Pirates of the Caribbean theory: Jack Sparrow and Will Turner’s names detail their future

Johnny Depp discusses Pirates of the Caribbean in 2017

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When Pirates of the Caribbean rogue Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp) was first introduced in 2003’s The Curse of the Black Pearl, he was a lone pirate looking to reclaim his titular ship. Will (Orlando Bloom) was a blacksmith yearning for the heart of local governor’s daughter, Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), who was also longing to be elsewhere. While most of the film’s plot centres around returning the cursed Aztec gold pendants, each of the three characters went on large character-driven journeys. On closer inspection, the events that took place were actually teased in the three characters’ birdlike names.

Jack wears his sparrow name literally on his sleeve as a set of tattoos, but the director’s meaning behind them may refer to the social status of the animal.

Not only do sparrows live free, like Jack does on the seven seas (not prison), they are also extremely social creatures.

According to the Natural History Museum website, Sparrows are “sociable birds so you will often see several together as a noisy flock”.

During The Curse of the Black Pearl viewers learn that Jack has failed to reclaim his stolen ship before. This changes when he and Will meet with Mr Gibbs (Kevin R McNally) and pull together a new crew to take on Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush).

With the help of his friends – his flock – Jack manages to get his ship back and defeat his mutinous former first-mate.

Elizabeth’s surname, Swann, also depicts the journey she was about to embark on. Swans are generally considered regal, similar to her monarch-like status at Port Royal.

However, swans also famously have a vicious side, with urban legends suggesting their beaks can “break a man’s arm”. This aspect of Elizabeth’s character is evident shortly into the film series as she hits the seven seas alongside the pirates.

Will’s surname held a stark prediction for what was going to happen to him in the film series.

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Will Turner is likely named after terns, a seafaring bird that echoes his desire to stop smithing and become a sailor like his father, Bootstrap Bill Turner (Stellan Skarsgard).

The third film in the series, At World’s End, grants Will’s request in an extreme way.

After battling against Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and his cursed crew, Will falls in battle and is seconds away from losing his life.

In a last-ditch attempt to save her husband, Elizabeth stabs Davy Jones’ heart using Will’s hand, resurrecting him and making him the new captain of the Flying Dutchman ship.

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Although Will’s life was saved, he was then sentenced to stay on the seven seas for the rest of eternity, just like the bird used for his namesake.

Thankfully, Will eventually found a way back to land in the fifth film, Salazar’s Revenge.

Director and executive producer Gore Verbinski worked hard to flesh out each of the main characters’ backstories, but he was initially warned by people about the film’s performance.

In a recent interview he revealed he received an unexpected response when he pitched the pirate films to people during pre-production.

Gore said: “I remember pitching [the film] to [composer Hans] Zimmer and he said: ‘You’re mad! You’re making a pirate movie? Nobody’s going to see a pirate movie.’

“It was resoundingly: ‘That’s the worst idea ever.’ And there was something exciting about that.

“It was so doomed to fail. You’re setting out to go make a genre that literally doesn’t work, or there’s so much historical proof that it will not work.”

The five Pirates films have since accumulated a staggering $4.5 billion at the box office.

The Pirates of the Caribbean films are available on Disney Plus now.


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