L’Olonnais

Piracy / Video Games Links

Jean-François Nau, born in 1630 in Les Sables d’Olonne, a fishing village on the Atlantic coast of France – nicknamed l’Olonnais – was reputed to be the most bloodthirsty of all the pirates who plied the Caribbean.
In 1650, he embarked in the King’s Navy – and then did contracts for the East India Company.
He ran aground on Tortuga Island.
Obtained a ship for the so-called “race war” – which consisted in plundering Spanish ships on behalf of the King of France.
His ship was sunk.
He obtains a second ship: he loses it too – this in less than two years.

Jean François Nau – L’Olonnais

In December 1665, in the Windward Channel, the 80-kilometer-wide strait that separates Cuba from Santo Domingo, two ships crossed paths.
One is a powerful Spanish galleon, heading for Santiago de Cuba. On board, cargoes and cannons.
The other is a poor boat, without a deck – on board, 7 men – one of whom is a skinny white man with a beard.
With a single cannon shot, the Spanish galleon could have sunk the boat. But it didn’t look like anything. So L’Olonnais continued on his way to Tortuga – it is he who will tell the story -: without a ship but filled forever with a nameless hatred for the Spanish.

Careful, now forget your geography – we are in the time when Spain has taken the lion’s share, when the Portugal has taken the other share.France settled in Louisiana and didn’t forget the Caribbean islands to lock in the arrivals and departures. England was not to be outdone – but the Dutch did not want to be left behind.
No one talks about State of Mexico – the United States is not yet a project – the independence of the South American states? but what are you talking about ? they have just been exterminated – mostly by chicken pox
.

When he arrived in Tortuga, he explained that his ship had been wrecked on the Yucatan coast. The survivors were immediately taken in by the Spanish soldiers and brought to Campeche. On the way, a furious and unequal fight broke out: the entire French crew was decimated. L’Olonnais was among the corpses – wounded enough to pass for dead.
When the soldiers pulled away, he had only one choice. Go to Campeche on foot. There, the population celebrated the death of the French, people sang, drank and danced. He sang and danced with them for days.
But he bribed slaves of the fishing bosses: with 7 men, they seized a boat and headed for Tortuga.

The island is located at more than twelve hundred thousand nautical miles of Campeche. It is necessary to bypass the peninsula of Yucatan, to cross the strait wide of two hundred kilometers, windier than the Canal of the Wind, more rotten by the contrary currents then to go along the 1200 kilometers of the Cuban coast.
When he arrived on the Tortuga, he freed the slaves – and these, conquered by L’Olonnais, became pirates with him.

The pirates believe L’Olonnais – but no way to give him back the command of a ship – two in two years, he must have the evil eye on him.

So he leaves with about twenty guys, in a fishing boat.
First catch: another boat – two is always better than one.
Then – while pirates don’t like to anchor too close to the coast – you can’t see anything while a thousand eyes can see you – they still stop for water in an estuary.
Some Indians come to meet them.
They announced the imminent arrival of a Spanish frigate. 90 men, 10 cannons.
The French hide their boats – a few hours later, the frigate arrives, slowly. The trees overhung the water, it was a paradise.
The French waited for the night to attack.
There are 21 of them – the Spanish 90.
But they had the advantage of surprise and night. If the battle was fierce – it did not last long.
It was then that everyone understood that L’Olonnais would become one of the most bloodthirsty.
All the wounded Spanishs, in memory of his companions who had been put to the sword, he had them put to death.
Then an Indian, in Spanish uniform, threw himself at his feet and asked for forgiveness –
Forgiveness for what?
For having accepted the orders of the Spanishs, answered the Indian.
What orders?
To become the executioner of the French. To hang every Frenchman caught, without trial, without mercy, and leave him to rot there.

L’Olonnais had forgiven the Indian. He let him go.
He made the Spanish prisoners go up on deck – one after the other.
As each head appeared on the deck, he rolled it with the flat of his sword.

The legend tells of 50 heads rolling on the bridge.
That the Frenchman, with each head, licked the blood on his sword and compared the taste of the blood.

The legend is probably very exaggerated – if only because a saber dulls quite quickly –

But what is not legendary is the message that L’Olonnais sent to the Spanish governor.
He had left a man alive – a man to tell and pass on the message. “I have carried out your orders – no mercy for the prisoners. But they were your men. I hope next time it will be your turn.”

Yucatan

The governor became enraged and wanted to amplify his order further.
But his squad leaders refused the order – for one simple reason: the pirates were taking many more Spanish prisoners than the Spanish were taking pirate prisoners. It would be carnage – so ending it would be wise.

End of this order and start of the great bloody career of this pirate of the first age of piracy, François L’Olonnais.

Of course, this must also be shown on stage.
Since I have seen the work of the Spanish Compagy for Journey to the Center of the Earth, I have no doubt that these epic, marine, violent productions are no longer inaccessible to the world of theatre – on the contrary.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that Altair should not simply be a theatre. Altair must be a theatre that has control over its programming – in other words, it orders the shows to be programmed – it does not simply pick and choose from a meager and redundant catalog.

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