Saturday, October 26, 2019

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about... Pirates by Ed T. Fox

Everyone thinks they know about pirates. They wear fancy three-cornered hats, doublets, and swords, usually have a parrot on one shoulder croaking about "pieces of eight," shout YARRR! and are always outlaws. Right?

Well, sometimes.

Outlaws? Well, most were just thieves with ships. But some had legal licenses to loot their nation's enemies. Privateer Henry Morgan was knighted by King Charles II of England, and Queen Elizabeth I granted captains like Sir Francis Drake secret privateer licenses to prey on England's enemies at sea, quietly taking her royal share of the loot which Drake took from those Spanish galleons. Spanish sailors called Drake "El Draque," (the Dragon!). In fact, Drake's ship, The Golden Hind, became a major tourist attraction in London.

It was there for around 80 years before it rotted away!

And what about those skull and crossbone flags? Did all pirates fly them from their mizzen masts?

Sorry. Most pirates had their own personal, but equally frightening, flags.

Did Blackbeard really set his long beard on fire to terrify his enemies?

Not exactly, but that's what he wanted them to think! Actually, he stuck lighted matches in his hair when he attacked.

Did all pirates say Yarrr and Arrrr?

Not at all. That line was invented by Disney movie actor Robert Newton, who seems to have taught us all how to "talk like a pirate."

Were all pirates guys?

No. Anne Bonny and Mary Read found some fame as pirates, and the real Pirate Queen has to be Ching Shih, who commanded a fleet of pirates manned by 40,000 sailors!

Did pirates steal nothing but gold?

Gold was great, of course, but pirates would also take valuable cargoes such as spices, tobacco, slaves, and sugar. One crew even captured a load of guano (bird poo), a prized fertilizer from South America.

Just about everything you ever wanted to know about pirates and piracy, ancient to modern--and a lot you didn't know you didn't know--can be found in Ed T. Fox's DKFindout! Pirates from the Findout series, by Dorling Kindersley, 2017), which advertises and delivers "Fun Facts, Amazing Pictures, and Quizzes," a full glossary, an index, as well as endpapers with a Timeline of Pirates. With excellent full-color art and photographs, old posters, spot art of everything from weapons to pirate-wear, and even an interview with the marine archaeologist who explored Blackbeard's sunken flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, this slim volume is great for reports and browsing, and even for designing authentic pirate costumes for Halloween.



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