What the Dickens!? From the Bard to Browning, a history of ...

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What the Dickens!? From the Bard to Browning, a history of howlers

Author John Boyne’s Google search may have left him red-faced, but many great authors have got it wrong

Jake Kerridge

The novelist John Boyne has been caught out in a piece of half-baked research that would disgrace a candidate’s business plan on The Apprentice. In his new novel, A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom, Boyne describes a character making red dye at the court of Attila the Hun in 453 AD. Boyne provides a long list of the ingredients that go into the dye, including such bizarre-sounding items as “Octorok eyeball”, “Lizalfo tail” and “Hylian shrooms”.

After what happened next, you’d need an awful lot of Hylian shrooms to make a dye as red as John Boyne’s face.

The writer Dana Schwartz pointed out on Twitter that Octoroks, Lizalfos and the rest were creatures in the video game franchise The Legend of Zelda. She went on to note that if you type “how to dye clothes red” into Google, a recipe for red dye from the 2017 Zelda game Breath of the Wild is one of the first results...

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