Saturday, October 1, 2011



 I am a college student and have a double major in English and History. This means that I look at the latter of my two majors with a very different light than most of the stuffier history loving crowd that insists on the facts and nothing but the facts. History to me is one giant anthology of different stories and accounts, with fantastic and fascinating characters and all genres. This is why I decided to begin this series of articles, History's Biggest Badasses, which will list off hero after villain and list of the stories that explain their bad-assery. An important note is that history is often more fiction than fact and these articles are more fiction than history. I will probably embellish a little, here and there, and make mistakes. Leave comments if you take up issue with anything I said but just try to have some fun. Also, feel free to suggest some other bad asses.


Let's get the obvious out of the way. Disney's Pocahontas was not just a bad historical film but a bad animated film in general. To those who nostalgically cling to the film, to each their own. To those who are offended by the film? Get over it.

What's bizarre is that rather than get some random Broadway singer to portray the princely (rather than short and portly) Captain John Smith, they went with Mad Frickin' Max. Furthermore, the John Smith in the film is the idealized version of Smith, complete with being blessed with magical powers (he can talk to the natives), being a master warrior, and an all-around good American (um, he was British? And he was being played by an Australian? Weird?) 

But the thing about John Smith was that his story does not begin in Jamestown. It begins with a humble British farmboy that filled with a desire in his loins to see the world. James was a mere 16 years old when he left home, probably pockmarked and punk rockin'. He soon became a mercenary and his record was rather impressive. 

He fought in the army of Henry IV of France against the Spaniards, fought for Dutch independence, then set off to the sea where he, basically, became a pirate. As a pirate he fought in the Long War against the Ottoman Turks. He killed a buttload of Turks, first under Austrian Habsburgs in Hungary and then again under Raudu Serban in Wallachia. He is reputed for killing and beheading three Turkish commanders in duels and was rewarded with a Transylvanian Knighthood and a coat of arms, bearing the heads of three turks. 

Nice try, b****es!
In 1602, he was injured and battle and became a slave, which was probably no big deal to Smith. In fact, after his Ottoman master sent him to his Greek mistress as a gift, Smith turned things back in his favor. Using his powerful manliness, Smith soon fell the Greek mistress under his spell, and probably after tricking her with some clever wordplay or distracting her with his hypnotic body, he managed to escape. He then traveled through North Africa and Europe before finally, after years of craziness, made it back to good old England in 1604.

John Smith started telling anyone willing to hear his story about his incredible exploits and became a celebrity in London. In 1606, he began his travels to Virginia but not all was well. Smith had a bad habit of mouthing off and being a little too bad ass. In fact, he was put in irons for his actions on the trip to America.

But it was soon discovered that in the ship's orders from the Virginia Company, which wasn't opened until they arrived, put John Smith in a leadership position (sparing him having to come up with a badass way to escape his execution). It was then that John Smith began showing off his managerial skills in Jamestown. His first big encounter with the natives came when Smith went on a little expedition to look for food (Jamestown was starving).

With only a half dozen men, he made his way upriver, and searched for the natives. He believed the natives would have food and that he could trade for it. He soon saw some natives on the shore and asked if they were willing to trade some food for supplies. The settlers were obviously quite unhealthy, because the Native Americans could see just how gaunt they were, and mocked them with paltry offerings. Basically, they would hold up a kernel of corn and offer it in exchange for Smith's breastplate. Unfortunately, they did not know John Smith. John Smith don't care. John Smith don't give a ****! He "let his musket fly" and began shooting at the natives. Smith and his crew soon forced the natives to submit and begrudgingly befriend him.

After basically saving Jamestown by being a ballsy maniac with a musket, new began to spread, and it probably wasn't long before the natives knew Smith by name. In fact, in December of 1607, Smith went on another expedition that was not so immediately beneficial. He left his two companions, who had fallen asleep, to go duck hunting with their native guides. When he returned, the two were stone dead and he was surrounded (purportedly) by 200 natives. This is when Smith goes absolutely bat-poo crazy. After grabbing his native guide and "bound [the guide] to his arm with his garters and used him as a buckler, yet he was shot in his thigh a little, and had many arrows that stuck in his clothes but no great hurt, till at last they took him prisoner." 

Let's break this insane, cruel and badass moment down. John Smith, a fat, short British guy in a breastplate, armed with musket and saber, and only aided by his native guide faced off against 200 hundred native men. He then grabbed the guide, strapped him to his arm and used him as a FRICKING MEAT SHIELD! The guide is never mentioned again, so it can be assumed he was filled with arrows (which is f***ing horrible) and Smith survived and was taken prisoner, after being shot in the leg and his clothes poked with arrows like a porcupine. John Smith is either just a fantastic liar or a total badass!
Next, he was taken before King Powhatan and spent six or seven weeks as their prisoner, where they were obviously impressed by him enough to keep him alive, well fed and entertained. John became weary when the natives got him nice and full and were preparing a ceremony. He assumed the worst, that they were going to eat him. They forced him down and placed his head between two stones. The King grabbed a club and Smith was sure his brains were going to be bashed in. Pocohantas then embraces him and rather than doing what John Smith feared...Powhatan had actually just performed an adoption ceremony. He had literally just made John Smith, a Transylvanian knight, former pirate, and Jamestown badass, a native American prince.

Not only did they return him to Jamestown but he, very likely, saved the colony. After his return, Pocahontas (for the lover of the colony as a whole, not Smith, she actually ended up marrying a a John Rolfe and moving to England...) brought food to the colonists during hard times and very likely helped them stave off starvation. John Smith then wrote out his epic adventures and today I can relay them to you.

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