Some people might not know it, but there are quite a few characters in One Piece who were inspired by (and named after) real-life pirates. Whether it's someone as obvious as Blackbeard or someone random, many of the characters have historical roots that make One Piece that much more fun. In this blog post, I will explain the stories behind the series and some of the real pirates who populate One Piece. So, here we go.
Characters and the Pirates They Were Inspired By
- Jewelry Bonney - Bonney is named after and inspired by Anne Bonny, one of the most well-known female pirates in history. There are many tales of Anne Bonny's rebellious attitude from the time she was a teenager. At sixteen, she abandoned her father's household and married a pirate called James Bonny. During that time, she made many pirate friends and left her husband for Calico Jack Rackham, a small-time pirate, whom she later married, and they had a son that almost no one knows very much about yet. A few months later, Anne partnered with another famous female pirate called Mary Reid, with whom it is believed she also had a romantic relationship. Anne's promiscuous lifestyle, tales of which can be found in popular lore, could be reflected in Jewelry Bonney's gluttonous behavior. But contrary to her real-life counterpart, Jewelry is more inclined to help another pirate, like saving Zoro from what she believed to be his imminent death, when he interfered with a world noble. While no one escaped from the punishment of hanging, Anne was pardoned along with Mary, because they claimed to be pregnant, and also because of Anne's father's influence. After this, her fate was unknown.
- Alvida - Iron-Mace Alvida, the first pirate antagonist that Luffy meets, is named after and inspired by Alwilda, a Danish princess that became a pirate. Because Alwilda refused her father's choice of marriage - Alf, the prince of Denmark, she ran away, and with a group of women, commandeered a ship and dressed as male sailors. After a while, she met a crew that recently lost their captain and Alwilda was elected as the new one. Along with her new crew, she attacked many royal merchant ships. Meanwhile, Prince Alf, along with the navy, was looking for her and her crew. They were able to find her ship, board it, and defeat her crew. Impressed by this, Alwilda decided to return as princess and marry Alf. Alwilda leading a crew of men parallels Alvida running Buggy's crew while he was in prison. Also, as a twist, while Princess Alwilda ran away from life governed by looks, Alvida ate a Devil Fruit that made her more attractive and was looking for the attention and appreciation of men.
- Bellamy - Bellamy the Hyena is the complete opposite of his real-life namesake, "Black" Samuel Bellamy. While the fictional one is cruel and arrogant, the real Bellamy was very merciful and generous to all his captives. Due to this, he was nicknamed "The Prince of Pirates". Furthermore, he is considered the wealthiest pirate in history. Bellamy had a democratic rule over his crew, and they likened him to "Robin Hood". He began his sea life as a member of the Royal Navy. After that, he joined a band of treasure hunters. As they had little success, they joined the crew of pirate Benjamin Hornigold, whose first mate was the infamous Edward Teach, also known as "Blackbeard". As Hornigold refused to attack English ships, the crew demoted him as captain, and Hornigold along with Teach and the other loyal sailors left the ship. The rest of the crew elected Bellamy as the new captain. After that, they had a lot of success, robbing fifty ships in one year, and Bellamy earning fame now as "Black Bellamy". Their greatest capture was the slave ship Whydah, that had numerous riches, and Bellamy decided to keep the ship for himself. His death came after the ship was hit by a powerful storm. Only eight out of 148 people onboard survived, and Bellamy wasn't one of them.
- Roronoa Zoro - Zoro, the master swordsman of the Straw Hat crew, is named after the French pirate Francois L'Olonnais. Pronounced in Japanese, the names sound very similar. It's hard to find any parallels between L'Olonnais and Roronoa besides the name, as the swordsman doesn't have the cruelty and lack of compassion for others, which the former had. L'Olonnais raided many towns - among all Maracaibo and Gibraltar in the Gulf of Venezuela. His crew hunted fugitives and tortured all the townsfolk until they revealed where any belongings or acquaintances were hidden. L'Olonnais was an expert torturer, and spared no one. After a shipwreck, to escape the Spanish soldiers, after all his crew were killed, he smeared himself with the blood of the others, and played dead. The soldiers missed him and the escaped into a canoe dressed as a Spaniard. He and his crew were captured by the natives who were siding with the Spanish. There were two versions of his death. Some people say he was cut into pieces and burned, and others say he was eaten alive.
- Eustass Kid - Eustass Kid was based on and named after two people, William Kidd and Eustace the Monk. Probably, the connection between these two individuals is that both of them were being wrongly considered pirates, but due to different circumstances. While Eustass is obviously a pirate, and a pretty ruthless one, we still don't know very much about his backstory. William Kidd was a privateer most of his life and was hired to protect English ships against French attacks. After a tough voyage, and pressured by his crew with few enemies to attack, he began engaging Indian ships. His downfall came after he attacked "The Quedagh Merchant", a ship partly owned by an Indian minister. This led to Kidd becoming a wanted criminal, and he was caught, judged, and hung in a cage as a warning to other pirates. Eustace the Monk was a French mercenary who mostly served King John of England in his war against Philip II of France. Even though Eustace pillaged many English ships, he was kept in service by King John and his role was deemed very important in the war. Eustace switched to the French side in 1212, and five years later, his convoy of troops was defeated by the English. His nickname, "The Monk", comes from spending his time during his youth in a Benedictine monastery.
- Trafalgar D. Water Law - While the inspiration for this character's name is the famous Battle of Trafalgar, the creator of the anime revealed that the name is also derived from Edward Low, a British pirate who was well-known for his cruelty. Considered one of the most vicious pirates of the Golden Age of Piracy, Edward Low was notorious for the ways he executed his victims, which were mutilation, decapitation, disembowelments, and cannibalism. This is reflected in Law's dismemberment if people in his OPE room. For women and married men, Edward Low made an exception. He was more forgiving towards them due to his wife's premature death while giving birth, which haunted him all of his life. He lost most of his crew in an event called "The Capture of the Fancy", when he attacked a Royal Navy man-of-war that he mistook for a walker ship. After the battle, Low had lost one ship and forty-three men had been captured and executed. He continued his life of piracy, seemingly becoming even crueler, until his death due to unknown circumstances.
- Gol D. Roger - The most important pirate in the One Piece universe is actually inspired by a not-so-famous one, Olivier Irevasseur, but the connection between them is very obvious. It is believed that Irevasseur hid one of the biggest treasures in history, around one billion pounds, and left a cryptogram that pointed to its location. Legend says that when he stood on the scaffold, he had a necklace around his neck, containing a cryptogram of seventeen lines, and threw this in the crowd while exclaiming "Find my treasure, the one who may understand it!" These words resemble very much Gol D. Roger's discourse at his execution, which was "My treasure? If you want it, you can have it! Go find it! I left it all at that place!" Until this day, no one has truly deciphered the code and found the treasure, if there really is one. Irevasseur was nicknamed "The Buzzard" due to his quick and merciless way of attacking ships. He retired from being a pirate, but was recognized when he tried to enlist on a trading ship. Irevasseur was sentenced to death and executed.
- Marshall D. Teach - Of course, possibly the main antagonist of the series is named after and based on one of the most well-known pirates in history, Edward Teach, who was given the same nickname as his fictional counterpart in the series, which was "Blackbeard", obviously because of his extremely long, black beard. Teach was a fierce pirate who wanted to instill terror in all his enemies. To create this image, whenever he went into battle, he would put lighted matches or small candles under his hat, so that the smoke would install a demonic appearance. Even though his reputation was fearsome, he didn't use force to control his crew and he never killed his captives. As he was known by two names, Teach or Thatch. Blackbeard murdering Thatch and taking his devil fruit in the series signifies killing his former self and taking what is already his. The real Blackbeard's end came after a renowned battle with a force led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard. He died with five bullets in him and twenty sword cuts all over his body and was decapitated so that his head could be sent for bounty. Legend says that after being thrown in the water, his decapitated body swam around the ship three times before sinking.
So, that's all I have for the characters of One Piece who were inspired by real-life pirates, but I'm pretty sure that with a little research and some knowledge, you'll be sure to find more characters and some of the real people they were inspired by. It might be a little difficult, but I'm sure you'll find some eventually. Good luck!