A few years ago, Ron Gilbert confirmed that in addition to the Pirates of the Carbbean ride, he was inspired by a novel called "On Stranger Tides", by Tim Powers.
I bought the book a few years ago, and started re-reading it again when Tales of Monkey Island was announced.
There was quite a bit in the book that I had forgotten, and it looks to me like Tales is HEAVILY influenced by the novel.
The spoilers that follow are regarding the novel - so don't read if you intend to read the novel yourself, and want to remain surprised!
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On Stranger Tides follows the adventures of John Chandagnac and Elizabeth Hurwood - passengers aboard a liner bound for the New World.
Beths father, Benjamin Hurwood, had been an Oxford don and well-respected professor of natural philosophy, until the death of his wife 20 years earlier. Her death unhinged him, and he began traveling the world, searching for a method to resurrect his dead wife.
Hurwood became aware that magic used to exist in the Old World, but as civilization encroached, it waned. Magic still holds sway in the wilds of the New World, and Hurwood begins drawing voodoo power to himself...and attracts the attention of Edward Teach - Blackbeard.
Years earlier, Blackbeard had stumbled into the swamplands of Florida...drawn by the magical pull of the Fountain of Youth. The Fountain is described as a gateway between this world, and the otherworld - directly referenced as "The Crossroads."
The Crossroads is guarded by powerful ghosts - restless spirits, hungry to feed on the blood of the living (Nor Treblig?). Blackbeard was ill-prepared to face the guardians of the Fountain, and found himself infected by Ghosts.
Using what voodoo knowledge he had, he kept the ghosts at bay by keeping lit match-cords within his beard, and performing demonic rituals.
Joining together with Benjamin Hurwood, who had the training necessary to approach the Crossroads and seize it's power, Hurwood contrived to have the ship that he, John Chandagnac, and his own daughter sailed on captured by Blackbeards pirates...with all of them sailing back to Florida, and Elizabeth intended to be sacrificed by her own father to serve as the vessel that his dead wifes soul will re-inhabit.
With the ship captured, John is forced to join the pirate crew, and is dubbed "Jack Shandy." His former life as a puppeteer proves quite useful as he is forced to learn a bit of voodoo himself, all the while hoping to free himself and Elizabeth Hurwood from her insane father and the demonic Blackbeard.
The book actually contrives to explain a number of historical oddities surrounding Blackbeard - the lit match cords in his beard, shooting his own crew members with no provocation, his siege of Charleston, and his strange ransom demand (herbs with medicinal value, no gold or silver), the destruction of Port Royale by an earthquake that tossed the entire port into the sea, forcing his crew to breathe brimstone belowdecks, etc...) It's very well written, and the combination of Blackbeard and Ben Hurwood into what would become LeChuck is pretty obvious.
Also interesting is how puppetry and voodoo worked their way into Monkey Island 4.
What I found most interesting last night while rereading the novel was the reference to The Crossroads, the powerful guardian ghosts that guard it, how Blackbeard became infested by ghosts, and how the Crossroads is a portal that changes those who pass through it...taking on aspects of the opposite reality. (LeChuck/Guybrush Pox swap?) Even the Head of the Navigator has its origin in this novel - Blackbeard and Hurwood can locate each other through the use of a mummified two-headed dogs head....the twin heads point towards one another.
I thought I would throw this thread out here to further explore the origins of the Monkey Island story, and also to highlight how this tale IS returning to the roots of Ron Gilberts original ideas - he's mining the same material that he originally used for Monkeys 1 and 2, and though we may never get the Gilbert-approved Monkey 3, I think this is as close as we'll come.