Dwarvish backpacks!

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Udwin
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Dwarvish backpacks!

Postby Udwin » Sun Sep 20, 2015 3:47 pm

Last night I came across this passage in The Hobbit (Chapter 8 ), and it has me stumped.
While traveling through Mirkwood, Thorin's Company come across the Enchanted Stream:
“"Come here Fili, and see if you can see the boat Mr. Baggins is talking about."
Fili thought he could; so when he had stared a long while to get an idea of the direction, the others brought him a rope. They had several with them, and on the end of the longest they fastened one of the large iron hooks they had used for catching their packs to the straps about their shoulders. Fili took this in his hand, balanced it for a moment, and then flung it across the stream.”


It's very unlike Tolkien to describe something that's not the landscape so specifically (The Hobbit is funny like that). Might anybody have an idea what sort of pack he might be referring to or trying to suggest here?, or know of any historic backpacks that attach to shoulder straps via metal hooks?
It's also a bit confusing as the Company's pony-baggage was lost in Goblin-town; so did they have backpacks that survived the trip through the Mountains? I expect that is more likely than thinking that these packs come from Beorn (to hold the food he gave them).
For what it's worth, here is a sketch the Professor made of a line of marching dwarves.
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Re: Dwarvish backpacks!

Postby Elleth » Sun Sep 20, 2015 5:12 pm

Nice catch!

It sounds as if the good Professor is describing a common pack frame, as has been used from Otzi the "ice man" all the way up to the current day:

http://www.iceman.it/en/node/283
http://thewoodslife.com/?p=1058

note the hooks at the bottom of the frame (from the latter link)

Image

(note that last is approx WWI era - certainly would have been a thing he'd have been familiar with)
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Re: Dwarvish backpacks!

Postby Ringulf » Sun Sep 20, 2015 6:46 pm

I was thinking along the same lines as Elleth in that the pack must have been some sort of bag that needed to be affixed to a harness of sometype. Though I remember some of the packs we used in scouting when I was a kid had a waist strap with a sort of surplus looking T hook and catch system, I am thinking that these pack were a simpler form of carriage like a Yukon pack that was made simply of sacks that were tied to packing straps somehow. I realize you can't base to much on an artist interpretation, but that illustration almost shows that. putting a rock in both lower corners of a burlap sack and then tying the neck or mouth of the sack with clove hitches from the middle of the line left two straps that went over the shoulders of this impromptu rucsack. :mrgreen:
Last edited by Ringulf on Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dwarvish backpacks!

Postby Greg » Sun Sep 20, 2015 7:45 pm

Interesting thoughts, Elleth and Ringulf. I will say, I interpreted it differently, but that's what makes this fun.

For what it's worth, here's my take:

It says "large iron hooks", and I certainly would have a hard time using one of those smaller snap-hooks such as what are pictured in that diagram as a grapnel of any sort. In addition, it says "...[that] they had used for catching their packs to the straps about their shoulders." This suggests, to me, that the packs were pre-existing, and that the strap configuration was cobbled together out of necessity. The packs and straps are stated as being separate entities, so it's plausible that there is a pack (rucksack/bag, bundle, what-have-you) that exists, and straps have been fashioned using large iron hooks to make the pack wearable. This strikes me as being very yukon pack-ish, but one word still sticks out to me. "About". Context: "...to the straps about their shoulders."

Is this insinuating backpack straps as we know and use regularly? I typically would use the word "over" for describing our common backpack straps. Tolkien comes from a different time and cultural writing background, so words can have many meanings, but I wonder if "About" is actually referring to something more like this...

bosch.jpg
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Note, there's a hook being used to fasten the pack to the strap. A cloth pack or bundle could similarly be hooked.

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Re: Dwarvish backpacks!

Postby Elleth » Mon Sep 21, 2015 2:07 am

MEA CULPA

My above comment about packframes having a continuous history was unsupported and (as near as I can tell) WRONG WRONG WRONG, at least for Europe.

The Otzi reconstruction is apparently disputed, and despite my memory telling me I'd seen Yukon-style packs on frames in early period drawings, I can't support that at all with further research. I plead brain fart. :(

That said - I still wouldn't be surprised if that's what was in the professor's mind as he wrote the scene. It was easy enough for us in the pre-internet era to confuse "old timey" with "authentic practice" - and that's with a half century of decent hardcopy works no author in the 1930's could have had. Plus Hobbitses have always been a little anachronistic.


So I dunno. I like your drawing Greg, but I'm still not convinced it's what was in Tolkien's mind when he wrote the scene. Even if it is more plausible. :)


PS1 - I'm betting the answer is in 19th c. rural English carrying practices. Which may still be that cross-body strap.

PS2 - I can't believe I only now noticed the guy relieving himself against the cottage. Eeek!
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Re: Dwarvish backpacks!

Postby warwell » Mon Sep 21, 2015 9:43 am

Civil War knapsacks used hooks to secure straps that went across the chest.

This page shows some examples: http://acwknapsacks.com/Double%20Bag.html

However, the hooks are not particularly large.
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Re: Dwarvish backpacks!

Postby Elleth » Mon Sep 21, 2015 1:09 pm

Still thinking about this, and after re-reading chapters 7-8 I confess I'm coming around to Greg's way of thinking.

Many goods are originally packed on ponies:

He would provide ponies for each of them, and a horse for Gandalf, for their journey to the forest, and he would lade them with food to last them for weeks with care, and packed so as to be as easy as possible to carry-nuts, flour, sealed jars of dried fruits, and red earthenware pots of honey, and twice-baked cakes that would keep good a long time, and on a little of which they could march far.


The goods from the ponies are offloaded to the company:
So now there was nothing left to do but to fill their water-skins at a clear spring they found close to the forest-gate, and unpack the ponies. They distributed the packages as fairly as they could, though Bilbo thought his lot was wearisomely heavy, and did not at all like the idea of trudging for miles and miles with all that on his back.
"Don't you worry!" said Thorin. "It will get lighter all too soon. Before long I expect we shall all wish our packs heavier, when the food begins to run short."


They each shouldered the heavy pack and the water-skin which was their share, and turned from the light that lay on the lands outside and plunged into the forest.


.. so it sounds as if there may not have been purpose-built backpacks at all - rather "Yukon" packs or the like on tumplines.

If that's the case, they could have changed up the strap configuration (across chest vs. over each shoulder) from rest stop to rest stop as muscles cramped and sore spots came and went. But "leather (or even rope with some padding) straps ending in iron hooks" that just hook on to the rope binding of a bundle of goods does seem quite in keeping with the text.


So yeah.. I think you're right Greg.
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Re: Dwarvish backpacks!

Postby Eledhwen » Mon Sep 21, 2015 1:21 pm

It is like using a tumpline. That is, in fact, what it is. They aren't only used for bedrolls. I've seen them in use, in many configurations, all over the world...including with hooks, baskets, pottery in woven nets, cloth and leather sacks, frames, all sorts of things.

I rather like the tumpline for load carrying. Not climbing, although you can shift the tumpline from around the shoulders to the forehead if you have it lashed around your hips too. I prefer the more secure should strap when climbing.

Dwarves are different, of course, so there we go.

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Re: Dwarvish backpacks!

Postby Ringulf » Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:11 pm

I've herard folks here speak of the tumpline for bedrolls and the like. They remind me of the bookstraps I used to use as a kid walking to school with several large text books. (Another good reason for why I never did homework, was hard to cut through the swampy woods with the extra bulk and weight of those books!)
Have you folks come across many illustrations of these Tumplines? I would enjoy seeing some of these varied uses, it sounds like a very versitile and useful peice to carry around just in case one needed to make an improvised pack.
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Re: Dwarvish backpacks!

Postby Elleth » Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:37 pm

The term "tumpline" is often used to refer specifically to American Indian tools, woven into a strap with long "tails" which can be used to handle all sorts of burdens:
http://www.nativetech.org/finger/belts.html
http://amohkali.com/?p=470

It's used more generally to refer to any kind of strap used to haul a burden, much like the "wayfarer" image with the guy with a packbasket Greg posted above. Here's an example of that type:
http://leatherfromthepast.blogspot.com/ ... pline.html
I think the version in the text above is much like this - with iron hooks instead of wooden toggles and cord. Or even - and this may even be what's in Greg's wayfarer image - an iron hook that slips OVER the toggle in the strap. That would make a dandy arrangement if the toggle is sturdy enough (perhaps also iron or bronze?) and the leather loop it sits in is snug enough - they could just pull out the toggle to slide out the hook. One could even switch back and forth between a hook and a ties as necessary with a single strap. Quite the arrangement! :)

Mine is a slightly prettied up version of the plain bedroll strap Mark Baker posited for American 18th c. frontier use (described in "A Pilgrim's Journey, Volume One")
I'm a little less convinced of its historicity now than when I made it (simply tying up a blanket seems the done thing as far as I can tell in period pictures) - but it's still a neat trick.

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Re: Dwarvish backpacks!

Postby Eledhwen » Mon Sep 21, 2015 5:06 pm

Can't speak for American Colonial frontier accuracy, but these kinds of straps, split, unsplit, toggled, tied, have been in use for a thousand years and more around the world. We see them in woodcuts, wall paintings, sculptures, etc. As I recall, I saw very similar carry methods on some tomb carvings in Egypt a lot of years ago. They are still used, in a lot of places. Some have hooks over toggles, some hooks in holes or grommets, used with any number of back loads. Dunno what they are called all over, I use tumpline because that is what I call them, have done since first I came across the term in a book. *shrugs* I like 'em, but as I said, not for climbing when I need both hands.

Dwarves, on the other hand, may not have a problem with it at all. :)

I'd use whatever works best for you.

You know...I remember the old Trapper Nelson pack frame. Use one when I was younger. They work.

As for Otzis' pack, it was a 'U' shaped frame anchored with two cross pieces near the open end (bottom) of the frame. None of the straps survived in complete enough form to really know how it was held, but corded nettles or similar could very well have been used, or strips of leather tied to the frame. He was around at the end of the Neolithic and beginning of the Copper Age. The pouch was apparently a hide construction laced to the frame. The big thing about Otzi and his pack is that this is the earliest instance we have of a backpack being used for long, overnight style trips. Most of the other instances we find are people engaged in construction or carrying goods to market, not the the way we Rangers use packs. Otzi, it seems, did use it this way. Kind of a nifty thing to contemplate.

The Celts in Halstadt had what we call 'hods'. Conical baskets worn on the back to pack salt out the mines. In the medieval period we see pack baskets being used for carrying construction materials or goods.

Plenty of pictures of such things, and finds in the archaeological record. As to which sort the Master was referring, or to which combination of sorts he was referring, we probably won't know. Any or all of them would do, I'm thinking. If pedigree of the design matters..well, we can get back to the end of the Neolithic. ;)

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