aka: Not So Safe Harbour
"Where the streets have no name
Where the devil's in all men
If you knew what was at stake
Pay or flee in Tortuga Bay"
As far as humankind has dominated the sea, sailors have been considered as one of the lowest links of the social hierarchy, since these men spend many, many weeks at sea and usually not having a steady place to live, traveling a lot and usually, but not always, using the little wages they have on lowly pleasures
. Hence, the typical image got through times on the settlements made to give these men a place to spend their wages and satisfy their urges.
Common elements of these Wretched Hive
-types of ports are shady merchants, run-down taverns with lots of drinking and gambling, cheap whores, barrels and crates everywhere, and lots and lots of fish. But we have managed to classify them in two types:
Type 1 is the Booty Bay
, usually the hangout of your favorite pirates
, whether they're idle
or not. Expect them to be on an unknown location where authorities try to be on the margin of things and raids every once in a while. Set either somewhere in the Caribbean
or in Southeast Asia, though not exclusively, expect it to be on the 18th or the early 19th century. And yes, it's full of both kinds
of Pirate Booty
Type 2 is the Stormalong Harbor
, generally associated with the novel Moby-Dick
and a staple of the New England
culture in general, though it is not a requirement to be. Expect sea shanties, whalers, maidens who wait for their men to return, and privateers around, usually set during the 19th century or the early 20th century.
This trope still has its echoes in present-day fiction, as dockyards remain a popular setting for police to uncover contraband of all sorts. Its friendlier counterpart is the Port Town
Here be examples:
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Anime and Manga
- Roanapur from Black Lagoon is a modern-day version type 1, being a hangout for pretty much every illegal or semi-legal shipping crews in the south asian sea.
- Avast! The city of Vritanis, containing at least one pirate captain, complete with eyepatch, pegleg and cutlass.
- It has an arc around a battle next to a port. Being a Crapsack World like few others, the whole town and implicitly its port fits this.
- After destroying the pirates who pursues after them, Guts and crew lands in a small island to resupply, only to find out that the inhabitants, save for one little girl, are all part-human and part-deep sea monstrosity. Lovecraft would have been proud.
- One Piece: The Grand Line in all its cliched piratey glory. Interestingly, you can find both kinds.
- Mock Town is an insanely violent version of Type 1. It's so bad there, a man standing on top of a building challenging everyone to a fight and killing anyone who dares with his bare hands barely draws a crowd, much less a flaming man getting kicked out a window.
- Water 7 is a type 2. Mostly legitimate businesses of shipwrights and traders, but it's still a place full of gambling, street parties, bars, and other places where you can spend several MILLION of the world's currency in a matter of hours and have nothing to show for it.
- Sabaody Archipelago manages to be both by being broken into sections which can range from legitimate businesses and tourist traps to rip-off bars and slave shops while also being the meeting point of powerful rookie pirates. In fact the only thing keeping the order is the fact that it's right next to the Marine HQ and no one wants to draw that kind of trouble.
- Sweethaven in Popeye The Movie.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Tortuga, Singapore and Shipwreck Cove. Jack tells his crew to be careful about the latter as it's apparently a Meaningful Name. The Tortuga of the film is still somewhat cleaned up and Disney-fied, compared to how you'd expect it to be in real life; women can walk safely around without any fears of being raped, for example. Considering that a lot of the pirates have no qualms about murder ( at least in theory), that there are much more men than women everywhere in the film, and how most pirates spend a long time in boats without women, you'd expect that even pretty young men wouldn't be safe, let alone Elizabeth Swann.
- Samoa in Nate and Hayes.
- Star Wars: Mos Eisley is this trope IN SPACE! You will never find a more wretched hive...
- The movie Dagon transports Innsmouth of H.P. Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth to Spain and renames the town "Imboca", which translates to "in the mouth". It's set in the present day, but looks as though it could be the 19th century.
- Libertatia (or Libertalia), the free communalist colony forged by pirates on Madagascar under the leadership of Captain James Misson in the late 1600s. There is little historical evidence to suggest that Libertatia ever actually existed.
Live Action TV
- Although the Frame Story takes place in the belly of a whale, a Type 2 figures prominently in "The Mariner's Revenge Song" by The Decemberists. Type 2s in general are pretty common in The Decemberists' songs, being that a lot of their songs are shanties or otherwise nautically-themed.
- Song example: Portobello Town in Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Pirates", "where we've been told That a purse of gold Buys any man a crown".
- "Singapore" by Tom Waits.
- Aside from the page quote, Running Wild's "Port Royal" also dwells on the subject.
- A non-nautical example is the Inn run by Mousier and Madame Thenardier in Les MisÚrables. Definitely a type 1 according to Mousier Thenardier's description of his patrons
- "My band of soaks,my den of dissolutes/My dirty jokes/my always pissed as newts/My sons of whores spend their lives in my inn"
- Montreuil-sur-Mer has definite elements of this trope.
- World of Warcraft has Booty Bay, the Trope Namer for Type 1. Though, oddly enough, at least some pirates have actually been banned from docking there—the Bloodsail Buccaneers dock in a natural cove nearby. The mayor of the town even sics you on them as part of a quest. The town seems to be run jointly by the Steamwheedle Cartel and the Blackwater Raiders, the latter of which are (or at least were) pirates.
- Runescape boasts quite a few belonging to both types:
- Port Sarim is the only sea town accessible to nonmembers, and the only pirate here would appear to be the friendly drunk Redbeard who just wants some Karamjan Rum.
- In the member's world is Brimhaven on the north end of Karamja as a firm example of Type 1.
- The Cabin Fever quest gives access to Mos Le'Harmless (pun intended), a whole island populated by pirates.
- Port Phasmatys was once an example of Type 2, until it became a literal Ghost Town when all the residents were transformed into spirits. Surprising lack of Ghost Pirates, although Bill Teach and Pirate Pete are pirates who are still very much alive.
- EverQuest 1 has the entire Legacy of Ykesha expansion. All the zones in that expansion are located on an island called Brokenskull Rock, and Brokenskull Rock swarms with pirates. One of the zones is called Dulak's Harbor.
- Smuggler's Cove in the computer game I Spy: Treasure Hunt, especially in the past, but even in the present day, most townspeople seem obsessed with pirates and the sea.
- Melee Island in the Monkey Island series.
- The pirate island Buccaneer's Den, appearing in the Ultima series since Ultima IV.
- Fire Emblem: Yaaargh, the port o' Badon, what be filled with pirates and other unsavory nautical characters.
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has the aptly named "Rogueport".
- Bloodstone in Fable II.
- Brynnlaw in Baldur's Gate 2, which also has the distinction of being the port servicing Spellhold.
- Bloodbath Bay in Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves.
- Dragon Age II: The Docks in Kirkwall. Except for the Qunari compound (which nobody in their right mind messes with), it's a smugglers' haven in the daytime, and at night it falls into the hands of gangs. While the rest of Kirkwall is also unsafe at night, the dockside gangs get a special mention for, in two of the three Acts, being controlled by blood mages.
- Scurvy Docks in MediEvil: Resurrection, where you must disguise yourself as a pirate to get a boat.
- Kao the Kangaroo Round 2 uses a pirate-infested harbor as The Hub.
- Dead Island: Moresby, a Type 1 coastal city, has this trope turned Up to Eleven with not only hostile human raiders roaming the streets, but hordes of zombies too. The loading screen hints suggest that the raider punks contributed significantly to the city's criminal elements prior to the outbreak. Everything just plunged into anarchy after.
- Far Cry 3 takes place on the Rook Islands, a series of islands taken over by Ruthless Modern Pirates. The protagonist and his friends end up captured and enslaved in the beginning of the game when they decide to go sky-diving to the islands.
- In The Gamers Alliance, the Pirates' Cove in Yamato is the base of the Blue Dragon pirates and also a hive of scum and villainy.