The Ballad of the Salt Sea


It’s true, I’m swept along by the wave.
It’s too big and too strong for me, I have to let it go

So I let it go
And being lost at sea, how can I not remember this story so powerful, so poignant that was The Ballad of the Salt Sea?

It is a story told, drawn, dreamed, by that great storyteller who was Hugo Pratt – yes, he is at the top of my favorites, I often talk about him. So, again :

The story begins in the middle of the Pacific, a man is drifting, tied to badly joined boards – this is the hero, Corto Maltese, the one who, when he was born, did not have a lucky line on his hand: so he drew this line himself with a knife. Son of a gypsy woman from Gibraltar, he dreams as much as he acts and then the whole world is full of signs, omens, magic, madness and almost heroic actions.

He will probably die, lost at sea.

Fortunately for him, the man who made his own luck, his path crosses that of another boat: he is rescued, saved from the thirst that was burning him.

It is Rasputin’s boat – Rasputin, a villainous hero, a mad Russian who will spend his life hating and adoring Corto, jealous of him and insulting him – ugly as much as the other is beautiful, stingy as much as the other is prodigal, cruel as much as the other is brave.

Rasputin was in a good time: the storm had given him some pretty fruit: two teenagers, a boy and a girl, children from such a good English family that would give so much money to get the beautiful Pandora and her cousin Cain back. The kids hope that Corto will help them to escape – but Corto is also a pirate, morality is not his strong point and my goodness, they are saved, what are they complaining about?


And then the story gets complicated – it’s the First World War, the Pacific is the scene of confrontations between Germany and the Allies – for the war and to win, honor had deserted the battlefront, Germany has allied itself with the pirates.

They will meet the leader of the piracy, a man hidden under a large hood that they called the Monk and who reacts in a very strange way when he sees the young Pandora, he almost goes crazy – but isn’t he already crazy?

The Monk

A German officer, so disgusted with having to fight the war by accepting all the lows and all the dishonors that he too becomes almost crazy

& during this time, the pretty Pandora learns that she has charm and tries to charm the men who hold her back and who could help her: Corto, the German

And the story goes deeper, here come the sweet songs of the Maoris of yesteryear, those who can cross the great salt sea because they are guided by the White Shark, as they have been from all eternity.

To take money, to clear one’s honor, to save young people who are still so close to childhood, to avoid really loving this young girl who must have a future ahead of her, to give in to anger, madness, despair, these are all the feelings that one goes through on the great black and white waters drawn by Hugo Pratt.

So I know that it would not go well on a stage. But it’s still a beautiful story.

And then – this is a story about pirates – pirates that are unlike any others – so if Altair is going to be in that great stream of stories that are born out of piracy, we’ll still have to honor Hugo Pratt and his ballad.

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Featured Image : The Ballad of the Salt Sea – by Hugo Pratt

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