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Millennium (Series) | Symbols



Lisbeth Salander's tattoos serve multiple purposes. First, the tattoos symbolize moments in Salander's past—both positive and negative—she wants to remember. For example, after Nils Bjurman rapes her in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Salander has a "narrow band" tattooed on her ankle, exactly where Bjurman handcuffed her. She tells the tattoo artist, "It's a reminder." The same can be said of the giant dragon tattoo on her back. In The Girl Who Played with Fire, the reader learns Salander set her father on fire after years of watching him abuse her mother. Although Salander has a small, childlike body, inside she's a fire-breathing dragon.

More broadly, Salander's tattoos symbolize her control over her own body. Even though Bjurman rapes her, he doesn't control her body; she does. After the rape she uses a tattoo to gain control over his body; she tattoos the phrase "I AM A SADISTIC PIG, A PERVERT, AND A RAPIST" across his chest, ensuring he will remember the incident forever.

After years of being told what to eat, where to sleep, and what medication to take, Salander uses her body to exert her independence. She can inflict pain through tattoos and piercings at her choosing. Her clothes, makeup, hairstyle, and tattoos all broadcast her refusal to follow social standards for a woman's appearance. She, and only she, is the boss of her body.


Computers symbolize information, which confers power. Technology and computer hacking give the diminutive Salander a fair chance in the fight against her enemies. Salander belongs to a group of hackers known as the Hacker Republic; in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, its members band together to help bring down Salander's enemies, including Dr. Peter Teleborian, a well-respected doctor who partnered with a secret organization within the Swedish government to destroy Salander. He proves no match for the hackers who discover folders of child pornography on his computer. The Hacker Republic claims it could take down the entire Swedish government if necessary, and this seems quite plausible.

Even when Salander is at her weakest (after Zalachenko shoots her in the head), powering up a computer restores her strength and determination. Although she can barely sit up in her hospital bed, the computer enables her to fight her enemies. Hacking helps her solve the mystery of Harriet Vanger's disappearance and steal millions from Hans-Erik Wennerström's bank accounts in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Meanwhile, Blomkvist uses his computer to write powerfully researched editorials that help take down organized crime.

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