Wednesday, July 15, 2015

GB Readalong: Swashbuckling Pirates!



Now that we have officially met Zamira Drakasha, I get to talk about her and what makes her so awesome! Somehow I didn't realize that we don't even get to meet her (and Ezri) until over halfway through the book, because most of my memories of Red Seas Under Red Skies involve Zamira and Ezri taking on the world. Both of these characters have a larger than life personality, and somehow once they entered the picture I promptly forgot about the entire first half of the book!

Are woman pirates a thing?

Well, one reader of The Gentleman Bastards series thought having a middle-aged pirate mother as a captain was ridiculous and unrealistic. Scott Lynch's response is pretty great. I'm only quoting a little bit here, but there's a lot more where this came from:

You know what? Yeah, Zamira Drakasha, middle-aged pirate mother of two, is a wish-fulfillment fantasy...Shit yes, Zamira Drakasha, leaping across the gap between burning ships with twin sabers in hand to kick in some fucking heads and sail off into the sunset with her toddlers in her arms and a hold full of plundered goods, is a wish-fulfillment fantasy from hell. I offer her up on a silver platter with a fucking bow on top; I hope she amuses and delights. In my fictional world, opportunities for butt-kicking do not cease merely because one isn't a beautiful teenager or a muscle-wrapped font of testosterone.
After reading this little exchange, I decided to do some research for myself and see if historically there were any major women pirates. As it turns out, there were a whole lot of them through the centuries! Obviously, none of them are as well-known as Blackbeard or Barbarossa, but here are some of the notorious ones from the 17th century:

Anne Bonny: Now of Assassin's Creed fame, Anne Bonny was originally a 17th centure Irish pirate. She had an infamously short temper and terrorized the Bahamas









Mary Read: Mary was Anne Bonny's best friend and a fellow pirate. Unlike Anne, Mary got around by cross-dressing and pretending to be a man.










Anne Dieu-le-Veut: Originally French, Anne was a buccaneer at Tortuga who did in fact spend her time as both a pirate and a mother of two! When her husband was killed by another pirate, she challenged him to a fight. They ended up getting married instead, and continued to terrorize the high seas together.






Pirate lore and superstition

In the world of Locke Lamora, we have superstitions on the high seas like not leaving the shore without cats and/or a woman officer. I looked up some real life pirate superstitions, and some of them are really random.

Sailors believed that albatrosses brought good luckThe Rime of the Ancient Mariner documents the story of an albatross that saved a ship by steering it away from a storm, but when the bird is shot and killed, bad luck follows. 


And while real life sailors also believe in cats bringing good luck, they definitely do not want you to bring a bunch of bananas on board. Even today, some fishing vessels won't let you bring bananas or even Banana Boat sunscreen aboard! The myth comes from a superstition that vessels carrying bananas don't catch any fish, since in the 17th century they had to move quickly enough to deliver the fruits before they spoiled.



St. Elmo's fire is a source of good fortune. Sailors believed that the green lights signified a heavenly spirit or god lighting the way for them and keeping storms away. It's an electrical phenomenon where charge buildup just before or after a thunderstorm causes flashes of blue and green light to appear around a ship's masts. Even with the scientific explanation, St. Elmo's fire is still seen as  good omen today. 

Did you enjoy these tales of pirates and their superstitions? What do you think of Ezri and Zamira as pirates?

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