So many wonderful characters are found in American folklore. You have Rip Van Winkle, Harriet Tubman, Calamity Jane, John Henry . . . Cocaine Bear. Their fame is deserved, and our culture rightfully honors them. But, sadly, fame is fickle and not all of our heroes are still treasured. Some have been forgotten. One icon’s fate has been particularly cruel and unjust.
I speak, of course, about Tug the Wicked Pirate. He wasn’t wicked at all. He was a happy-go-lucky stiff who loved to dance – usually by himself. And he was only called a pirate because he had one eye (having shot the other one out when he was 13). Tug was famous for sailing his sloop, The Charmed Snake, all over Pungent Sound where he seeded the clam beds around Block Island. Scholars say he spread more seed than Johnny Appleseed, and his left hand was more calloused than Paul Bunyan’s. He single-handedly saved Block Island’s clam industry. It is long past time for him to take his place in the pantheon of American folk heroes.
So the next time you eat a clam, think Tug the Wicked Pirate. And, if this post has inspired you, join us on Block Island on August 16th (his birthday) for Tug the Wicked Pirate Day. There’ll be fireworks.
Saffron Crow, American Folklore Scholar
So many people have created stunning works of art, and we don’t know their names. Even more people crap themselves and call that art. But because they do it in public and are immune to shame, everyone knows their names.
When it comes to literature, some of the most beautiful and inspiring works were written by history’s most prolific writer: Anonymous (aka Unknown) or, better yet, Anonymous Unknown.
Anonymous Unknown wrote the Old Testament, as it is called by Christians. Jews call it the Torah, which literally means Jesus Christ! Quit coopting our stuff – you do this all the time. He, She or They (we simply don’t know) also wrote Pearl, Sundiata, El Cid, The Man from Nantucket, The Epic of Gilgamesh, Fifty Shades of Grey (The Early Years), Beowulf, and many more works that richly explore what makes us human. Yet, their names are lost in the dank cellar of Antiquity’s library – probably behind the leaky water heater and under Sappho’s poems.
We don’t need social media to inform us that Fame is fickle. We don’t need more grieving parents to remind us that Equity and Justice have never lived here. Still, it is a blessing to have these works, even if we don’t know who to praise and thank.
Gladiola Overdrive, Chief Editor