Thursday, June 19, 2008

Of Pirates and Parrots


The Hostage by N. C. Wyeth, 1911, for Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Did pirates keep parrots? Long John Silver's parrot, Captain Flint, may be fictional, but he has some basis in fact. While there are no records of well known pirates keeping parrots, there was a trade in exotic animals during the golden age of piracy. And where there was trade, it goes without saying, there were pirates. In seems reasonable that parrots, being easy to tame, quite colorful and rare would have been taken as booty if found. Also of note is the fact that those engaged piracy often liked to dress, eat or otherwise engage in practices that were usually reserved for the higher classes, so keeping an exotic pet would not be out of the question. But it is almost certainly Treasure Island that cemented parrots into the popular view of pirates.

Sources:
Pirate (DK Eyewitness Books) by Richard Platt
A Pyrate's Life: Pirates, Parrots, & Pets

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