How The Real ‘Flying Dutchman’ Battled the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’


In Pirates of the Caribbean, Davy Jones wreaked havoc on the high seas, but the legends surrounding the real ship Flying Dutchman are very different, writes JENNIFER LIND-WESTBROOK in an article published in screen rant.

What the Film Depicted?

What’s the true story behind the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise’s most mysterious ship, The Flying Dutchman? Fans of the franchise are familiar with the onscreen story of The Flying Dutchman, but the legends surrounding the real Dutchman are even more intriguing. The Flying Dutchman makes its first appearance during Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. The ship’s captain is Davy Jones, the octopus-faced spurned lover of the sea goddess Calypso. Like The Dutchman, the lore of Davy Jones struck fear into the heart of many sailors for centuries, and some believed Jones to be the Devil himself.

The Pirates of the Caribbean films take place as the Golden Age of Piracy is drawing to a close. The first three films, The Curse of the Black PearlDead Man’s Chest, and At World’s End, borrow from nautical legends surrounding Davy Jones, his infamous Locker, and The Flying Dutchman. The movies chronicle the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, and Elizabeth Swann as they face threats from the cutthroat Captain Barbossa, the ever-looming presence of the East India Trading Company, and the impending extinction of pirates. The movies are reminiscent of the swashbuckling adventure films of Errol Flynn, complete with elaborate swordplay. They also rely on the supernatural superstitions embraced by sailors for hundreds of years. The fourth film On Stranger Tides focuses on Jack Sparrow’s search for the Fountain of Youth, and the fifth film, Dead Men Tell No Tales, features Jack partnering with Will and Elizabeth’s son to find the Trident of Poseidon.

The Reality of the Flying Dutchman

According to nautical legend, the real Flying Dutchman carried spices and silk between the Netherlands and the East Indies during the 17th century.

Its captain was Hendrick Van der Decken. While en route to Amsterdam, Van der Decken took a shortcut around the Cape of Good Hope, and The Dutchman sailed into a storm. By some accounts, Van der Decken was a victim of bad luck who realized his mistake too late.

Others painted him as a drunken or insane tyrant who tempted fate and challenged an angel. 

In another version, Satan offered Van der Decken a chance at salvation if he could secure the love of a woman. The captain could make landfall every seven years until he achieved this task.

A Ghost Ship Lost at Sea

The fate of The Flying Dutchman remained the same: the ship was lost at sea and superstitious sailors claimed the ghost ship could be seen hovering above the waves or emerging from underneath, and it was a harbinger of bad luck.

Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean At Worlds End

Film VS Reality

In the Pirates franchise, The Flying Dutchman’s original purpose was to ferry those who died at sea to the afterlife. Calypso entrusted Jones — once a great sailor — to serve as captain of the ship, promising that after a decade at sea, Jones could make port and reunite with Calypso. After his first 10 years of service, Jones returned to land, but Calypso wasn’t there so the abandoned captain abandoned his duties and roamed the seas, searching for souls to harvest, preying on dying sailors. He promised them that 100 years of servitude on the ship was preferable to the possibility of eternal damnation. Jones goes so far as to call on the sea monster the Kraken to destroy ships to recruit crew members. Unlike the real legends, The Flying Dutchman’s fate is essentially the result of a bad breakup.

The Pirates of the Caribbean movies use the folklore surrounding Davy Jones and The Flying Dutchman but creates its own canon.

One story shares a few similarities to the tale of The Flying Dutchman told in the second and third movies of the franchise with Jones as the captain instead of Van der Decken.

The Jones known to sailors was determined to make it round the Cape even if it meant that he and the crew would die trying. As a result, the Devil took the helm, and the ship was doomed to sail the seas for eternity. Jones’ decision to tempt fate and invoke the name of Satan led to The Dutchman‘s curse.

In the films, Jones’ choice to shirk his responsibilities and defy Calypso caused him and his crew’s transformations into half-men, half-sea-life.

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Source: Screen Rant


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