The Jolly Roger
One of the few authentic Jolly Rogers in existence.
The term Jolly Roger comes from the historic claim that "Joli Rouge" ("Pretty Red") is a reference to a red flag used by French privateers. This is attributed to red blood, symbolizing violent pirates, ready to attack and kill.
Pirates are known for their cunning ability to stalk a target and take it down ruthlessly. Death follows them; whether it is unfortunate passengers or resisting sailors or the pirates themselves, the grim reaper typically had a healthy harvest each time pirates set sail.
‘Roger’ is an old English word for a ‘wandering vagabond’ which certainly fits the typical pirate. These ‘rogers’ possessed sharp wit to remain alive and with death always at their door, they probably had a cynical mindset too. ‘Live as much as you can today, there may be no tomorrow’. That pirates living in the 1700s, the heyday of piracy, sailed about with the name “Jolly Roger” for their black flags is a testament to the dark humor of the trade and an ironic reference to their less than jovial nature.
Seeing the crude human skull and two femur bones beneath it on a black field hoisted upon a mast would leave no question about what was afoot with an encroaching ship. Usually, some measure of quarter would be given if the ship and crew put up no fight with the Jolly Roger hoisted. But should anyone try to flee or fight, the time of mercy was over.
Variants of the Jolly Roger were found among many famous pirates (144.1 has produced several of these), each putting their own spin on the imagery of death using some form of the skull, a skeleton or bones. All of them capitalized on the well-founded fear the black flag created among sailors and citizens in port to shake the confidence and undermine the will to fight.
In modern times, the idea of offering no quarter in a fight is often expressed with a phrase along the lines of “Hoist the black flag”. That is, no prisoners will be taken in the upcoming struggle. Many can relate to this today.
Our Jolly Roger patch is a historical nod to the men who were resolute and determined to conquer, albeit for usually less than honorable reasons. But we can admire their adherence to strength, unfailing desire to win, and absolute commitment to fight for their cause.
- Hook backing
- Release: 1/5/2021