Pirate Week: the Legend of Blackbeard

The villain in the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie is Blackbeard, which is a name I have recognized since I was little (likely because the Disney movie, Blackbeard’s Ghost was on the Disney Channel at some point, and I’m sure I watched it, though it apparently didn’t make a lasting impression on me). This is a really good choice for a Pirates villain, and a really good choice for a Disney villain. Here is a pirate soaked in history, which of course makes for a greater challenge to write about him here. So I’m going to cheat: I don’t normally refer anyone to Wikipedia, but the Blackbeard article (as of today) is one of the most comprehensive ones I found on my cursory Google search. It looks as though he is famous because he was one of the last and most notorious, though the Wiki article points out that he was not the most “successful” as far as the value of his treasure is concerned.

File:Edward Teach Commonly Call'd Black Beard (bw).jpgWe do know that his name was Edward Teach and that he died in 1718 (I’m curious if this puts an official date on the Pirates franchise?). He earned or adopted the name Blackbeard because of his bushy black beard, into which he supposedly put lit fuses to frighten his enemies. His peak piracy years were from 1716/1717 to 1718 (peak piracy year?) when he, his crew, and his ship the Queen Anne’s Revenge terrorized terrorized the Caribbean, and apparently the Atlantic coast up to North Carolina.

A shrewd and calculating leader, Teach avoided the use of force, relying instead on his fearsome image to elicit the response he desired from those he robbed. Contrary to the modern-day picture of the traditional tyrannical pirate, he commanded his vessels with the permission of their crews and there are no known accounts of his ever having harmed or murdered those he held captive. He was romanticised after his death, and became the inspiration for a number of pirate-themed works of fiction across a range of genres. (Wiki)

He was so frightening, that people considered him the Devil incarnate (I’m guessing this is where the Pirates writers got the idea of describing Barbossa as a pirate so evil, even Hell didn’t want him). When Blackbeard was killed by the Royal Navy, which was no easy task taking five gunshots and twenty-seven cuts, he was decapitated and his body was thrown into the sea. As the body hit the sea, legend has it (borrowed from the link below), the head shouted, “Come on Edward” and the headless body swam around the ship three times before sinking. It is said that since that day, the headless body is trying to find its head and haunts the area where he died, now known at Teach’s Hole. There are some who claim to see a headless body floating on the surface of the water or swimming around the Hole. Others claim to see a light, called Teach’s light, on the Pamlico Sound of Ocracoke Island. They say that if the wind is blowing inland when the light appears, you can hear Blackbeard’s ghost stomping around asking where his head is.

Here’s another interesting website about the lore of Blackbeard, as retold by S. E. Schlosser.

Blackbeard is returning to the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.