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The GNU logo, and Tux

Tux is the mascot for the Linux kernel.


Through the Linux Kernel Mailing List, a proposal for a Linux Kernel mascot was made. This led to a contest within the Mailing List. Various entries were entered, and in conclusion Linus screwed them all over and chose a penguin. Linus claimed that he liked Penguins, and then stopped the contest in its tracks, making a prototype penguin.

Re: Linux Logo prototype.

Linus Torvalds ([email protected])

Thu, 9 May 1996 17:48:56 +0300 (EET DST)

Somebody had a logo competition announcement, maybe people can send their 
ideas to a web-site..
Anyway, this one looks like the poor penguin is not really strong enough to
hold up the world, and it's going to get squashed. Not a good, positive logo,
in that respect..
Now, when you think about penguins, first take a deep calming breath, and
then think "cuddly". Take another breath, and think "cute". Go back to
"cuddly" for a while (and go on breathing), then think "contented". 
With me so far? Good..
Now, with penguins, (cuddly such), "contented" means it has either just
gotten laid, or it's stuffed on herring. Take it from me, I'm an expert on
penguins, those are really the only two options.
Now, working on that angle, we don't really want to be associated with a 
randy penguin (well, we do, but it's not politic, so we won't), so we 
should be looking at the "stuffed to its brim with herring" angle here.
So when you think "penguin", you should be imagining a slighly overweight
penguin (*), sitting down after having gorged itself, and having just burped. 
It's sitting there with a beatific smile - the world is a good place to be
when you have just eaten a few gallons of raw fish and you can feel another
"burp" coming. 
(*) Not FAT, but you should be able to see that it's sitting down because 
it's really too stuffed to stand up. Think "bean bag" here.
Now, if you have problems associating yourself with something that gets 
off by eating raw fish, think "chocolate" or something, but you get the 
Ok, so we should be thinking of a lovable, cuddly, stuffed penguin 
sitting down after having gorged itself on herring. Still with me?
NOW comes the hard part. With this image firmly etched on your eyeballs, you
then scetch a stylizied version of it. Not a lot of detail - just a black
brush-type outline (you know the effect you get with a brush where the
thickness of the line varies). THAT requires talent. Give people the
outline, and they should say [ sickly sweet voice, babytalk almost ]"Ooh,
what a cuddly penguin, I bet he is just _stuffed_ with herring", and small
children will jump up and down and scream "mommy mommy, can I have one too?".
Then we can do a larger version with some more detail (maybe leaning 
against a globe of the world, but I don't think we really want to give 
any "macho penguin" image here about Atlas or anything). That more 
detailed version can spank billy-boy to tears for all I care, or play 
ice-hockey with the FreeBSD demon. But the simple, single penguin would 
be the logo, and the others would just be that cuddly penguin being used 
as an actor in some tableau.

Another email in which he explains his choosing of a Penguin:

Re: Linux Logo
Linus Torvalds ([email protected])
Sun, 12 May 1996 09:39:19 +0300 (EET DST)
Umm.. You don't have any gap to fill in.
"Linus likes penguins". That's it. There was even a headline on it in 
some Linux Journal some time ago (I was bitten by a Killer Penguin in 
Australia - I'm not kidding). Penguins are fun.
As to why use a penguin as a logo? No good reason, really. But a logo 
doesn't really ave to _mean_ anything - it's the association that counts. 
And I can think of many worse things than have linux being associated 
with penguins.
Having a penguin as a logo also gives more freedom to people wanting to 
use linux-related material: instead of being firmly fixed with a specific 
logo (the triangle, or just "Linux 2.0" or some other abstract thing), 
using something like a penguin gives people the chance to make 
modifications that are still recognizable. 
So you can have a real live penguin on a CD cover, for example, and 
people will get the association. Or you can have a penguin that does 
something specific (a Penguin writing on wordperfect for the WP Linux CD, 
whatever - you get the idea).
Compare that to a more abstract logo (like the windows logo - it's not a 
bad logo in itself). You can't really do anything with a logo like that. 
It just "is".
Anyway, go to "http://www.isc.tamu.edu/~lewing/linux/" for some nice examples..

And one more:

From: Linus Torvalds  
Ok, short version:
I've always liked penguins, and when I was in Canberra a few years
ago we went to the local zoo with Andrew Tridgell (of samba fame). There
they had a ferocious penguin that bit me and infected me with a little
known disease called penguinitis. Penguinitis makes you stay awake at
nights just thinking about penguins and feeling great love towards them.
So when Linux needed a mascot, the first thing that came into my mind
was this picture of the majestic penguin, and the rest is history. 
Slightly more accurate version:
Yes, I was bitten by a penguin, but it wasn't actually very
ferocious. It was really just a pigmy penguin about 6 inches tall or
something, and it was more of a timid nibble ("is this finger a see
before me a small fish, or what?"). Even so, I like penguins a lot. 
More down-to-earth version:

All the other logos were too boring - I wasn't looking for the
"Linux Corporate Image", I was looking for something _fun_ and
sympathetic to associate with Linux. A slightly fat penguin that sits
down after having had a great meal fits the bill perfectly. 
Final comment:

Don't take the penguin too seriously. It's supposed to be kind of
goofy and fun, that's the whole point.  Linux is supposed to be goofy
and fun (it's also the best operating system out there, but it's goofy
and fun at the same time!). 

Alternate mascots

Daily Reminder that the mascot for Linux was almost a furry
This was used on the front page of Kernel.org in the 1990's

Of the alternate mascots purposed, a very accepted, and widely used one was of a Furry fox made by a person of the Yerf Furry Gallery. This was so popular that Linus made a Kernel logo that appeared on the Kernel's website combining the Furry logo with the Penguin logo.[1]

External links

A Wiki providing detailed history on the penguin