Depiction of Pirates in Children’s Literature
The third installment of the Adventures of Ra-me the Traveling Troubadour book series follows Ra-me in his adventure to saving princess Lulu Belle from the sea villain, Mudcat the Pirate. Throughout literary history, pirates are one of the most favorite villains in fiction books. Children, particularly, are interested in these nefarious characters. For this reason, pirate-themed stories have become popular in children’s literature over the decades. Pirates became patronized characters in the different sub-genres of children’s books including picture books, folklore, fantasy, historical fiction, and realistic fiction.
The depiction of pirates in children’s books is inconsistent, however. Some books portray them as the historical villains that commonly terrorize voyage and merchant ships on the sea. Meanwhile, other books romanticize them as the dashing and daring swashbucklers. With this, let us examine the various depictions of pirates in children’s literature.
Pirates in History
Pirates are maritime bandits who commonly hijack and detain ships on the seas. Sometimes, they even ravage coastal towns in search of resources. During the medieval period, the most widely known pirates in the West were the Vikings. They were seaborne warriors who pillaged Europe and horrified voyagers, merchants, noblemen, and commoners. They were very skilled at shipbuilding, which made them powerful combatants at sea. Historically, the Vikings were considered as the savage pirates. They were involved in a number of atrocities including mass murders, and they raided and looted many European countries such as England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Russia, and Spain.
Just like the Vikings, the majority of other pirates around the world had the reputation of being savage criminals. A great deal of historical evidence shows that these predators of the high seas committed lots of horrifying atrocities, the most common of which were rape, murder, theft, arson, and torture. Among the high seas buccaneers, the most atrocious in history was, perhaps, the legendary pirate, Blackbeard. Blackbeard, whose real name was Edward Teach, was an English pirate who terrorized much of America and the West Indies. He had the reputation of being the fiercest and most terrifying pirate ever. He spent his years navigating the sea, raiding ships and stealing their wealth. He was also an untamed murderer who strangled every woman he captured and killed every person who provoked him, including his own crew members.
Pirates in Children’s Literature
Early on, popular literature portrayed pirates according to their historical archetypes. They were frequently depicted as greedy and mean-spirited buccaneers who loved to fight their sea enemies and locate hidden treasures. Stereotypical illustrations of pirates commonly showed them with shabby medieval clothing, a bandana, and an eye-patch. They usually carried with them a flintlock pistol or a cutlass for fighting. Due to their daring manner, they were also sometimes illustrated with battle scars, rotten or missing teeth, and prosthetic limbs.
Alternatively, however, despite the historically negative connotations that come with their name, pirates surprisingly became protagonists in a number of fictional books. They became the cool characters that people, especially children, come to love. From ruthless thieves and murderers, pirates are now largely depicted as the free-spirited adventurers with admirable glamour and bravado. Books, plays, and films romanticize them for their bold manners and raucous living, even making them a raffish symbol for adventure and freedom.
The seeming admiration for maritime pirates in literature began more than a hundred years ago when books centered on pirate adventures burgeoned. Literary works such as The Life, Adventures, and Piracies of the Famous Captain Singleton (1720), The Pirates of Penzance (1879), The Black Corsair (1898), and On Stranger Tides (1987) put the characters of pirates in a positive light. Today, the most popular pirate-themed children’s books are arguably the ones in Rob Kidd’s Pirate of the Caribbean series. They follow the adventures of the legendary pirate, Jack Sparrow, who possesses a frisky flamboyance and a clever wit. Altogether, these books changed the way pirates are depicted in children’s literature.
Mudcat the Pirate
Mudcat the Pirate, which is the third book in The Adventures of Ra-me the Traveling Troubadour series, veers away from the popular modern depiction of pirates in children’s literature. Like the old times, it portrays pirates as maritime bandits with evil intentions and ventures. Its plot centers on the adventures of Ra-me as he chases after the sea villain, Mudcat the Pirate, who kidnapped the festival princess, Miss Lulu Belle.
As a children’s book, Mudcat the Pirate tries to appeal to the young taste by incorporating history, fantasy, and fun into it. It brings back the hype over medieval fairy tales without subscribing to a wrong depiction of personas just to appease the need of young readers for cool characters. Ultimately, Mudcat the Pirate is a historically correct literary work suitable for both children and adults. It is a book full of truth, fun, magic, and imagination.