blog History for Fantasy Writers: Pirates

Discussion in 'Research' started by Black Dragon, Apr 28, 2018.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    skip.knox submitted a new blog post:

    History for Fantasy Writers: Pirates
    by E.L. Skip Knox

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    Everyone knows about the pirates of the Caribbean. Let's talk about other pirates. Since I'm a medieval historian, I'll stay firmly in the European world.

    Before we get started, a general comment: the lines between pirate, merchant, and rebel were blurry and ever-shifting. If you had a ship, it was sort of like having a pickup truck—you could use it for any number of enterprises.

    Few pirates were exclusively that. The real interest lies in the variations on our standard idea of piracy.

    Who were pirates? Given the comment above, pretty much anyone with a ship and a few followers could engage in piracy at one time or another, but there were a few places notorious for the practice of robbing other ships.

    Frisian Pirates

    Frisians were one. They lived along the coast of northeastern Netherlands; the region is still called Friesland. The Frisians were their own people, with their own language. Their land is made up of a complex of islands and marshlands that were rarely the object of ambition from other peoples, so they rarely were under the foot of invading armies.

    The Frisians were constant raiders, not all that dissimilar to the Vikings, save that they did not try to invade and conquer. They were content to loot and go home. It just so happened that they were as content to do their looting at sea as on land....
    Continue reading the Original Blog Post.
     
  2. tofit

    tofit Apprentice

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    Well, let's say there's a substance a diamond crystal like substance that can be used to make a ship fly.
    Who would be the best antagonist pirate
    Goblins
    Reptilians
    Avians
    Humans
     
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  3. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Lore Master

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    Why, the Black Pirates of Barsoom, of course.
     
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  4. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    Does GRRM use river pirates at one point? Not a major focus, but seems like they might exist.

    I know I will use both river and coastal pirates in an upcoming book as I head into the Gorotan and their city states. Why? Because a local school has Reivers for a mascot, which is a river pirate. Apparently the Missouri and Mississippi had pirates in their day... still might, which is why I don’t go on the river. heh heh.
     
  5. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Lore Master

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    I had river pirates make a brief appearance in my Donzalo's Destiny novels. The last one, I think, not that it matters. But all they did was glare at my well-armed travelers as they floated by. :)
     
  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    DemesnedenoirDemesnedenoir, that he does! I'd forgotten about that, I think mainly because that particular volume was such a slog for me.

    The Missouri and the Mississippi did indeed have river pirates. Disney even had a movie about them, with Fess Parker.
     
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  7. Ban

    Ban Staff Article Team

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    Wonderful article and I'll be sure to use some river pirates and sea beggars whenever I return to my post-apocalyptic/fantasy world.

    I must note however, that the Frisians are still their own people with their own language. Luckily for the rest of the country, they've traded raiding for farming ;)
     
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Oh yes! Very much so. I worked with an econ professor named Draayer, who was both aware and proud of his Frisian heritage.
     
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Glad you liked the article. Michener was an outstanding writer.
     
  10. Ban

    Ban Staff Article Team

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    Haha a good representative of the place, I don't think I've ever met a Frisian who isn't proud of his home. Only we in Limburg can rival them on that front, and even then I think the Frisians still edge out a win.
     
  11. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Grandmaster

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    As a fan of pirates, I have them show up all over in my writing (at least where they fit, if not, then they go into space!). River pirates show up on the occasion. On Eld mostly as humans, though there are a version of river elves descended from sea elves, which are a big merchant/privateer/pirate as needed and one of their big rulers is a pirate queen who rules out of Eld's bayou. I was kind of surprised there was no mention of the Knights of Malta, ruling from their little island, being pirates from time to time while still being a holy order of knights.
     
  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    A bunch of people would qualify as occasional pirates, including a great many "merchants" -- and the ever-virtuous Knights of Malta. One of my favorites is Henry the Fisherman, who gave the young Frederick Hohenstaufen a lift off of Sicily. He was called the Fisherman as a kind of joke--when not boarding your ship and taking your stuff, he would pose as a fishing vessel. Classic.
     
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  13. ShadeZ

    ShadeZ Journeyman

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    Depends. If the ships are flying while being attacked easily an avian hybrid. However, if they're on the water then a reptile hybrid as they can swim VERY fast.
     
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  14. CoffeeFlower

    CoffeeFlower Apprentice

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    diamond crystal like substance...hope it's not MoonLady blood. well I'd go with avians.
     
  15. CoffeeFlower

    CoffeeFlower Apprentice

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    there are a bunch of espace and interdimensional areas wanderers in my story and they devote most of their efforts to piracy. They are ensalvers also
     
  16. Tabitha Meadows

    Tabitha Meadows New Member

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    I heard somewhere once before that some pirates were very religious despite their way of piracy. I wonder if that is true and if living by the code is something that pirates do to remain true to religion?
     
  17. CoffeeFlower

    CoffeeFlower Apprentice

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    Maybe soe asian pirates were religious. It was not rare for ancient Hindu people to have a spiritual master no matter of the things they did for a lving.
    As far as I've read pirates, at least western ones, went the whole way from gangsters to mafia so I'd dare to guess most of them had to live by some sort of a code, some sort of Omerta. On the other hand religion, when in the wrong hands, has always been a great tool for making people obey. Any likelihood with similar present conditions is pure coincidence
     
  18. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    "Religious" is a term than covers a wide range of human behavior, so I'm not really seeing the "despite" part. Individual pirates were, of course, individual, so this one might be pious, that one might give only lip service to a deity, while another might be blasphemous while still believing in his religion and is filled with guilt. Any generalization about the spiritual condition of pirates is going to be wrong. Also, it's worth remembering that very few pirates were in that trade for their whole life.
     
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  19. Laurence

    Laurence Grandmaster

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    I was researching privateers in guernsey (a British island off the coast of France) for a branding thing recently. For anyone who doesn’t know, privateers are essentially any armed ship commissioned to capture enemy ships and cargo during war time.

    Sounds like a lot of legal privateers continued their businesses illegally when the wars ended. Could be a nice route for a pirate origin story!
     
  20. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    You're right, Laurence. This was true of all sorts of contract warriors. A notable case is that of the routiers in France during the Hundred Years War. That war had several truces, and the mercenaries took over castles or even whole towns, or simply had a hideout stronghold from which they preyed on merchants, churches, and monasteries, waiting for the war to start up again. Similarly, ship captains might carry goods and do trade in ports, or they might just decide to snatch up a slow ship that looked like good pickings if business was slow. The line between outlaw, solider, and merchant was never a clear one, at least before modern times. Some would say not even then. <wink>
     
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