The maritime world is blessed with iconic captains and sailors who showed incredible strength and valor that served as an example to seamen. However, fictional characters are undeniably more popular than them, to the point that a population of people believed that some of them were real.
1. Popeye the Sailorman
Popeye is probably the first character that would come to your mind when you think of fictional sailors. He is the cartoon character that somehow advertised vegetables for kids because he gets superhuman strength from eating spinach.
Since the 1930s, Popeye has appeared in comic books, television cartoons, movies and video games, as well as in various products, like candy cigarettes and of course, spinach. Although he is not around much these days, he is still the most recognizable fictional sailor.
2. Captain Jack Sparrow
Portrayed by one of the world’s biggest movie stars in the famous Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Captain Jack Sparrow is undeniably one of the most popular fictional captains of all time. Jack Sparrow broke the stereotypical image of pirates who only use brute force, and embodied a witty, intelligent, funny but weird skipper. Johnny Depp won numerous prestigious awards with that role.
3. Captain Davy Jones
A character from a popular mythical legend, Davy Jones is known as a villainous, ruthless and sadistic captain who transports the dead to their ultimate destination. He is also brought to life in the Pirates of the Caribbean by Bill Nighy, lending credence to the “Davy Jones’ Locker” while expertly maneuvering the fabled Flying Dutchman.
4. Robinson Crusoe
Many readers who have read the novel Robinson Crusoe believed that he is real, and the book is a record of his true experiences during his adventures. The original 1719 edition credited Crusoe as the author, but he was actually a brainchild of Daniel Defoe. Even after the first edition, many were still led to think that Crusoe was a real person because of the realistic narrative style of the writer and the historical facts it featured.
Robinson Crusoe is a young and impulsive sailor who defies his parents by going to the sea. After experiencing a shipwreck, he sets out to the sea again, only to experience another disaster. Crusoe is a survivor who became an isolated castaway.
5. Sinbad the Sailor
Sinbad is known by popular culture as the character from Arabian Nights and as the hero of One Thousand and One Nights, alongside Aladdin and Ali Baba. He is a popular literary character with Middle Eastern origin – a merchant who travels the seas in Asia and Africa in seven voyages during the Abbasid period. In his travels, he encounters supernatural events, monsters and magical places. Literary scholars suggest that the tales of Sinbad influenced Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.
In movies, TV shows, cartoons, novels and video games, Sinbad has been portrayed not as a merchant who ends up in a fantastic escapade, but a dare-devil adventure seeker.
6. Captain Ahab
The real villain in Moby Dick is not the monstrous whale, but the one who is keen in killing it: Captain Ahab. Because his leg was bit off by a whale, he is never jolly, and ironically, he depends on a prosthesis made up of whalebone. He is an obsessive, revenge-driven dictator full of hatred.
The character of Ahab is probably responsible for the stereotypical depictions of captains portrayed in film and TV. He was also J.M. Barrie’s inspiration for Peter Pan’s iconic villain, Captain Hook, who is not obsessed with a whale, but a crocodile.
7. Horatio Hornblower
Horatio Hornblower is a popular character from C.S. Forester’s series of novels and stories about the adventures of an officer of the British Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Clever and courageous, but mostly unhappy and most of his life, he found fame and fortune as a hero of the Navy.
His character was largely inspired by real-life naval officers of the period, especially Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson and Lor Cochrane. The Hornblower tales also influenced many fictional works on Napoleonic Wars, as well as science fictions, such as Star Trek.
8. Captain Hook
Who doesn’t know Captain Hook? As stated earlier, he is Peter Pan’s archenemy. He was named “Hook” because of the iron hook that replaced his severed hand, which was chopped off by Peter Pan.
In the early adaptations, Captain Hook was described as heartless and vicious, but at the same time, elegant and handsome. Disney introduced him as a comical villain who is vain, cowardly and childish.
9. Captain Nemo
Captain Nemo is a well-known antihero in maritime fiction. He is an Indian skipper from Jules Verne’s all-time literary classic Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. His character has undergone deep, personal hardships that triggered his hatred for British imperialism and thirst for vengeance.
10. Captain Haddock
With the fame of Herge’s Adventures of Tintin, Captain Haddock has become a well-known fictional captain portrayed as a drunkard. He is popular for his litany of colorful insults. But in times of emergency and need, he is the first person to help Tintin.