How to Make Red Dye (Feat. John Boyne)

Chris Tan
3 min readAug 4, 2020


A Lesson on Not Researching Fake Video Game Recipes for Real Things

Disclaimer: You don’t make red dye with the “tail of red lizalfos and four Hylian shrooms”.

There’s a lot of background preparation that comes into writing a novel; when bringing a world to life, equipping it with the most realistic and lively of details is integral in breathing life into what is just a series of instructions for the reader’s brain to imagine.

Some authors spend months, if not years, on the subject they want to focus on. That’s self evident, right? Dan Brown once said that to write Origin, he had to read four books saying that Charles Darwin was wrong. It’s all the more impressive when an author, someone with a traditionally liberal arts background, spends rigorous hours learning subjects of science to build their story’s science, philosophy, and other elements of creativity.

Super serious novel with super serious dye-making instructions.

I say all that just to bring attention to this little passage from acclaimed writer John Boyne’s newest novel, A Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom. Evidently, it’s supposed to be a serious novel with serious themes, and serious travelers at serious gates of wisdom.

According to him, at least, dressmaking dye consists of “leaves of the silent princess plant,” “Octorok eyeball”, “the tail of red lizalfos”, and “four Hylian shrooms.”

You’d think he would notice something was afoot when he read “Octorok eyeball” but I guess he just rolled with it; “kids these days and their fancy dye, am I right?”

In completely unrelated news, here’s the instructions for making dye from the critically acclaimed video game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Good luck trying to take this guy’s tail.

It’s surely a coincidence, I hope. I mean, we can always hope, right?

We can hope that Mr. Boyne here didn’t spend 5 seconds on Google typing “ingredients red dye clothes,” and with the first pop-up being Breath of the Wild instructions, he blindly copied then down without even reading.

Well, consider your hopes crushed; author Dana Schwartz, like many probably reading the book, had a hunch on where this information came from, and she struck gold.

Taken from author Dana Schwartz's thread where she notes this google search.

Credit where credit is due, John Boyne owned up to the error and took it in stride, making jokes about it on his Twitter and replying to others having just a light laugh about it.

On a more serious note, let this be a lesson to all the aspiring writers out there to do a bit more research than a simple Google search for red dye ingredients; Mr. Boyne here is an accomplished writer so faults like this can be somewhat overlooked, but I can’t say the same about others. One mistake like this and you could be the laughingstock for the rest of like, 2 months or so when everyone forgets; time moves faster online.

If you’re interested in how red dye isn’t made, consider reading Boyne’s A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom. Otherwise, make a quick google search.

Hey, at least he didn’t take the Minecraft instructions right?

Actually, the Minecraft recipe looks a bit more realistic. Maybe he should’ve.

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Chris Tan

Resident moron at the University of Waterloo, living rent-free at