"For a century the larger than life Black Corsair has retained his status as admirable, pitiable, mythicized, tragic, Romantic hero extraordinaire, the symbol of valour, the symbol of honour."
~Decadence for Kids: Il Corsaro Nero in Context, Ann Lawson Lucas
Emilio Salgari's masterpiece, The Black Corsair, is a swashbuckling revenge novel set in the Caribbean. It's one of the world's first pirate classics. An Italian nobleman turns pirate to avenge the murder of his brothers. His foe: an old Flemish army officer named Van Guld, now the Governor of Maracaibo. The Corsair is relentless, vowing never to rest until he has killed the traitor and all those that bear his name. To help him in his quest, the Black Corsair enlists the greatest pirates of his time: L'Ollonais, Michael the Basque, and a young Welshman named Henry Morgan...
The Black Corsair first appeared in serial form in 1898, and was published as Il Corsaro Nero in 1899. It sold 80,000 copies in its first run, a record for the era which established it as Italy's first bestseller. It was subsequently translated into Spanish as El Corsario Negro and is considered a classic in both languages.
The novel was so popular it generated a number of sequels, The Queen of the Caribbean and The Black Corsair's Daughter being the most popular. It first made the jump to the silver screen in the 1920s in a series of silent films directed by Vitale Di Stefano. With the advent of sound came Il Corsaro Nero in 1936 starring Olympic fencing champion Cirro Verratti. The story has been retold several times, on both sides of the Atlantic, the first Spanish version being filmed in Mexico in 1944 by director Chano Urueta. After his worldwide success as Sandokan, Kabir Bedi took a turn at playing the Lord of Ventimiglia in Sergio Solima's 1977 version of Il Corsaro Nero.
Salgari's Caribbean tales inspired a series of spaghetti swashbucklers including Primo Zeglio's Morgan: The Pirate starring Steve Reeves, Mario Soldati's The Three Corsairs with Marc Lawrence and Luigi Capuano's Hercules and The Black Pirates starring Alan Steel.
Comic Books and Animation
The first comic book adaptations of Salgari's works began to appear in the mid 1940s and have continued intermittently until present day. There have been many comic book adaptations of the Black Corsair and the subsequent novels. In 1977, Walt Disney published Paperino e la nipote del Corsaro Nero (Donald Duck and the Black Corsair's Niece) a parody of The Black Corsair's Daughter.
The 1990s saw the birth of the first Black Corsair animated series by Italian production house Mondo TV. You can find the enitre animated series on YouTube in both Italian and English. Check out our animation page for links. A video game version of the adventure is also available.