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Stevenson’s Inspiration? Blackbeard the Pirate and Treasure Island

By Sarah Degnan Moje

What do you know about real pirates? This lesson will teach your Middle School students about the real-life pirate Blackbeard, and how he could have served as inspiration for the character of Long John Silver.

391px-Edward Teach Commonly Call'd Black Beard (bw) Long John Silver, the famed pirate of the novel may have had some of his character’s qualities drawn from a famous pirate from the North Carolina coast. It is speculated that some of Stevenson’s inspirations when creating his pirate crew were based on stories filtering into England from the Americas and the Caribbean about the notorious pirate, Edward Teach- commonly known as Blackbeard.

Edward Teach, born in London, began his pirate career working as a privateer, which is basically a pirate hired by a royal family. His fame grew and his ships skulked the blue waters of the Caribbean, robbing others of gold, jewels, weapons and rum. At the height of his fame, he had forty ships and over three hundred pirates under his command. He was killed off the coast of North Carolina, and rumors swirl about how many musketballs and swords it took to kills this mighty pirate.

Rumors swirl too, about his ghostly spirit haunting the shores of the North Carolina coast. Some say he is looking for his severed head. Some say he is guarding his treasure against other pirates. One thing is for sure, before reading Stevenson’s novel, it’s a great idea to review this pirate’s life story with your students. Use the downloadable power point and the creative treasure map assignment, just for fun.