I know you have read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson — his descriptions of pirates were often far from reality, but he has stereotyped them forever! Here are three things you will remember from the book that were DEAD WRONG about real pirates!
“Pirates had parrots perched on their shoulders”
Nope. The idea that pirates and parrots go together is not entirely unfounded. Like other seafarers of the time, pirates were awestruck by colorful birds in tropical ports. Parrots made good souvenirs, bribes, or gifts, and they fetched a nice price back in Europe. But other than Long John Silver, Pirates didn’t stomp around with parrots secured to their shoulders. A large, squawking bird would have made firing a cannon or running the rigging difficult, to say the least.
Pirates ran around yelling, “Fifteen men on the Dead Man’s Chest. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.”
Most every sailor sang sea shanties, which provided both a diversion and a rhythm for hoisting anchors and Hauling bowlines. But fictional Pirates and pirate wannabes have been dressing in costumes and singing this particular song only since Robert Louis Stevenson made up a few lines for Treasure Island.
“Pirates mark treasure maps with an X”
To pass the time in the Rainy Scottish Highlands, Robert Louis Stevenson drew a treasure map and then made up stories, which he later wrote down, for his stepson. But it is unlikely that real pirates ever drew maps to locate their buried treasure. Not a single pirate treasure map has ever been found. And Pirates would not likely have risked alerting others to their booty. Scholars doubt that Pirates buried much treasure in the first place. Although they returned from raids flush with loot, they blew through it quickly because they didn’t expect to live long enough to spend it in retirement.
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