Assassins Creed IV : Blag Flag – Slaughter, Mayhem & Shanty Singing Pirates ?

Assassin's_Creed_IV_-_Black_Flag_coverMy younger son, a senior in high school, mentioned to me a few mornings ago that the newest version of the historical action-adventure video game, Assassins Creed, which is Assassins Creed IV – Black Flag, has a feature that lets you turn sea shanties on or off.  It seems that Black Flag focuses on pirates more than assassins.  The game is designed so that the game-playing pirate/assassin commands the ship Jackdaw around the Caribbean of the early 1700s.  As the player sails from island to island, plundering, capturing ships, and finding treasure, he can also acquire sea shanties that his crew can sing as they sail on their misbegotten adventure.

The sea shanties are causing quite some excitement. In a review in GameZone.com, Mike Splechta reveals what he describes as the “best feature” of the game: “Sea shanties! These songs that are sung by your crew are collectibles you can acquire through exploration, and having different ones will enable your crew of sailors to burst into song when sailing the sea. Seriously, it’s awesome!” And he is not alone in his enthusiasm.  XBox Magazine proclaims: “Singing shanties is as iconic a pirate activity as drinking rum and wearing wooden legs, so of course Assassin’s Creed IV has the option to order your crew to sing as they sail.”

The only problem is that pirates of the early 1700s most assuredly did not sing sea shanties.  The word “shanty” or “chantey” did not come into use to describe the songs until around one hundred years later.  No doubt, pirates sang for their own entertainment and amusement but they were not the same work songs that merchant sailors would sing a century later when hauling on halyards or stamping around a capstan.

There are two wildly anachronistic shanties from the game on Youtube.  One is the Randy Dandy shanty which Stan Hugill in his Shanties From the Seven Seas describes as a “capstan and pump song heard mainly aboard the old Cape Horners.”  This would place it toward the end of the 19th and the early part of the 20th centuries rather than the early 18th century of the game.  The shanty begins, “Now we are ready to sail for the Horn.”  There is also a reference to warping the ship through the locks and for sailing to Valparaiso – all references that have nothing whatsoever to do with the lives of pirates in the Caribbean around 1710.

The other shanty associated with the game is “Leave Her Johnnie Leave Her” which was traditionally the last shanty sung before the crew left the ship. The crew’s last job aboard was to pump the ship dry before they went ashore. “Leave Her Johnny Leave Her” was the shanty where they could complain about the captain, the mate the cook or the owner, with no fear of reprisal.   A great old shanty, but again, having nothing whatsoever to do with pirates.

Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag – Randy Dandy Song

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Leave Her Johnny (Sea Shanty)

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4 Responses to Assassins Creed IV : Blag Flag – Slaughter, Mayhem & Shanty Singing Pirates ?

  1. Diego says:

    It’s got ninjas and 19th century pirates, um I mean “assassins”, so I think the game’s standards of historical accuracy are not exactly going to be the highest.

  2. Luco says:

    Those who focus on the games historical contribution really need to put down the video game controller and open up a book. All games should be as good as this one! I I am 35 years old and have been gaming since I’m a young boy and never have I seen a game so intriguing. Historical accuracy need not apply!

  3. Radley says:

    I think it’s fair to say that Assassin’s Creed has been pretty good with the whole historically accurate thing, especially in II it was really interesting knowing about the architecture and such. I think it’s fine that the sea shanties are not accurate as ubisoft are usual pretty good with it and they add so much to the game it’s pretty awesome :)

  4. Dc says:

    I laugh when people want to apply an exact historical treatment in a game, or a novel. Almost many historical books are plagued of mistakes and unexactitudes. Ninjas? Why no haššāšīn (حشيش)? If we go to the etimology – adicted to hash -, a group of paided assassins in the muslim era. Ninjas? There are assassins in all the eras, go to the Imperial Rome, go to the Medieval or Imperial o Spain, or British Imperial … Netherland in the nutmeg war … The raiment the programmers and design group its a mere coincidential fact – and no assassin want to be discovered; covering himself, like a ninja, well… The most exact fact, all assassins all over the world cover their identities, included japanese ones – Poor knowledge about ninjas, or – better – assassins!
    If you want exact historical facts go to an archaelogical deposit – I doubt you could obtain exactitude endeed -.

    Never seen a privateer brig in that scale in a game, the atmosfere, the seas… Think about it, nor exactitudes!!

    Best regards.

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