What if Police Sketch Artists Drew Famous Literary Characters?

When it was recently announced that the character of Hermione Granger would be cast with a black actress in the new Harry Potter play Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, the social media world was aflutter. Some were outraged; some were thrilled. J.K. Rowling expressed her support‚ÄĒpointing out that it was never specified that the character was white.

And indeed, although famous literary characters often are described in detail in text, their Hollywood versions don’t always quite match. But what do those characters actually look like? If you fed the description to a police sketch artist, what face would you see? That’s the concept behind¬†The Composites, a tumblr that renders¬†literary characters as¬†police sketches.

Using descriptions directly from the book, creator Brian Joseph Davis uses law enforcement composite sketch software to create the faces of famous literary icons, from Sherlock Holmes to Lisbeth Salander. Each month he uploads a new literary character from both modern and classic literature. Check out the samples below, and visit the site for more. (You can also pick up his book, The Composites: Police Sketches of Literary Characters.) 

Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre,¬†Charlotte Bront√ę

police sketch artist

“I sometimes regretted that I was not handsomer; I sometimes wished to have rosy cheeks, a straight nose, and small cherry mouth; I desired to be tall, stately, and finely developed in figure; I felt it a misfortune that I was so little, so pale, and had features so irregular and so marked‚Ķ‚ÄúJane, you look blooming, and smiling, and pretty,‚ÄĚ said he: ‚Äútruly pretty this morning. Is this my pale, little elf? Is this my mustard-seed? This little sunny-faced girl with the dimpled cheek and rosy lips; the satin-smooth hazel hair, and the radiant hazel eyes?‚ÄĚ (I had green eyes, reader; but you must excuse the mistake: for him they were new-dyed, I suppose)‚Ķ Having ascertained that I was myself in my usual Quaker trim, where there was nothing to retouch‚ÄĒall being too close and plain, braided locks included.”

Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

police sketch artist

“His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded; and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination.”

Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson

police sketch

“A pale, skinny young woman who had hair as short as a fuse, and a pierced nose and eyebrows. She had a wasp tattoo about an inch long on her neck‚ĶOn those occasions when she had been wearing a tank top, a dragon tattoo can be seen on her left shoulder blade. Her natural hair colour was red, but she had dyed it ivory black‚ĶCrooked smile.”

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson

police sketch

“To this rule, Dr. Jekyll was no exception; and as he now sat on the opposite side of the fire‚ÄĒa large, well-made, ssmooth-faced man of fifty, with something of a slyish cast perhaps, but every mark of capacity and kindness‚ĶThe large handsome face of Dr. Jekyll grew pale to the very lips, and there came a blackness about his eyes.
Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile‚Ķthickly shaded with a swart growth of hair‚Ķcorded and hairy‚ĶGod bless me, the man seems hardly human! Something troglodytic‚ĶEdward Hyde was so much smaller, slighter, and younger than Henry Jekyll. Even as good shone upon the countenance of the one, evil was written broadly and plainly on the face of the other‚ĶThe few who could describe him differed widely, as common observers will. Only on one point, were they agreed; and that was the haunting sense of unexpressed deformity with which the fugitive impressed his beholders.”

Annie Wilkes, Misery, Stephen King

police sketch

“Her body was big but not generous‚ĶHer hair like some battered helmet‚ĶHer hair fungus-frowzy around her face‚ĶGrinning rictus‚ĶHe thought Misery was a wonderful name for a pig. He remembered how she had imitated it, the way her upper lip had wrinkled toward her nose, how her cheeks had seemed to flatten‚ĶThe impervious prow of her face‚ĶIf he had been a farmer observing a sky which looked the way Annie’s face looked right now, he would have at once gone to collect his family and herd them into the storm cellar. Her brow was too white. Her nostrils flared regularly, like the nostrils of an animal scenting fire‚ĶThat stony, obdurate look covered her face like a mask‚ĶOnly her eyes, those tarnished dimes, were fully alive under the shelf of her brow.”

Want more book nerd fun? Check out 1,500 places from literary road trips mapped and these pieces of wisdom from literary greats. And for more inspiration, sign up for our newsletter. 

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