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I am curious about the gigantic "big boat for a hat guy" played by Ian Muir in the Time of Legends part of "Time Bandits". Was he a Monty Python whimsy created by Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin or was the guy with the ship-hat based on an actual legend?

BBHG

Ian Muir in "Time Bandits"

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    Not sure he was based on anything. In the movie it looked like and accident, he was coming out of the water and the ship happened to be in the spot he was exiting. It would be interesting to see if he was based on an external character. – BillyNair Jul 18 '12 at 5:21
  • If none has the old Critereon Collection edition, it has a directors commentary where Gilliam explains the origins, I'm just damned if I can find my copy. I vaguely remember it was a painting or something but that's really not good enough for an answer. – Broklynite May 10 '16 at 7:43
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Possibly that scene invokes Bran the Blessed, the giant king in the Welsh Mabinogion. Bran waded across the sea with his fleet. There was a cauldron in which the ogres were going to cook the Time Bandits. A cauldron was also central to Bran's story, although that one brought the dead back to life.

Because it was a transition from ogres to a giant, the scene might also have Norse overtones. Frost giants and ogres are abundant in Norse mythology. Perhaps the scene reflects the Viking incursions in England. The giant crushing the hut might be Viking raids (carried out on longships) and its strides across the land might reflect the centuries of time over which these incursions lasted. In 1066, the English pushed them back at last...only to be defeated by the Normans...another Norse offshoot. Ultimately, the Norse/Vikings were subsumed into the culture...a sleeping giant that had left its mark on the history of the British Isles.

Or...the scene didn't have any particular relation to legends or history and was just Gilliam's imagination in action.

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In London in the early 19th c. an old sailor, Joseph Johnson, used to support himself by singing and busking. He wore a hat shaped like a ship and was a familiar figure in London streets. See http://strandlines.org/image/joseph-johnson

I forgot to mention that wearing boat-shaped headgear was also traditional in certain West African dances, e.g. the Kalabari Owu Arusun masquerades, which may have been the inspiration for Johnson's costume. Unfortunately his birthplace and cultural background seem to be unknown.

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