Old Sea Legends: The Incredible Story of Davy Jones and His Locker
Many have heard of Davy Jones and his famous locker, maybe through the old legend itself or maybe through the immensely popular movie series The Pirates of the Caribbean. However, the story in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is nothing like the real stories, except for the fact that Jones is captain of the famous 'Flying Dutchman." Sailors used to tell terrifying stories to each other about this legendary pirate, but who was he exactly? Where does the legend come from and what is Davy Jones' locker?
It is unclear when the Davy Jones stories took place, but it was probably around the 1500s when people started trading and fighting at sea more and more. The earliest known written reference was in the Four Years Voyage of Captain George Roberts by Daniel Defoe, 1726. However, there was only a short mentioning of the saying "to be sent to Davy Jones' locker". Among the different stories, some depict him as the devil, while some say he is the evil god of the seas. In some tales, he is a murderer or captain of a ghost ship.
The Different Stories of Davy Jones
- Pub owner: In one of the stories, Davy Jones was the owner of a British pub and would get sailors intoxicated and lock them in his ale locker. He also locked their unconscious bodies in ships that were passing through the harbor. The story also tells us that his pub went bankrupt, which made him decide to become a pirate. He stole a ship from the harbor, and, supposedly, sailed the Atlantic Ocean, hijacking other ships and decapitating or keelhauling most of the crew from other ships. The surviving crew would be locked in the ship and the ship would be sunk. The story also tells of this pub owner selling his soul to the devil.
- Captain of the "Flying Dutchman": In some stories, Davy Jones is the captain of the "Flying Dutchman." The "Flying Dutchman" was supposedly a ghost ship that wandered the seas forever because it could not make port. The story goes that Jones hailed out to the sky on a trip from Holland to Batavia. Legend quotes him as saying, "God or Devil... I will sail around the Cape, even if it means sailing towards our last judgement." Then the Devil took control of the ship, and, as a price, the ship had to sail the seas forever, with the dead crew working for eternity without saying a word ever again.
- The Jonah theory: In the Bible, Jonah became the "devil of the seas" when his crew found out that he was being punished by God for his disobedience. The crew casted him overboard. Some say that Davy Jones came from "Devil Jonah." Sailors believed that any wicked sailor would "go to Davy Jones' locker."
- David Jones: There once was an actual pirate captain by the name of David Jones who sailed the seas around the 1630s. But, this pirate captain wasn't that well-known and most historians do not think he could have gathered such worldwide fame.
- Satan: Some believe it is simply another name for Satan, made up by sailors.
Davy Jones' Locker
Davy Jones' Locker is a sailor's synonym for the ocean floor. A locker was another name for a chest back in the day. So "being sent to Davy Jones' locker" actually means dying at sea. In some stories, evil and wicked sailors who died at sea were locked up in the chest by Davy Jones and had to spend eternity trapped in there.
Davy Jones in The Pirates of the Caribbean
Davy Jones in Movies and Books
In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Davy Jones was the main villain. He was supposed to bring souls from sunken ships to work aboard the "Flying Dutchman." Instead of going to the afterlife, Jones proposes that the dead men come and work on his ship for a 100 years, and convinces them that the afterlife is even worse. He also commands the mythical beast the "Kraken."
Davy Jones is mentioned in a lot of books, but mostly only in passing phrases like, "going to Davy Jones" or "going to Davy Jones' locker." Almost every book about life on a pirate ship mentions this at least once. Moby Dick for example contains the phrase: "There was young Nat Swaine, once the bravest boat-header out of all Nantucket and the Vineyard; he joined the meeting, and never came to good. He got so frightened about his plaguey soul that he shrinked and sheered away from the whales, for fear of after-claps, in case he got stove and went to Davy Jones."