A Brief Telling
It has been said that the history of Jack Sparrow is clouded by the fanciful imaginings of his own fertile mind, his love of a good story, especially when the story was so good it bolstered his reputation beyond that of the most wanted pirate of the 18th Century, to a man of mythical proportion. Undoubtedly, modern storytellers Spielberg and Lucas were inspired by his exploits in the mythical world. Some of Jack's stories seem to be of a fatherly nature, as if handed down from his own father and passed on accordingly to children, his own children, perhaps, to be recounted again by us far removed in time and place, until we, the civilized adults of modernity, discount the pirate himself. This to me is unfair and unrealistic.
So, what can I tell you of Captain Jack Sparrow? Truth be known, most of what Jack wants you to know can be found by those who know where to look. Although, you might discover something here not recorded by others.
Jack Sparrow was born aboard a ship caught in a typhoon, possibly in the Indian Ocean where his father, Captain Teague, was Pirate Lord. Jack said his mother was an Indian maiden. Captain Teague was Pirate Lord of Madagascar in the heyday of piracy in that region, around the turn of the 18th Century. Spices, silks, gold, and diamonds were some of the booty to be had by pirating in those rich waters of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Madagascar was a haven for pirates sailing the lucrative Pirate Round. Teague's galleon, the 28-cannon Misty Lady, was registered at Madagascar. Pirate ports were upset on a sporadic pace, the French and English militaries taking control of a pirate base first on one side of the Atlantic Ocean, with the pirates then setting up base on the other side, only to have the militaries follow to the opposite side. So, between the Caribbean and Madagascar, pirate bases sprang up and dissolved on an as-needed basis. Those being the hard facts of a pirate's life, I am not sure if Jack's mother stayed long onboard with the family or settled on land. And I never did ask him.
His boyhood years have become the subject of a series of children's books, obviously written with much emphasis on the moral of the story and youth empowerment through fantasy. They're a good read even so, and the hidden truths of Jack's life are there for those who know the truth.
Now, Jack's last name. Pirate captains often took a nom de guerre to instill respect and fear in others, so that alone explains why Jack and his father seem to have different surnames, "Sparrow" and "Teague" respectively. It is known, however, that "Sparrow" was a title given to a seaman who'd sailed in all the seas of the world and this Jack had done long before he became a pirate lord himself, so Jack may have chosen that nom de guerre early on. Perhaps the differing surnames are also attributable to the rebellious teen years when Jack tried hard to distance himself entirely from the pirate world. If that is true, I am certain it was something Jack regretted later when his relationship with his father was a source of pride and a well Jack often tapped when perplexed by the vagaries of the world.
Captain Teague is another story. I've heard him refer to himself as "Edward Teague" and I had no desire to incur his displeasure by questioning his sources. The last name, though, invites conjecture on my part - Clan name, nom de guerre, or a proud combination of the two?
Teague is an Anglicized version of O'Taidgh, a Gaelic Clan from the wild and free West of Ireland. The name means "poet", a name well suited to Captain Teague, true enough.
Another possiblity comes from the world of Teague and Jack itself, a world increasingly squeezed by the globally expanding British Empire. The East India Trading Company was the economic arm of this empire in Jack's Caribbean world. And if Cutler Beckett (shudder) had gotten his way, the military arm as well.
A "Teague" was an Irish-speaking Catholic, well known throughout the Empire as a trouble-maker. Teagues harbored an innate hatred of British authority and if ever an uprising or rebellion was in need of instigators, the British knew a Teague would be at the core.
They had no rights, Teagues, in the British Empire. And they were dirt cheap. They were sold as slaves in numbers exceeding Blacks from Africa in those plantation-building years of the Caribbean. Oh, the brutality raged on a Teague slave! The great weight on the hearts of mothers and fathers looking at their offspring with eyes of pain, for the child of a slave was slave as well... Those who dared an escape were hunted down and when caught, branded on the forehead with the letters "FT" - "Fugitive Traitor".
Was Jack's father once a plantation slave? Did that influence a radical decision on Jack's part, one that propelled him back into the pirate world forever? Those were questions often on my mind as I'd look into the kind and weathered dark eyes of these two pirate lords. I marveled at the audacity of dangling symbols of an outlawed religion threaded into the Black Irish hair, as the senior pirate leaned against the back wall of Tortuga's only remaining tavern. And I wondered again if the crucifixes there among the coins, beads, and crosses held meaning beyond what I knew myself, beyond what many would deem rank superstition. But I never asked.
Well, a man of the sea needs training in the arts of self defense and Jack wasted no time. He taught himself to shoot by firing at rum bottles - emptied, of course - he'd throw over the side of his ship. Fine enough for pistoling and musketeering, but swordplay is not something perfected by repetition alone. So Jack traded a shipment of stolen Chinese silks for sword lessons from an Italian master. Even so, Jack, as you know, preferred to talk his way out of fights and his instinct was to run from battle.
Young Jack began his quest for adventure with his first ship the Barnacle; he and his crew freely sailed the seas from adventure to danger and back again. The abrupt departure of Jack never sat well with Captain Teague, however, and when Jack was a teen Captain Teague traced his tracks through port and vessel until finally catching up with his wayward son. It was at first a fearful reunion for Jack, but he soon understood that his father wanted only to set things right with him, only wanted Jack to realize that, sail around the world to his heart's content, his father would always be there for him. It was a promise Captain Teague would forever keep.
Ever wonder how Jack was nailed into that coffin that was thrown into the roiling waters off the Turkish Prison where he'd found the drawing of the key? Yes, his father.
Comes a time when every man puts aside his youthful dreams and sets his sights on making his way in the world. Jack somehow became employed by the East India Trading Company and was given first command of the merchant vessel the Wicked Wench. Although... I recall a night when Joshamee Gibbs let slip over a tankard of rum that he first came to know Jack Sparrow when Sparrow was apprenticed to him as a cartographer. And that Jack learned the locations of many of the world's mythical places when he discovered a cache of old maps. But, it was a busy night and a boisterous crowd, perhaps I heard wrong.
Anyway, Jack becomes absolutely enamoured of his new ship, with her blazing white sails and golden hued sides, and he carries out his missions with joy. Until that one mission.
Jack stood unmoving as a stone as the line of manacled humanity made its way into the Wench's hold. I never thought eyes could be darker than Jack's but when the hatch was lowered in place and locked, his eyes turned inward and became the blackest of voids that seemingly swallowed up the entire EITCo. I clung shaking to the mast lest I be drawn in myself. Then he quickly looked up, gave the self-satisfied Cutler Beckett the sweetest of Captain Jack smiles and bade him farewell. Jack made straight for Africa and set free every slave. It was an act of courage far ahead of its time, an act of conscience that would not go unpunished.
Beckett learned of Jack's "betrayal" and hunted him down like an animal. An animal, I say! When Jack was caught, Beckett ordered the Wench to be set afire and sunk.
Then he turned his anger to Jack. Shackled from neck to ankle, Jack was forcibly thrown into the deepest of prison cells. There, Beckett himself burned into Jack's right arm the letter that would make him a hunted man for life.
It was the indomitable spirit of Jack Sparrow that saved his life. Somehow he escaped prison (I have not confirmed Captain Teague's whereabouts at the time) and once out, his overwhelming desire to free his beloved Wicked Wench drove him to sacrifice his life for her.
With his bare hands, Jack tried again and again to raise the ship to the surface, again and again he dove into the water to dig, scrape, prod, without the slightest movement from his beloved until he lost track of time and energy spent and his lungs were aching with want of air! but still he kept at her, his eyes seeing only her sails billowing free in the wind and nothing of the darkening surroundings and the surface so far above, so far... Jack remembers his body instinctively curling up as a babe and the sight of his hands floating helplessly in front of him and wondered would his father lament the loss of a branded son, when he felt a strength pulling him up, up to break the surface, and gasping he sucked in the sweet air and felt his legs hit solid wood and squinting against that bright, blessed sun, Jack turned to look straight into the yellow-rimmed eyes of Davey Jones.
To Be Continued...
All Pictures On This Page Captured By Maureen.
Music "Wheel Of Fortune" by Hans Zimmer, Dead Man's Chest Soundtrack.
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