Mythical Monday: Davy Jones’ Locker by Mae Clair

open treasure chest with shinny gold underwaterRecently, I was having a discussion with someone about Davy Jones’ Locker. It started as a conversation about 1960s music and the simplistic names of bands like the Beatles, the Byrds, the Doors, the Turtles, and the Monkees. Talking about the Monkees led to Davy Jones, which of course, led to Davy Jones’ Locker. When the person asked if I knew where the name had originated, I realized I didn’t. Naturally, that research had to be the subject of a Mythical Monday post.

I’m sure most everyone is familiar with the term Davy Jones’ Locker as referring to the bottom of the sea, a resting place of sailors and others who have drowned. Davy Jones is an evil spirit who holds dominion over those who perish in his watery domain. He can take various forms and is known to perch in a vessel’s rigging before disaster strikes. But who was the real Davy Jones, the man who inspired the myth?

Apparently, there wasn’t a single individual. A pirate by the same name roamed the Indian ocean in the 1630s, but most scholars feel he wasn’t famous enough to have spurred the legend or sustained such long-lasting fame. The most common belief is that “Davy” is derived from “Duppy” a term for a malevolent spirit in the West Indies. (You can learn more about the Duppy in a Mythical Monday post I shared last August on Island Spirits). Some also believe Davy comes from Saint David, the Patron Saint of Wales, whom many Welsh sailors called upon for protection when they took to sea.

Curious dolphins approach the wreckage of a sunken ship beneath the sea.

“Jones” is from the biblical prophet, Jonah, who brought ill fortune and storms to the vessel he boarded. The seas calmed only when the sailors threw him overboard and he was swallowed by the great whale God sent to claim him. Many referred to him as “Devil Jonah,” for in fleeing God, he brought calamity to others. To this day, people refer to a “Jonah” as someone who brings bad luck.

Two other general references include Duffer Jones, a myopic sailor who routinely fell overboard and ended up in the drink courtesy of his near-sightedness, and a British pub owner who wasn’t above profiting off drunken sailors. He’d toss them in his locker, then sell them to any captain looking to draft a crew for shipboard service.

As with many old legends, it appears Davy Jones and his Locker are derived from a compilation of myths and historical figures. When it comes to final resting places, I’d much rather frolic on Fiddler’s Green, an Old Salt’s idealized vision of Heaven, than languish at the bottom of the ocean.

For now, I’ll hop over to Pandora and hunt up some Monkees music. It seems only natural I should remember the singer who’s name was the catalyst of this post. 🙂

15 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: Davy Jones’ Locker by Mae Clair

  1. For me, Davy Jones’ Lockers always conjures spooky ghost ships and their unhappy occupants, and that is something I would much rather hear about than experience for myself! Fun post Mae and I love the pictures!

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    • I always think of ghost ships too and the poor souls of sailors trapped in a watery grave *shudder* As with so many myths, Davy Jones’ Locker plays on our fear of darkness and the unknown. I’m with you, Debbie, in I prefer to research the stuff from a safe distance, LOL!

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  2. Ya know, there are terms like Davy Jones locker that we take for granted even in this day and age, especially with the Depp pirate movies out, and I never questioned the origins until today. My fav was the barkeep who snagged them when they were drunk and sold them to the ships.Thanks for another enlightening post!

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    • The Depp movies really drew attention to Davy Jones’ Locker, but the Disney spin is there. Maybe they’ll make a few people curious enough to seek out the original myth. I definitely enjoyed those movies!

      As for the barkeep in the myth, it made me think of shanghaiing sailors on the Barbary Coast. Eesh! I would have definitely watched how much liquor I downed! 🙂

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  3. Spooky post. When I think of ships and sunken treasure lying at the bottom of the sea, the haunting images of Titanic rotting at the bottom of the ocean are what first come to mind.
    PS: Love the pics.

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    • So tragic about the Titanic. One of those infamous nautical occurrences that even today you can’t help feel despondent about. If only they’d done this; if only they’d done that. There is something very sad and tragic about the sight of a mighty ship lying forlorn and abandoned at the bottom of a cold dark sea!

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      • Yes, so many things overlooked. I watched an episode of Supernatural recently where in their universe the Titanic had never sunk. And as a result no one in the world knew of the ship. It wasn’t famous. An Angel got so tired of hearing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go One” he went back in time and stopped the ship from hitting the glacier. 😉

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      • I haven’t seen Supernatural in a while, but always enjoyed the spooky originality of the shows I caught. I like the idea of the Titanic having a different future….sounds like the plot of a novel I would love to read. Or write 🙂

        With or without Celune Dion, LOL

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  4. I didn’t know the real story for this. We just happened to watch Pirates of the Caribbean last night and then I saw your post! Fascinating stuff. Legends are always so interesting.

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    • Hey, Jess, thanks for visiting. Those were some adventurous movies. I have to agree with you about legends….I live discovering all the details behind the folklore! I just can’t seem to get enough of that stuff 🙂

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  5. This is so intriguing, that there’s such a variety of sources for this particular legend. I had to laugh at “Duffer Jones” routinely falling overboard. I can’t imagine he’d want to be on a ship or near the sea. LOL Great info as always!

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    • Duffer Jones almost makes you think of an old sitcom, doesn’t it? I can just see him getting near the railing and then into the drink he goes….again, LOL! Great to have you drop by, Donna. Glad you enjoyed the post!

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  6. Sea lore is so fascinating, and I love to think about those ancient sailors who braved the wild depths with a certain amount of uncertainty and abandon. Fiddler’s Green is definitely the place to be. That vile British pub owner reminds me of an episode of Bonanza where Adam was shanghaied. A trap door in the tavern delivered inebriated or drugged men to an unscrupulous sea captain.

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    • Hi, Flossie! I loved that episode of Bonanza and remember it well. That part of the Davy Jones legend made me think of the episode too ( although it was Ben who got sold much to the amusement of Joe and Hoss who had to rescue him). I love sea folklore! 😀

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