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Figurehead

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CotBPBlackPearlfigurehead

The figurehead of the Black Pearl.

"If the figurehead was on Opawiwato, Sterling had to find it; by what ever means necessary."
Gunner[src]

A figurehead is a carved wooden decoration found at the prow of ships. Mariners were a superstitious bunch, and they believed that a woman on board a ship would always bring bad luck. They made one exception: wooden women are allowed, but only if they are nailed to the bow as a figurehead.

History

"Mates, I now libate—if there indeed be such a word, which I rather doubt—our lovely angel here. May she watch out for us, keep us safe, and guide us on our journeys!"
Jack Sparrow to his crew[src]

Although earlier ships had often had some form of bow ornamentation (e.g. the Viking ships of ca. A.D. 800–1100), the general practice was introduced with the galleons of the 16th century, as the figurehead as such could not come to be until ships had an actual head structure on which to place it.

Like all mariners, pirates are a superstitious bunch, and they believe that women on board a ship will always bring bad luck. They make one exception: wooden women are allowed, but only if they are nailed to the bow as a figurehead. Mariners believe the eyes of the figurehead help their ship to find its way at sea.[1]

Pirate ships of the 18th century were known to have colorful figureheads. The Black Pearl's figurehead shows a beautiful woman[1], a graceful black angel[2], with an outstretched left arm and a bird, a black dove[2], about to take flight from her hand; this symbolized Jack's goal for freedom. Other notable figureheads include the Misty Lady (a mermaid), the Flying Dutchman (the Grim Reaper)[3], and the Queen Anne's Revenge (a demonic skeleton holding a spear and a goblet).[4]

QAR figurehead

The figurehead of the Queen Anne's Revenge.

Behind the scenes

"The figurehead of the Queen Anne's Revenge was based on Blackbeard's real flag, which was a great horned skeleton holding a goblet of wine in one hand and spear in the other; as if he's toasting his victims."
John Myhre[src]
  • The figurehead on the Queen Anne's Revenge was based on Blackbeard's historical pirate flag, which had a great horned skeleton holding a goblet of wine in one hand and a spear in the other.[4] However, in real-world history, Blackbeard never had such a figurehead aboard the Revenge.

Appearances

Sources

Notes and references

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