Our Sponsor Sideshow Collectibles Send us News
Lord of the Rings Tolkien
Search Tolkien
Lord of The RingsTheOneRing.net - Forged By And For Fans Of JRR Tolkien
Lord of The Rings Serving Middle-Earth Since The First Age

Lord of the Rings Movie News - J.R.R. Tolkien
Do you enjoy the 100% volunteer, not for profit services of TheOneRing.net?
Consider a donation!

  Main Index   Search Posts   Who's Online   Log in
The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Bucklebury Ferry

Na Vedui
Rohan


Feb 28, 4:52pm

Post #1 of 9 (881 views)
Shortcut
Bucklebury Ferry Can't Post

Currently re-reading FOTR, and for some reason began thinking (after 50 years' acquaintance with the story) about the logistics of Bucklebury Ferry.
I guess it's a Buckland initiative - the boat (or boats if there's more than one) seem to be kept on the Buckland side of the river when not in use.
I'm guessing also that in order to avoid the boat(s) ending up stuck on the wrong side of the river when people need them, there must be some kind of manned, or rather Hobbited, service during the day, as there seems to be no way to tow the boat across to you if it's not where you need it when you need it. (Otherwise the Black Rider could have done just that). So either there's a timetable of regular daytime trips, or a ferryhobbit on duty who can be alerted, with a bell perhaps, by passengers on the opposite bank. Or you have to book in advance, single or return.
All in all, Frodo & co were jolly lucky. If they'd arrived during ferry-service hours with a Black Rider not far behind them, they'd have got across ok but the BR could just have taken the next trip. And if Merry hadn't thought to come looking for them, they'd have been stuck on the Shire side of the river with no ferryboat, and been caught by the Rider that Sam saw when he looked back during the crossing.
Eh dear, how geeky can one get!


Solicitr
Gondor


Feb 28, 9:04pm

Post #2 of 9 (840 views)
Shortcut
More likely [In reply to] Can't Post

it was a rope ferry. Basically a raft which travellers could pull back and forth on a rope loop strung over pulleys on each side of the river.




squire
Half-elven


Feb 28, 10:35pm

Post #3 of 9 (833 views)
Shortcut
Would a rope ferry also use a "long pole"? [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's an abbreviated version of the story:
[Frodo:] 'And I am going to make for Bucklebury Ferry as quickly as possible. I am not going out of the way, back to the road we left last night: I am going to cut straight across country from here.’
[adventure ensues - Farmer Maggot - waggon ride to the Ferry after dark]
‘So there you are at last!’ said Merry. ‘I was beginning to wonder if you would turn up at all today, and I was just going back to supper. When it grew foggy I came across and rode up towards Stock to see if you had fallen in any ditches.' - LR I.4 [bold by squire]

They turned down the Ferry lane... In a hundred yards or so it brought them to the river-bank, where there was a broad wooden landing-stage. A large flat ferry-boat was moored beside it. ...
Merry led the pony over a gangway on to the ferry, and the others followed. Merry then pushed slowly off with a long pole. The Brandywine flowed slow and broad before them. On the other side the bank was steep, ...
The ferry-boat moved slowly across the water. The Buckland shore drew nearer. ...
The four hobbits stepped off the ferry. Merry was tying it up, and Pippin was already leading the pony up the path, when ...
On the far stage, under the distant lamps, they could just make out a figure.
‘Thank goodness you don’t keep any boats on the west-bank!’ said Frodo. - LR I.5
As I read this, the situation is as Na Vedui described:

The Buckland hobbits kept the ferry on the east bank. Knowing the ferry was Frodo's destination, Merry had evidently been waiting for his friends on that side all day, but was about to give up and go back to Crickhollow for supper. But first he "came across" on the ferry by himself to try to find them if they had been delayed in the foggy weather. When he found them, he took them back across by poling the ferry across the stream. I can imagine there was a guide rope to keep the craft from being carried downstream, but there's no suggestion that pulling on a rope was the motive power.

And if this was the usual arrangement, as Frodo seems to know, then the Buckland colony never left "boats on the west-bank" - so when Merry came across, his job was to be sure the ferry was returned to the east bank by the end of his errand.

Had Frodo and the gang arrived at the ferry-landing after Merry had "gone back to supper", they would have found no ferry. While waiting for Merry or someone else to bring the ferry over to get them (perhaps there was a bell?), they would indeed have been caught by the Black Rider who was right behind them. Another close call in a chapter or two that is full of them!



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Feb 29, 3:59pm

Post #4 of 9 (736 views)
Shortcut
Insufficient polling data? [In reply to] Can't Post

Unless I've missed something, the pole is only mentioned as a means of shoving off from the bank. Of course the ferry could be a punt, which is propelled by pushing a pole into the river bed. In that case we imagine that Merry keeps polling. But punting only works on bodies of water that are shallow, and with a reasonably firm bottom so that the pole doesn't get stuck in the mud. I'm reluctant to imagine the Brandywine like that, because if it were, then Merry would expect it to be easy enough for the Black Rider to swim or wade across. Now of course Tolkien later tries out ideas about the Black Riders being reluctant to cross water for magical reasons, but Merry doesn't know about that, and so can only asses the risk in terms of physical capabilities. It doesn't seem that the current is an issue preventing swimming or wading across (the Brandywine is described as 'broad and slow'). And although there's a steep bank on the East side, merry gets his pony up it.

Using poles just to push your boat off (or to fend off other objects) seems to be pretty widespread. I've done that when sailing, and I see people do it going up and down the Thames in canal boats. So maybe that's what Tolkien was imagining? I do agree that the gentleman in solicitr's fine photo of a rope ferry doesn't look like he needs a pole to get started - it looks like he could just start pulling on the rope. But perhaps it's easier to get the boat started with a sudden push - if we have any more experienced watermen (waterpersons? waterhobbits?) than me, they might know.

It's a funny thing - I'd clearly imagined a rope ferry, but re-reading the text I see no real mention of ropes. Tolkien is more interested in atmosphere in that section than in specifying the mechanics of propulsion.

Yet another option (because we so clearly need one! Smile) is that it's a reaction ferry where the river current does the work of taking the ferry across in either direction. Someone wanting to cross has to get the boat out into the current and angled, and the river does the rest. That isn't totally satisfactory either - these ferries work best on an energetic current, not so like the 'broad and slow' Brandywine - but I think they're a neat bit of engineering & wanted to share them!
Nobody in Frodo's party seems to worry about being trapped on the West bank unable to get the ferry because it will be moored on the East bank. So maybe they know Merry will be waiting, or maybe they expect the ferryman can be summoned.

Why do you suppose it's the policy to keep all the boats on the East bank? I'd be interested to read what people think.

~~~~~~
"Yes, I am half-elven. No, it does not mean that I 'have one pointy ear' "
Sven Elven, proprietor of the Rivendell convenience store.


Solicitr
Gondor


Feb 29, 4:38pm

Post #5 of 9 (731 views)
Shortcut
To my mind at least [In reply to] Can't Post

a rope ferry satisfies Occam's Razor, because the "wrong side" problem never arises- if it's on the opposite bank, you just pull it back to you. Note also that the four hobbits take it across themselves- any other kind of ferry requires a ferryman, because a non-tethered ferry in the hands of tyros can far too easily wind up missing the landing or even being swept downstream


noWizardme
Half-elven


Feb 29, 5:56pm

Post #6 of 9 (725 views)
Shortcut
But if you take a razor to a rope, especially one holding a boat.... ;) [In reply to] Can't Post

Nah, just kidding....
I don't have a problem with imagining a rope ferry myself -in fact I'd done so very clearly & so imagined that was explicit in the text. So I was surprised to find that I'd inferred it.

A ferry used to exist at Bablock Hythe, near Oxford, where a rope (or at some times a chain) was strung across the river and you hauled yourself across on it (see the pictures on this website - you need to scroll down a bit to see them, and then scroll further to see 20th Century accounts of the ferry in use!). The ferry is said to have been going for six hundred years when it ended in 1964, and so maybe Tolkien used it. That area appealed to people who liked to "Walk by high hedges and heavy elms and melancholy stretches of water." (which is John Betjeman 1938, but which could readily be Tolkien, I think). Whether Tolkien used this ferry, let alone 'composted' the experience into his imaginings of the Buckleberry Ferry, is speculative (as far as I know). That's how I imagine the ferry myself.
There doesn't seem to have been a way to pull the Bablock Hythe ferry across the river to the bank you were on, if you arrived and found it on the other side. My guess is that this was for commercial reasons - so that you had to pay the ferryman! Maybe we should imagine that commercial motive for the Buckleberry Ferry, or think that the Master (he presumably of the orders that all boats had to be kept on the East bank) wanted the control of a staff-operated ferry. (If we imagine that we also imagine that some Brandybucks such as Merry are allowed to do what he likes, just as they have a private entrance into the Old Forest) I agree about the practical advantages of a self-service mechanism, where would-be passengers could pull the ferry over to their bank, and so nobody can be stranded. The only reservation reservation about such a self-service mechanism in this discussion has been about whether the Black Rider could then use it pursue the hobbits. But of course it's possible to imagine all sorts of reasons why the Black Rider didn't or couldn't operate such a self-service ferry, so it can hardly be said to prove anything.

~~~~~~
"Yes, I am half-elven. No, it does not mean that I 'have one pointy ear' "
Sven Elven, proprietor of the Rivendell convenience store.


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Mar 1, 5:35am

Post #7 of 9 (676 views)
Shortcut
If I were designing a ferry [In reply to] Can't Post

A rope ferry would make sense, but I don't tend to imagine the Professor would describe a trip on a rope ferry without mentioning the rope. Anyway if things were set up that way, there's not much safety in getting across the water; the Rider could be hauling them back before they get across, or else might soon follow them. Anyway Squire's point is good that they wouldn't likely bother to keep a pole on a rope ferry.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Mar 1, 5:20pm

Post #8 of 9 (631 views)
Shortcut
Unless... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
A rope ferry would make sense, but I don't tend to imagine the Professor would describe a trip on a rope ferry without mentioning the rope. Anyway if things were set up that way, there's not much safety in getting across the water; the Rider could be hauling them back before they get across, or else might soon follow them. Anyway Squire's point is good that they wouldn't likely bother to keep a pole on a rope ferry.


...Merry or another of the companions could have severed the rope or otherwise sabotaged the ferryboat. Not a nice thing to do under normal circumstances, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Again, unlikely, as nothing of the sort is mentioned.


Quote
They turned down the Ferry lane, which was straight and well-kept and edged with large white-washed stones. In a hundred yards or so it brought them to the river-bank, where there was a broad wooden landing-stage. A large flat ferry-boat was moored beside it. The white bollards near the water's edge glimmered in the light of two lamps on high posts...

Merry led the pony over a gangway on to the ferry, and the others followed. Merry then pushed slowly off with a large pole...

The four hobbits stepped off the ferry. Merry was tying it up, and Pippin was already leading the pony up the path...


So, there could have been a guide rope to keep the ferry from drifting downstream, but that's probably all. I'm guessing that the Brandywine is shallow enough at the crossing to allow the ferry to be poled across it.

#FidelityToTolkien

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Mar 1, 5:22pm)


Na Vedui
Rohan


Mar 8, 11:02pm

Post #9 of 9 (514 views)
Shortcut
Thanks everyone! [In reply to] Can't Post

I had no idea there were all those different sorts of ferries. That's what I like about Middle-earth, if you put your foot on the road (or the ferryboat), curiositily speaking, you never know where you may be swept off to!

 
 

Search for (options) Powered by Gossamer Forum v.1.2.3

home | advertising | contact us | back to top | search news | join list | Content Rating

This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings, and is in no way affiliated with Tolkien Enterprises or the Tolkien Estate. We in no way claim the artwork displayed to be our own. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and their use is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Law. Design and original photography however are copyright © 1999-2012 TheOneRing.net. Binary hosting provided by Nexcess.net

Do not follow this link, or your host will be blocked from this site. This is a spider trap.