The first image of Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham has surfaced recently:

Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham

I did not remember him described has having a tattooed face in the book. Is this an addition made to the character especially for the movie?

  • 2
    Could this be a nod to another great science fiction book by Alfred Bester? Gully Foyle had a tattoo face.
    – user15622
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 4:08
  • 2
    IMO the tattoos were added for the special dialogue where Rackham says that his tattos are a way for him to "Speak for the dead", thus planting the seeds for a (possible)sequel. Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 9:54

7 Answers 7


Yes, it seems to be added just for the movie.

I just searched a digital version of the novel. Although the name "Rackham" appears 40 times, the word "tattoo" appears zero times.

Here's how Rackham is described the first time Ender meets him:

He looked to be about sixty, by far the oldest man Ender had seen on Eros. He had a day's growth of white whiskers that grizzled his face only slightly less than his close-cut hair. His face sagged a little and his eyes were surrounded by creases and lines. He looked at Ender with an expression that bespoke only apathy.

There's nothing about tattoos on his face, and that would be the moment to mention it.


I don't have the book handy to specifically check this, but...

Enderverse lists Rackham as Half-Maori while Wikipedia says

Mazer Rackham is described in the book as a half-Maori New Zealander

This article confirms that the tattoos are meant to be Maori.

So while the book does not seem to ever actually specifically say that he has such tattoos, they DO make sense in terms of his character.

  • 6
    Yes, the book describes Rackham as "a little known, twice-court-martialled, half-Maori New Zealander."
    – Pixel
    Commented May 3, 2013 at 17:55
  • 2
    Funny - I had always assumed he had facial tattoos. It's certainly a common-enough thing for young Maori in present-day New Zealand. Commented May 5, 2013 at 4:00
  • @Pixel - see my answer re: "maori" part in prequel books Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 21:59
  • They especially make sense because the actor is NOT Maori, so adding a bit of obvious Maori design helps keep the movie version connected back to the source in the book.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 14:28
  • I'm genuinely surprised that it doesn't mention it in the book, since I imagined him heavily tattooed. I guess the more familiar you are with Maori culture the more likely you are to imagine him that way.
    – Stephen
    Commented Dec 10, 2019 at 0:42

SECOND UPDATE: Found what could be considered canonical answer in a Marvel Comic (Formic Wars: Burning Earth 01). There, Mazer has no tattoos at all.

enter image description here

This should be considered canonical since Marvel's "Ender's Game" comics - including "Formic Wars" series - were done with Card's full cooperation and were his idea, he clearly had some say in the way characters looked

We know that the comics were strongly affiliated with Card from first prequel book's Afterword, as well as the fact that they were directed by Card:

enter image description here

To add to Pixel's excellent answer, the prequel book (Earth Unaware) showed Lieutenant Mazer Rackham, and didn't mention any tattoos (UPDATE: checked against soft copy).

UPDATE: Just read the second book in the prequel series ("Earth Aflame").

The books heavily centers on Rackham.

He was NOT described as having any tattoos. However, the book goes into great detail of his background, which CAN be compatible with the tattoo theory:

  1. His mother was Maori, his father English
  2. His mother had to separate from the tribe because they objected to her marriage
  3. As a result, until her death, she **raised him fully immersed in Maori culture - language, legends, songs, warrior ethos, and all.
  4. After her death, his father raised him "full-on-Enhlish".

#3 means that it is quite possible that Rakham would have gotten Maori tattoos upon reaching adulthood, the age when Tā moko (maori tattoos) typically apply, out of respect for his mother's memory; but #4 means that it wasn't a certainty.

Again, the book doesn't describe any outward features (tattoos OR lack of thereof), the only physical description was weight and lack of fat (duh).


The tattoos may be consistent with Mazer Rackham's Mom's ethnicity, but NOT with his character's preferences or work as represented in the books (though maybe he had meaningful tattoos somewhere discreet and invisible to the other characters?).

Mazer does extensive undercover work in Shadow of the Giant. Hardly anyone who sees him suspects what a badass he is (including Ender, at their first meeting). He seems to cultivate this stealthiness, which makes sense considering that at first his existence and then his continued presence on Earth remain classified. His appearance needs to support that premise in order for that premise to work. The facial tattoos are therefore IMHO not only not appropriate for Mazer's internal character but also actively take away his powers to do undercover work as well as being inconsistent with his storyline. So basically they seem to be an arbitrary way for Hollywood to emphasize the "Mystic Native Life Coach" trope more than it was emphasized anywhere in any of the books, at the expense of the character's other dimensions.

I'm personally not so happy with the decision.

  • 1
    Welcome to the site! Excellent point about his role in Shadow of the Giant. Incidentally, I removed your last comment in your answer because we try not to encourage extended discussion in comments, unless it is specifically to improve the answer (or provide guidance on best practices for the site). If you're interested in discussion, our Science Fiction & Fantasy Chat system is a better venue, once you get sufficient reputation.
    – Beofett
    Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 12:34

While not truly authoritative, I found it interesting that official artwork for Card's short Mazer in Prison explicitly shows him without facial tattoos. The art was apparently featured in Card's emagazine Intergalactic Medicine Show.


I believe the Tattoos COULD very well be there in ender's game, other than the images from the prequel books as you've mentioned, which i've yet to read. For ender's shadow, I'm assuming the technology exists in that timeline to remove facial tattoos rather easily, and perhaps even facial reconstruction. I don't think it's too far a stretch to say that Mazer would have had this done after the events of Ender's Game in order to live out a "normal" life on earth and not get pestered about his actions in the 2nd invasion, even if he weren't doing the undercover stuff.


I did a little digging and found that Mazer is 1/2 Maori, a New Zealand tribe, and he tells Ender that his markings are "ta moko" (forgive lack of proper punctuation) = This is, in fact a Maori tradition, the markings indicate family and breeding. Furthermore, in the original book Mazer had been sent into deep space at one time, for 55 years, meaning his entire family had died. This would fully explain his statement of "Speaking for the Dead".

  • This doesn't really add anything over phantom42's answer.
    – Moogle
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 8:55

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