The Dread Pirate Roberts Would Have Most Likely Killed You in The Morning
The Dread Pirate Roberts
I tore open the newspaper-wrapped box and squealed like a school girl when I realized I had finally gotten the present I dreamed of. I was nine, so squealing in excitement was an acceptable response to such a grand gift. There it was! In all its glory, a toy pirate ship. Of course, I never had name brand anything, so this was some cheap Playmobile knockoff, but I didn't care. This was it! I finally had my own Pirate Ship. I quickly shanghaied a crew and in no time Darth Vader and Thundar the Barbarian were laying siege with the vessel to a village of green plastic army men and Go-bots. No doubt kids are attracted to pirates like little grey aliens are attracted to lonely drunk rednecks.
Being a pirate-obsessed child of the 80's, my favorite movie was the Princess Bride. I am sure y'all have also seen it a thousand times, but in case it has been a while, let me refresh. In the movie, the hero, Westley, is captured and pressed into service under the infamous Dread Pirate Roberts. Every night the Dread Pirate Roberts would threaten Westley by saying, "Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning." Spoiler Alert! Eventually you find out that Westley became the most recent Dread Pirate Roberts and was a good guy. When you're a child, pirates are good guys and heroes. Look around at how they are marketed to kids. This is just a small list but they include: SpobongeBob Squarepants, Captain Feathersword from the Wiggles, Dora the Explorer, the Muppets, Scooby Doo, Veggie-Tales, Backyardigans, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Wonder Pets -Save the Pirate Parrot and of course Pirates of the Caribbean.
I continually saw pirates as nice or comically oafish until my childhood innocence was torn asunder when I read Treasure Island. Captain Flint terrified me when I was a little kid. Flint hides a huge treasure then kills the six crew mates that helped him bury it. The cruel and hardened pirate is never avenged for his horrible deeds and, rather, dies by his own hand from alcohol poisoning. The fictional captain is said to have died upstairs in Savannah's famous Pirates' House shouting, "Darby M'Graw - fetch aft the rum...." This harsh depiction of a more realistic pirate forever ruined my positive image of them.
As I got older I became much more interested in the real history of pirates. I quickly found out they definitely were not friendly and probably not the best role model for kids. Although thieves with ships have been around ever since man figured out how to sail, "The Golden Age of Piracy" was completely a government-created problem. England, France and Spain hated each other and were always warring.
Those countries quickly ran out of money and ships from fighting so much, so they recruited government sanctioned bandits called privateers to replace their dwindling Navies. As long as they never attacked vessels from their own country they had the legal blessing to rob and murder anyone they wanted. When the three countries made peace, the Privateers had become so accustomed to the freedom and fast booty that they kept attacking any ship they could. Since the governments could no longer control their own creations, the privateers were now deemed pirates and were hunted down.
Princess Bride Poison Scene
Pirates Are Still Popular
So, sadly in real life, Captain Feathersword would have plundered your child's toys and The Dread Pirate Roberts would have killed you in the morning. Although my innocence was lost, it was at least replaced with fascinating history and lore. My love of pirates is what inspired me to write my novel Pirates of Savannah. It is historical fiction loaded with real pirate and colonial history. Although my pirates I write about are much truer to reality, I still make them fun and larger than life. I mean, come on, it's a book about pirates after all. It still has to be a swashbuckling good read and not just a history book.
My advice, of course, is this: keep your kids playing with pirate toys, but when they are ready, introduce them to the real pirate history. It’s good parenting to inject them with both the fun stereotype and the real versions. You never know, your child could end up being a pirate history enthusiast and write his or her own best selling novel