Blackbeard – The Pirate

Who are you?

My name is Edward Teach. I may or may not have been born in Bristol around 1680. My career began under the tutelage of Benjamin Hornigold (I’m a fan of mentorship), but then I – ahem – acquired my own ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, and started my own campaign of relieving merchant vessels of their ill-gotten goods piracy around 1717. Oh, and people still talk about me as “the most fearsome pirate in history” even though I worked in the Caribbean for just over a year. How’s that for creating a powerful reputation?

I agreed to this interview with John and the Daily Gumboot because my name and reputation has recently come under scrutiny after the latest installment of this Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Ian McShane is a good guy and, every now and then, I haunt him with much affection. But Blackbeard he is not. I never had a zombie crew – or worked with or against zombies of any kind – and the mermaids that I crossed actually had the head of fish and bodies of human females. Just saying. And the final thing that I’d like to clear up is that I was never ever that mean to my crew or guests on my ship. But I’ll get to that later.

What do you do for fun?

Sure, I believe that a vibrant and meaningful career begins at the intersection of one’s passion (the sea) and talent (pillaging), so my work is always fun. But the thing that’s been keeping me busy for eternity – and that I love to do – is facial hair grooming. I love beards, mustaches, goatees, sideburns, you name it. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty creative and have even offered my services as a facial hair consultant. You’re welcome, Wolverine, Elvis and Queen Victoria.

What is your favourite community? Why?

New Providence. [Editor's Note: this is in the present day Bahamas; Blackbeard was also a big player in the Cape Cod community before it got super WASPy]. This was my hedonistic base of operations for over a year. Collaborating with a couple of other good pirates, I eventually led a flotilla of a few ships around the Caribbean. We had some great times! Never did I long for the grey days of Bristol, and I must say that the freedom, stout men, plentiful rum, and having my own ship made this place and the people in it very special.

What is your superpower?

Personal branding. Do you want to know a secret that had more or less been confirmed by Historians until Johnny Depp and his buddies started confusing people? I never killed anyone. Well, at least anyone who didn’t attack me first.

Here’s the deal. Before having pleasant chats with defenseless merchant sailors and the businessmen who arranged their cargo, I dipped my braided beard in wax, put kerosene on the tips and lit it on fire. This scary trick gave me quite the reputation, which, as rumours and reputations do, evolved as survivors told their stories. And then there was my flag or “logo” as we called ‘em back then. Mine depicted a skeleton stabbing a heart (yours) while raising a toast to the devil. Sure, this doesn’t have the brand power of today’s golden arches or an apple, but, believe me, it resonated with folks back in my day. Finally, you’d never find me with fewer than six pistols, two swords and an unkown number of knives, daggers and other stabbing-implements strapped to my body. This made napping tough, but such are the sacrifices one has to make when your goal is to scare the crap out of people so that they never ever open fire on you.

How do you use it to build community?

Viral marketing. When you’ve got a powerful personal brand people simply must tell their friends about it. If YouTube was around in the 1700s I would’ve been at least three times as rich.

My Three Favourite Things About Blackbeard Are…

1. Best. Death. Ever. Lieutenant Robert Maynard (who would eventually become a Captain), battled Blackbeard to what has come to be known as the greatest pirate death of all time. Check out Wikipedia’s tale of his last stand at Ocracoke Island. Allegedly, after killing half-a-dozen Royal Navy Marines, Blackbeard – shot and stabbed many times – kept fighting with the most intimidating fury. Eventually succumbing to his wounds and the overwhelming number of British troops, Blackbeard was captured, de-capitated and thrown overboard. But it didn’t end there. More than 100 witnesses (captured pirates, Royal Navy Sailors and Marines, and an Historian) saw Blackbeard’s headless body swim a couple of laps around the ship. Eerie. This may or may not be where the whole zombie storyline in the recent Pirates movie came from.

2. Style and Fashion Sense. Blackbeard dressed in purple, lit his beard on fire and walked with the swagger of a gentleman. Consequently, he has become the most notorious and pictured pirate in history, even though he only worked for a year.

3. The Case for Misunderstanding and Further Exploring Piracy. Let’s just say the documented fact that Blackbeard never killed anyone who didn’t attack him raises some interesting questions about what we know about pirates and piracy. Peoples’ material conditions, myriad cultural narratives, relationships to power and the status quo, and what Johnny Depp thinks about stuff should always be considered before we form our opinions. I also like Blackbeard because he presents powerful historical and metaphorical examples that can engage modern day students with really, really short attention spa- hey, do you wanna go ride bikes?!

- As told by John Horn