No. 220 – The Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman image courtesy Delaware Art Museum

Prog 459’s (1986) Brett Ewins (1955–2015) cover for the Judge Dredd story The Last Voyage of the Flying Dutchman, written by John Wagner and drawn by Bryan Talbot v German opera Der fliegende Holländer by Richard Wagner (1813–1883), here represented by Howard Pyle’s[1] (1853–1911) The Flying Dutchman (1900)

Legendary ghost ship the Flying Dutchman (Dutch: De Vliegende Hollander) is said to glow with an otherworldly light and is doomed to sail the oceans forever, forbidden to make port. Sighting the Dutchman is generally regarded a portent of ill fate, and when hailed by another ship the crew of the Dutchman purportedly attempts to communicate messages to land. Although not based on any actual vessel, ghostly or otherwise, the legend probably originates in the 17th century “golden age” of the Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, [lit. “United East Indian Company”] (VOC)), and sightings of the Dutchman have been reported well into the 20th century.

The theme of Richard Wagner’s opera, alluded to in the tagline[2] on the prog’s cover, is one of redemption through love: the ghostly captain of the Dutchman, having once invoked Satan, is doomed thereafter to sail the oceans eternally and without respite. An angel, however, intercedes, offering the captain a chance at salvation by allowing him to make landfall once every seven years in order to find a wife who will be true to him, whereupon the curse shall be lifted.[3]

No, you’re not getting the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (Buena Vista Pictures, 2006), but the opera snippet below is only 2.17 minutes long[4] and seems to have been markedly influenced by the production design of the film:

Notes:

  1. List of works by Howard Pyle at Project Gutenberg
  2. The tagline is either an editorial in-joke or an oversight: John Wagner wrote the story under the pseudonym T.B. Grover
  3. Are you ever going to watch it? No, nor us [spoiler alert]: the curse gets lifted
  4. Depending on the production, Der fliegende Holländer can last anywhere up to three and a half hours

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