IN the few months that have passed since the announcement, one of the only things about Campo Santo that there's been to discuss has been the name. Campo Santo, what does it even mean? According to the online Oxford English Dictionary, it means "not found in this dictionary." But in Italian and Spanish, it translates to 'graveyard'. You can see that etymology reflected in the company logo, which incorporates a skull and a wooden cross into the illustration.
Already, Campo Santo has received a healthy amount of emails on this subject. Chris Sugalski of Jersey City, N.J., was one of several to express confusion: "I don't get the name. Did the Campo Santo folks know that it meant 'cemetery' when they picked it? I'm not saying they didn't, but it strikes me as a particularly weird and pessimistic association for a new company to want to make. If that association was intentional, then their reasoning for that escapes me a bit."
Some, like Megan Roessler of Seattle, Wash., asked about the cultural and historical forbearers of the name, including the actual Italian municipality Camposanto, and the book Campo Santo, a posthumous miscellany collection of the German writer W.G. Sebald. "I obviously am not aware of whether it was a deliberate choice [for the Campo Santo founders] to evoke Sebald, but I would hope that whatever Campo Santo the video game studio does will live up to that in some way."
It's an exciting question: where did the name Campo Santo come from, anyway? What history did Sean Vanaman, Jake Rodkin, et al., draw upon in choosing those words to represent their company? Perhaps one of the founders has a personal connection to the Camposanto Monumentale cementary in Pisa? Or did they first encounter the phrase somewhere unexpected, as a mysterious reference in an esoteric text, like an 18th century pirate's journal?
I put the question to Sean Vanaman. "I think it means something akin to cemetery or 'sacred ground?'" he told me in an email. "I liked that it conjured up images of burial and decay but does so without being dark -- it feels like it hold both bookends of life in a positive light and for a company full of people creating something out of nothing, that tone felt correct to me. But honestly, we chose it because we really liked the sound of it. I guess Umberto Eco did the same thing when titling The Name of the Rose, so if it's a good enough tactic for the Ec-man I say it's good enough for a stupid video game company."
Well, It's an interesting answer from Mr. Vanaman, and one which warns us of the danger of overthinking the creative process, though in your Ombudsman's opinion, It's not quite as interesting as an explanation involving an 18th century pirate journal would have been. Mr. Vanaman offered to comment further, but to be honest I was really much more interested in this whole idea of a pirate thing... so...
I had not expected to see Edward Geary again in this lifetime, and hopefully not in the next neither. It had been 10 years near enough to the day that I saw him last—after the mutiny that spelled the bloody end for our crew and shipwreck'd us on Antigua. Edward Geary had slitted the throat of captain Bellamy with the captain's own lucky cutlass, and at moonlight we put him into a shallow grave beside the trees. Ed Geary and I were all that remained of the Avery's crew then, and we agreed solemnly that we would divide all the loot 'tween us and then go off on our own ways, with gold enough to retire as rich men, & never to cross each other no more.
Earlier to-night as I took my regular supper and drink at the Black Bull, a rough hand clapped my shoulder. "Will Morgan! Blimey, man-it is you!" Indeed, it was Edward Geary, looking hardly a day the older. I am certain I turned quite pale. How-ever (and to my relief), Geary was in a good and not murderous spirit. Unconcerned about breaking our vow of 10 years, he insisted upon my company & so we spoke and lustily downed many pints of ale 'til we were loaded to the gunwale both, as in our days aboard the Avery.
My old shipmate was fiercely perplexed over why I had settled in a little fisher-man's village like S---- Cove. It was not suiting of a man with my fortune, he said, and so I had to admit that over the years the fortune had all been spent. I did not detail the depths of my vice and wastefulness that I putted the moneys to. But perhaps the shaemeful look that I afforded to my mug of ale would have given Geary the fuller picture.
I confess'd to Geary that some months ago I had been forced to take a job here in S---- as a dental assistant so that I might be guaranteed of a regular wage. "A dental assistant?" he cried. "What is that then?"
"Well I work with the local dentist here and support him in his duties."
"Ay, but what does that actually mean, to be a 'dental assistant'?" said he. "What is it that ye do day to day?" "Well I could be doing any number of tasks," I explained. "I might be sending out requisition orders for supplies, instruments such as pliers and consumables, gold wire with which to make the tooth brace, and your basic paper stock and the like, and you also have a bit of booking appointments and compiling research reports on the newest trends in English dentistry. No two days are ever the same."
"Ah, oh really."
Geary, after calling for more ale, proceeded to explain what he was doing here in S----. He was returning to account on a ship, the "Mary O'Malley", on a new voyage with a new crew & captain, and would be departing at next dawn. Then Geary said the words that I fear now have changed my life.
"Know ye of Campo Santo?"
Ay, I knew of Campo Santo, as any pirate does, and I knew it to be no truer than the legend of the mermaid or the merman. It was a traditional buccaneer’s riddle, as old as the sea, told by the sea-wolves to idle away the long days & I believe that it was something like this:
I burn brighter than the sun.
I am desired by all,
But can be held by no-one.
What am I?"
The answer - "Campo Santo".
It was something we used to dream and sing about aboard the Avery: what we would do if we ever got our hands on the legendary Campo Santo and its fabulous wealth. "I'd sell me own mother into slavery for a taste o' that sweet Campo Santo," I remember young Tobias screaming one day at sea right before he slipped off the ship and died.
"Don't play me for the fool with your talk of the Campo Santo," I told Geary, but he swore to his tale. "We be setting sail for the treasure of Campo Santo," he told. "I'll be a much richer man, richer beyond all imagination."
"Even if Campo Santo were real," I said, "ye would not know where to find it."
"Ye be wrong. We found ourselves a captain who knows the way."
Geary grinned his crooked smile that I could see was in much need of a remedial brace. "Only nobody less than the mad pirate king hisself-Captain Henry Rathe Doggett."
Mad Henry? Now I was sure old Geary was feeding me a line–or well so I thought at the time. I had seen it myself 20 years ago: the mad Henry Doggett clapped in irons by the King's men, hanged o'er the Thames and his head putted on a spike at Tower Bridge for the gulls.
"Ay, but I has seen him just to-day," said Geary, "his belly full of fire as it e'er was." He went on, and as I listened a fantastic story unfolded. After Doggett’s death, said Geary, he was unrepentant, and so his soul was condemned to the underworld, where he would be punished for his sins with never-ending destructions and torments, and sentenced to forever wander death's abyss with his hands and feet bound in chains. But Doggett, who had the spirit of a pirate king, was as defiant in death as he were in life, and never did stop searching for a way back to the land of the living. After 10 years Doggett found his way to the Palace of Hades, the Lord of the Dead, and requested a boon from him. Hades found the human's stubbornness to be amusing and so did agree to set Doggett a labor in exchange for his freedom from death's kingdom.
Hades had set Doggett an impossible task. Way across the Fields of Asphodel, King Minos presided as a judge of the dead. Before death Minos had been a cruel and mighty king of Crete and a great enemy of pirates. For some years he had been extorting a tribute of coin from the poor souls who pass'd into the underworld, and in so doing he had amassed a considerable fortune. Hades, stricken with envy, promised Doggett his resurrection only if he could convince Minos to part with his loot.
It took Doggett another 10 years to reach the Plain of Judgment, where the serpent-tailed Minos reigned upon a throne of skulls. When Doggett challenged Minos to a duel the judge only laughed, pointing out that the withered and manacled human could not even hold a sword. "That is not what I mean," said Doggett. "I challenge ye to a contest of riddles."
Now that was a game the clever Minos could accept! But the pirate Doggett, always wiley and book-learned, matched Minos riddle for riddle. The powerful Minos had never encountered a worthy opponent and his confidence did begin to abandon him. That was when Doggett asked Minos the one riddle whose answer was known only to pirates-that which he knew would defeat him- the Riddle of Campo Santo.
"I don't know it! I don't know it!" cried Minos. "Victory is yours. You may take the gold." But that was not enough for Doggett, who wrapped his chains around the neck of Minos and dragged the wailing cur all the way to the river Styx, where he forced his head under the black water and then, with an almighty roar, tore it right off.. It was said that Minos's dying screams sent waves coursing through the Styx for eternity.
Hades was so pleased with this that he granted Doggett an extra boon. With his first boon Doggett was returned to life and allowed to leave the underworld, and when asked for his second boon, Doggett said that there was only one boon that he wanted: a map to Campo Santo.
"You shall have this boon," Hades said. "But know this: if you do choose to search for Campo Santo, then you will be tested, as you never have before. Not even the underworld has prepared you for the trials you and your crew must endure. And once you know what Campo Santo is, you may wish that you did not. You may find... that it is not what you think."
"What do ye make of that, then?" I asked, when Geary had finished.
"I think," and here Geary grinned again, "we're going to be very rich men."
Geary asked if I would join the crew on the Mary O'Malley for the voyage and share in the profits. Certainly he could tell that I was not in proper account financially and could use the gold. But I was a pirate no more, I had to remind Geary.
"Ay," he said, "'tis what I had heard. I had to see it for meself." He shook my hand, gave me his farewells, and retired to his lodgings. "Good luck with the dentists," he added. I drank down the suds of ale that lingered at the tankard's bottom.
18th April, 1733
I write this now on the deck of the Mary O'Malley, having resigned my post as a dental assistant & signed up with its crew. Once again I have taken-up the mantle of Pirate, which I knew was always my in-escapable fate. I think Geary knew that as well. Strange that I still have not glimpsed our Lazarus of a captain, Henry Rathe Doggett... they say he has shut himself up in his cabin and refuses to come out on deck until we have locked eyes on Campo Santo.
The Mary O'Malley departed port early in the morning with its crew in fine spirits. We worked on rigging the ship & then the wind caught the sails and like a clockwork engine our vessel lurched into motion, pushing out of the harbor to-wards the warm horizon. And we sang the sea song of Campo Santo as our ship went faster & faster into the water.
It's the dream of every sailor
If Blackbeard saw this hoard, he'd weep:
"Me whole life was a failure!"
'Tis a finer jewel than Shambhala
Treasure more than El Dorado
Where the rum is good and men are free
They call it Campo Santo
Yo ho, yo ho
Set sail for Campo Santo
If we lose our lives, will it save our souls?
Bring me home to Campo Santo
They say this land is just a tale
For which only fools have quested
They say it's God's most tainted gift
And that no man should possess it
We've heard good men have lost their lives
To the dream of Campo Santo
But give us a map and a fair strong wind
And we'll set sail on the 'morrow
Yo ho, yo ho
Set sail for Campo Santo
If we lose our lives, will it save our souls?
Bury me in Campo Santo
So I take a drink as we crest the waves
On a ship with a dead man's crew
If I must kill Minos twice, I will
And I'll kill his Minotaur too
I may face me glory or me doom
But when I die, I will die free
Hang your rules and your dentist's tools
It's Campo Santo for me
So set sail for Campo Santo, boys
This is the life for me.