There are a lot of One Piece facts you didn’t know about. Besides spending all their time searching for booty and getting drunk, One Piece pirates and real ones have a few surprising things in common. Anime never just comes from only from the creator’s imagination, but is the product of culture and history.
“My fortune is yours for the taking, but you’ll have to find it first. I left everything I own…in one piece.”
The last words said before Gold D. Roger’s execution mirror the words of the pirate Olivier Levasseur, who gave away a cryptic message to find his treasure before his execution. While on the gallows, Levasseur wore a necklace with a cryptogram detailing the location of his treasure, which moments before his execution he tore off and hurled into the crowd, exclaiming, “Find my treasure, ye who understand it!” Treaure-seekers have hunted for Levasseur’s pirate booty throughout the years, but unlike One Piece, his treasure was separated into several pieces. Some were found by his former crew, but most are still out there–perhaps waiting at the end of the Grand Line.
The Captain Was The Strongest
In One Piece, the captain can always take on an entire army by himself. It was in fact like that in real life too, sort of. Pirate ships were democracies with two electable positions, captain and quartermaster. The quartermaster was in charge of the daily running of the ship, and gave the orders when there was no fighting–kind of like pirate room-mothers. Captains, however, took command once it was time to start pillaging. They were elected because of incidents like this:
François l’Olonnais, a French pirate, after pillaging the city of Puerto Cabello, was cornered by a much larger Spanish force. Cornered, yet he still managed to take two hostages. He then proceeded to stab one in the chest, rip out his heart, and eat it in front of his stuttering comrades. L’Olonnais then warned the Spanish soldiers, “You’ll get more of the same unless you let me walk away.” The Spanish were so horrified…they let him walk away. Because captains really were the baddest dudes on the ship.
Pirates sanctioned by the government? Sounds like something manga invented. But the One Piece fact is, most of the real pirates you know were actually privateers–pirates sanctioned by the government. Henry Morgan (the guy on the rum bottle) was one, Blackbeard began his career as one, and the famous Sir Francis Drake were all, basically, Shichibukai.
Privateers were pirates the government hired to attack, loot, and plunder other countries’ ships. And they were very good at it. The epic Whitebeard war, where the Shichibukai fought alongside the Marines–that stuff actually happened. Privateers were often more skilled at naval warfare than the actual navy, and were called into battle to defend the mother country in times of need. A few captains eventually became admirals themselves. Just imagine, Admiral Don Flamingo.
Remember how during the war Blackbeard, a Shichibukai, betrayed the government? Well, that was real too. Some privateers, like the real Blackbeard, backstabbed the government and decided to attack, loot, and plunder whoever they wanted. In fact, many privateer captains were voted out of their position by their crews because they wouldn’t attack their own countries ships. I suppose it just doesn’t pay to be loyal.
Pirates were filthy, stinking scoundrels, but they were also filthy, stinking rich. For every ship taken, the loot was divided up into “shares,” with each crew member receiving 1 and officers taking anywhere from 1.25 to 2.5. Even the most unsuccessful pirates crew’s share was equivalent to a year’s salary for the average landlubber. And that’s just for taking one ship. You could imagine how it added up. For major hauls, crews would get shares worth over a million U.S. dollars. It was estimated that most pirates received a share like that at least once in their careers. The fact was, that ship full of toothless scoundrels was really a ship full of toothless millionaires. Drink up me hearties, yo ho!
The Navy Sucked
The Navy, especially the British Navy, sucked. A lot. Many crewmen were acquired via pressganging, which means “pressing” someone into military service. Basically, anyone hanging around town that day was kidnapped and forced to spend several years serving in the Royal Navy.
But it had to be just a few isolated incidents, right?
Wrong. Around half of Royal Navy crewmen were pressganged.
Why didn’t they just abandon ship, then?
Because they were shackled in chains while at port and not permitted to go ashore, that’s why.
But slavery was illegal, so they were paid–less than a farmer’s wages, and six months salary was withheld to discourage desertion. So yes, both in One Piece and the real world, the Navy sucked.
Marines Became Pirates
Think about X Drake, former marine turned pirate. If you were treated as slave labor, would you be loyal to the crown? There were thousands of deserters every year. And when a Navy ship was defeated by a pirate ship, the pirate captain would often bolster his ranks by asking the surviving soldiers if they wanted to join his crew.
What do you think they said?
(If you liked this article, check out 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Naruto!)
So next time you watch One Piece, remember that there’s facts about real pirates sprinkled in among the gum gum rockets and haki–because when anime and history collide, the explosion is epic.