Search Term Friday: Jack Sparrow Trickster

Someone came to the blog looking for "jack sparrow trickster."

You'll recall who Captain Jack Sparrow is, the character played by Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Many years ago I shared some brief reflections about "the moral example" of Captain Jack Sparrow. Specifically, I commented on Sparrow's dislike of and reluctance to use violence.

Sparrow doesn't start fights. And he'll go to ridiculous lengths to avoid them. And it's not because he's a coward or lacking in skill. Sparrow is very brave and exemplary with the sword. He just doesn't like to fight.

For example, there are multiple scenes across the four Pirates of the Caribbean movies where violence is about to break out and Sparrow jumps in to stop it and work out a negotiation. His efforts generally fail, but Sparrow spends a great deal of time in the movies trying to talk people out of fighting.

Overall, Sparrow prefers trickery over violence. Sparrow relies upon his wits rather than his sword. Especially when he's facing powerful forces.

Trickery has long been a strategy the less powerful have used against he powerful. Examples of this can also be seen in the bible.

For example, in 2013 I wrote a post entitled "Blessed are the Tricksters" noting how in Genesis Abraham is consistently rewarded for deceiving powerful pagan kings.

Consider how in Genesis Abraham twice passes off his wife Sarah to pagan kings as his sister and how in each instance Abraham is rewarded for this deception.

Abraham first deceives Pharaoh about Sarah.  And he is rewarded handsomely for the deception (Genesis 12.16): "Pharaoh treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels."

Later on Abraham does the same with Abimelek and, once again, makes out like a bandit (Genesis 20.14-15): "Then Abimelek brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelek said, 'My land is before you; live wherever you like.'"

Protestants tend to moralize these passages, arguing that Abraham's deception is sinful. But the text suggests quite the opposite. In both cases Abraham is handsomely rewarded for his trickery.

Why might that be?

I think it has to do with how Abraham is the weaker player. In both cases Abraham is fearful for his life:
Pharaoh / Genesis 12.12
"When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me..."

Abimelek / Genesis 20.11
Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.'"
Abraham's trickery is rewarded in the story because trickery is one of the few weapons the powerless possess in the face of the powerful. Deception and subterfuge are often the only weapons available to the oppressed and marginalized. Consequently, in Genesis we often see deception and subterfuge rewarded when used by the weaker against the stronger. Deception is found to be virtuous in the story when it is used to interrupt the powerful.

Consider also, as other examples, Jacob's trickery of Esau and Tamar's trickery of Judah. In these cases we continue see the weaker--the second born, a woman--overcome the stronger--the first born, a male patriarch--with trickery. And in both cases the trickery is rewarded.


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5 thoughts on “Search Term Friday: Jack Sparrow Trickster”

  1. A good post for THINKING. The words of Jesus come to mind: "Be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves". I find it fascinating to witness the wise trickery, though not always intentional, but just as effective, of the innocent drawing some of the powerful in politics and on the national stage into rants regarding things they know nothing about. Nothing starts people questioning themselves more than one of their heroes creating an "oops". At least some will pretend they never liked them; they're disarmed just the same.

  2. As I read the post I thought of another technique used by those with less power: manipulation. But because this trick is used more often by women against more powerful men, it is often denigrated. I was in a small group with a man who was complaining about his wife's manipulation. This was an otherwise aware, compassionate man. I asked him if his wife had asked outright would he have agreed. He said no. I tried to explain manipulation as a tool of those with less power. Even though this man was otherwise compassionate, aware, he was blind to his own power and his use of it to deny his wife anytime she wanted to do something he didn't. Perhaps a post on manipulation as a good might be in order.

  3. Rebeka, I believe I can see something of which you speak. Forgive me if I miss your point. But I am of the thinking that the strengths of men and women run in two different veins. Most certainly, a man's strength is the physical. Whereas, a woman's is in manipulation through the verbal; and I mean that as a good.

    A woman is walking down a dark, lonely street. She sees a strange man approaching her. She is very nervous. However, they speak, date, then become a couple. She now has the upper hand. When they argue, she voices what she sees as their needs and priorities in a way that she is able to move him in the direction she needs him to go; while he sounds like Porky Pig.

    And I am a man.

  4. Love this video!

    God's Aikido Way of Defeating Evil - YouTube
    ► 5:44► 5:44

  5. Abraham was showing his unbelief towards God when he lied to Pharaoh (the same with Jacob). If Abraham had not wavered in his belief, the outcome would have still been favorable toward Abraham. God blessed Abraham despite his trickery. And let us not forget Jacob's sons who were blessed by selling their brother Joseph into slavery:

    "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive." –Genesis 50:20

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