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Pirates we love


Pegging the peglegs

The International Maritime Organization publishes a monthly list of current piracy events around the globe. Within its few pages of small print, descriptions float to the surface: "Robbers armed with long knives in two boats came alongside the ship, while at anchor. Crew raised alarm and mustered. After two hours of aborted attempts to climb by hook, wire and ropes, the robbers abandoned attempt."

And yet, we love pirates --- not so much the ones who interrupt the five-course dinner on our Caribbean cruise, but rather the long dead ones of days past when buccaneers had a gleam in their eye and a cutlass in their belts. In fond homage to our eternal bad taste in folk heroes, and in anticipation of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (opening Friday!) here are 15 of the most notorious pirates of history and imagination.

The Black Pirate: Douglas Fairbanks made pirates a bankable commodity for Hollywood.

Monkey D. Luffy: and a big shout out to all you One Piece fans out there!

Captain William Kidd: privateer, pirate, scapegoat, and yet, do we really know William Kidd?

Captain Hook: Peter Pan's nemesis has become a cottage industry unto himself.

Morgan Adams: the heroine of CutthroatIsland (Geena Davis), the best attempt at a Peter Pan-less pirate film in the past 40 years.

Captain Vallo: Burt Lancaster was the Crimson Pirate, showing what a circus acrobat could do with a few sails and ropes.

Captain Blood: a chance to mention Errol Flynn, the ever-lasting image of the pirate, and Rafael Sabatini, who did as much as any author to give pirates a good name.

The Pirate King: "It is, it is a glorious thing to be a pirate king!" (The Pirates of Penzance)

Ching Shih: the real-life basis for Jorge Luis Borges' infamous Widow Ching. She led a fleet of ships. Ching managed to obtain a government pardon and lived out her years in relative ease and disrepute.

Captain Horatio McCallister: arr, he be the Sea Captain on TheSimpsons.

Jack Sparrow: has to make the list. He's the only one with a new movie coming out.

Edward Teach: the dark side of pirate history, Blackbeard was closer to the cruel reality than the romantic vision.

Anne Bonny/Mary Read: the two most famous male impersonators always get shoved into the same chapter in pirate books.

Dread Pirate Roberts: the character that revealed that pirate captain was just a job with excellent retirement benefits (The Princess Bride).

Long John Silver: the quintessence of fictional pirate; Robert Louis Stevenson made the mold and it just won't be broken.