred to as the unicorns of the sea – this harkens back to the medieval Europeans who believed the animal’s tusks to be the horns from unicorns. Generally, only the male narwhals have a tusk which is actually an upper canine tooth that grows through the lip; these tusks can grow from 1.5m to 3.1m in length. This long-held belief has certainly influenced the design of narwhals in tattooing as so many of these pieces include pastel colours, sparkly elements, or are in the kawaii style.
If you’re looking for even more of a unique or different type of narwhal tattoo, there are a few options: you could opt for a tusk-less female narwhal; alternatively, 15% of the female narwhal popular do grow a tusk, although the tusk in your tattoo would be considerably smaller; and, finally, you may settle on a double-tusked narwhal which is something that occurs in only 1 in 500 male narwhals.
What style and colour palette will you choose for your own narwhal tattoo?