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The Mystery of the Boatman Messages in this topic - RSS

E.C.H
E.C.H
Posts: 14

5/21/2015
  • I'm sure the vast majority of us are well acquainted with what happens when your Wounds level reaches 8: You get sent to a slow boat on a silent river, guided by a boatman who's a cross between Charon and Death. However, despite the multiple parties' searching for why dying doesn't happen, I've never actually seen any investigations into the nature of this scenario, at least so far.
  • New Newgate and the Tomb colonies' are established, sane places, and the RB and MM are at least mentioned, so this boat trip strikes me as odd in that no one mentions it.
  • Does anyone here have any knowledge I'm unaware of?
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    Kaigen
    Kaigen
    Posts: 481

    5/22/2015
    I think there are euphemistic references to "taking a trip of the river" here and there. It would seem that the unnatural vitality experience in the Neath has yet to erode cultural mores against discussing death. People are ever unwilling to talk about their inevitable(?) decrepitude, as the Tomb Colonies demonstrate.

    If you take up the mini-story involving the Regretful Soldier in the House of Chimes, he brings up the subject of the river, but not the boatman; there's a different boat trip on the same river which the Regretful Soldier has knowledge of.

    --
    Just a simple doctor with a chess habit. Publisher of The Flit Dispatch. Available for lessons in the art of seeing things.

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    E.C.H
    E.C.H
    Posts: 14

    5/22/2015
    Kaigen wrote:
    I think there are euphemistic references to "taking a trip of the river" here and there. It would seem that the unnatural vitality experience in the Neath has yet to erode cultural mores against discussing death. People are ever unwilling to talk about their inevitable(?) decrepitude, as the Tomb Colonies demonstrate.

    If you take up the mini-story involving the Regretful Soldier in the House of Chimes, he brings up the subject of the river, but not the boatman; there's a different boat trip on the same river which the Regretful Soldier has knowledge of.

    Interesting, so this is a known state. Still, this merely leaves more question, since it isn't just limited to ourselves. Where is the river? Is it even in the Neath, or is it similar to the Mirror Marches in being an entirely different state? Is it related to the Gate? May it be what lies behind the haunting doors?

    Is the Boatman Death incarnate? If this is true, how much credence does this give to the perhaps-biblical nature of the Master's, and what does this suggest about the rest of the Neath? How is it you can literally steal someone's breath to heal yourself? Speaking of, how come there is no physical healing, merely thought or duelling with the Boatman in chess or dice? And what of Devils and Rubbery Men, do they experience this process, or is it merely limited to humanity?

    Sorry for being annoying and pedantic, but I'm quite fascinated by this subject. I can't wait for more stories' regarding the Dilmun Club's search for the mysteries of Death.



  • edited by E.C.H on 5/22/2015
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    Deanscig
    Deanscig
    Posts: 69

    5/23/2015
    I've found a small bit of info on Spacemarine9's "I'm a Candle" Tumblr thing. Here it is: http://saint-arthur.tumblr.com/post/116622927570/do-we-have-any-idea-who-the-boatman-is-besides

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    Samuel Perryman
    Samuel Perryman
    Posts: 14

    12/19/2015
    The Boatman is definitely known in the Neath. Save the Whiskered Admiral from choking at the party and he will tell you that he "saw the Boatman." So not only do other Londoner's know of him, but he's prolific enough to be named at a society dinner party.

    --
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    Estelle Knoht
    Estelle Knoht
    Posts: 1679

    12/19/2015
    Bag a Legend! Spoiler:

    [spoiler]The boat trip is popular enough that you have an unwilling opponent blowing herself up just to take a boat trip and hide on the ship.[/spoiler]

    --
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    Charlotte_de_Witte
    Charlotte_de_Witte
    Posts: 360

    12/19/2015
    An excellent question!

    To approach this purely from outside of the game looking inwards. - Like you say the Boatman looks very much to be a mix of Charon and aspects of the Angel of Death. Whether the river is intended then to be Styx or Archeon is likely then anyone's guess? Or maybe it is both or all five mixed? The Lethean Tea is suggestive here also.

    The Boatman's love of chess I guess is drawn from Bergman's Det Sjunde Inseglet. (If not also a certain Bogus Journey).

    That there is a Cumean Canal and it leads up to lake Avernus is also interesting for what it implies of where the Neath might be considered to lie mythologicaly speaking. (There is a stairway also I think? Tibertine?). Virgil, and so also Dante, then might perhaps be considered to be descriptions of parts of the Neath?

    The Elder Continent's presences however potentially only adds to the confusion.

    It is also interesting that it is your body the Boatman takes, your soul possibly having already gone elsewhere. He certainly isn't taking anyone to Hell. I think you catch a train for that.

    Considering the different cultures of the other Fallen Cities, maybe we might expect to find other psychopomps in the Neath as well?

    I would think FL's Boatman has likely been drawn from many other sources also - Pratchett's Death series seems very likely.

    --
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    malthaussen
    malthaussen
    Posts: 1058

    12/19/2015
    "Charon"

    Charon leaned forward and rowed. All things were one with his weariness.
    It was not with him a matter of years or of centuries, but of wide floods of time, and an old heaviness and a pain in the arms that had become for him part of the scheme that the gods had made and was of a piece with Eternity.
    If the gods had even sent him a contrary wind it would have divided all time in his memory into two equal slabs.
    So grey were all things always where he was that if any radiance lingered a moment among the dead, on the face of such a queen perhaps as Cleopatra, his eyes could not have perceived it.
    It was strange that the dead nowadays were coming in such numbers. They were coming in thousands where they used to come in fifties. It was neither Charon's duty nor his wont to ponder in his grey soul why these things might be. Charon leaned forward and rowed.
    Then no one came for a while. It was not usual for the gods to send no one down from Earth for such a space. But the gods knew best.
    Then one man came alone. And the little shade sat shivering on a lonely bench and the great boat pushed off. Only one passenger: the gods knew best. And great and weary Charon rowed on and on beside the little, silent, shivering ghost.
    And the sound of the river was like a mighty sigh that Grief in the beginning had sighed among her sisters, and that could not die like the echoes of human sorrow failing on earthly hills, but was as old as time and the pain in Charon's arms.
    Then the boat from the slow, grey river loomed up to the coast of Dis and the little, silent shade still shivering stepped ashore, and Charon turned the boat to go wearily back to the world. Then the little shadow spoke, that had been a man.
    "I am the last," he said.
    No one had ever made Charon smile before, no one before had ever made him weep.

    (Lord Dunsany)

    For another take, there's always Robert Bloch: http://will.tip.dhappy.org/projects/unsorted/project/media/text/Robert%20Bloch%20-%20That%20Hell-Bound%20Train.html

    -- Mal

    --
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    Lady Sapho Byron
    Lady Sapho Byron
    Posts: 464

    12/20/2015
    E.C.H wrote:

    Interesting, so this is a known state. Still, this merely leaves more question, since it isn't just limited to ourselves. Where is the river? Is it even in the Neath, or is it similar to the Mirror Marches in being an entirely different state? Is it related to the Gate? May it be what lies behind the haunting doors?

    Is the Boatman Death incarnate? If this is true, how much credence does this give to the perhaps-biblical nature of the Master's, and what does this suggest about the rest of the Neath? How is it you can literally steal someone's breath to heal yourself? Speaking of, how come there is no physical healing, merely thought or duelling with the Boatman in chess or dice? And what of Devils and Rubbery Men, do they experience this process, or is it merely limited to humanity?


  • Random bits:

    So far as we know, it is humans only. In Trouble by Vermin it is explicitly said that when rats die the die permanently. Devils of course, are special for their own reasons ... and if one were to kill a fiend of the pit, I'm sure something interesting would happen.

    Only one's soul or essence goes on the boat; various in-game texts indicates that your body is left were it fell and is patched up by friends or other do-gooders while you spirit is on the boat. I have always understood returning from a boat trip to be an effort of will, a desire to accept the pain and suffering and weariness of life for the sake of all else it has to offer. Those without a strong desire take the peaceful trip all the way. Bribing and impressing the boatman also helps, of course!

    Also, at some point in the Boatman mini-story you can catch a glimpse of the far shore. It is not pleasant at all.

    --
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    the truthseeker
    the truthseeker
    Posts: 1175

    12/20/2015
    malthaussen wrote:
    "Charon"

    Charon leaned forward and rowed. All things were one with his weariness.
    It was not with him a matter of years or of centuries, but of wide floods of time, and an old heaviness and a pain in the arms that had become for him part of the scheme that the gods had made and was of a piece with Eternity.
    If the gods had even sent him a contrary wind it would have divided all time in his memory into two equal slabs.
    So grey were all things always where he was that if any radiance lingered a moment among the dead, on the face of such a queen perhaps as Cleopatra, his eyes could not have perceived it.
    It was strange that the dead nowadays were coming in such numbers. They were coming in thousands where they used to come in fifties. It was neither Charon's duty nor his wont to ponder in his grey soul why these things might be. Charon leaned forward and rowed.
    Then no one came for a while. It was not usual for the gods to send no one down from Earth for such a space. But the gods knew best.
    Then one man came alone. And the little shade sat shivering on a lonely bench and the great boat pushed off. Only one passenger: the gods knew best. And great and weary Charon rowed on and on beside the little, silent, shivering ghost.
    And the sound of the river was like a mighty sigh that Grief in the beginning had sighed among her sisters, and that could not die like the echoes of human sorrow failing on earthly hills, but was as old as time and the pain in Charon's arms.
    Then the boat from the slow, grey river loomed up to the coast of Dis and the little, silent shade still shivering stepped ashore, and Charon turned the boat to go wearily back to the world. Then the little shadow spoke, that had been a man.
    "I am the last," he said.
    No one had ever made Charon smile before, no one before had ever made him weep.

    (Lord Dunsany)

    For another take, there's always Robert Bloch: http://will.tip.dhappy.org/projects/unsorted/project/media/text/Robert%20Bloch%20-%20That%20Hell-Bound%20Train.html

    -- Mal

    Yeah, he's more likely the former than the latter, as 1958 hasn't happed yet in FL and they are all stuck on that D**n train!

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    navchaa
    navchaa
    Posts: 490

    12/23/2015
    Lady Sapho Byron wrote:
    Only one's soul or essence goes on the boat; various in-game texts indicates that your body is left were it fell and is patched up by friends or other do-gooders while you spirit is on the boat.


    If that's the case, why is death the only escape route from a certain dark, confined place in an area outside of London. This is something that has puzzled me ever since I had to take that journey. Or is it plot hole that does not need to be patched?

    --
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    th8827
    th8827
    Posts: 823

    12/23/2015
    E.C.H wrote:
    Where is the river? Is it even in the Neath, or is it similar to the Mirror Marches in being an entirely different state? Is it related to the Gate? May it be what lies behind the haunting doors?


    I'm pretty sure that I read somewhere that, when London fell, it took the River Thames with it, and due to how it settled, it ended up running through Hell, as well.


    So, I assume that, when we die, we end up on the boat, currently in Hell, and ride it downstream back to London.


    Now, to answer the question of why we don't really die. I pieced this together partly from Sunless Sea lore and geography (both permanent and variable), but I may be wrong.


    [spoiler]If I remember this correctly, one of the three Gods of the Zee, Stone, is the child of the Bazaar and, maybe, a Judgement (sentient star god). As a half-Judgement, she has powers over the rules of reality, but might not be able to control it as well as a full Judgement, causing her to inadvertently create an aura of unusual vitality ( as a half-star, it also explains why she glows). The Presbetaryate live near Stone and, thanks to her light, have immortality. Their customs prevent them from taking advantage of the immortality, but that is a separate issue.


    London is further from the great Mountain of Light, Stone, so their immortality is not quite as strong as the Presbetaryate, but they are still close enough to have unusually high vitality. Further out to Zee, this no longer is the case, and it is easier to permanently die.


    If we take into account a few bits of geography, I think I can explain a few more things. If you look at the art for Port Carnelian and assume that it depicts what you see as you draw into port, you can see the Mountain of Light to the south. Because all of the houses face either north-south, or east-west on the map, we can't assume that we are viewing it from a 45 degree angle, and since it is at the end of a peninsuela, we can't assume that we are viewing it from the side. The Mountain of Light is due south of Port Carnelian, which is at the west end of the southern coast of the known Underzee. The river at Adam's Way could turn westwards as it goes inland, so its location at the center of the southern shore does not change anything.


    London is at the center of the western shore of the Underzee. If we assume that London is at the edge of Stone's aura of immortality and draw a large circle with a point to the south of Adam's way around the Underzee, we can see that a lot of the more islands of the Zee that are under the control of London fall under its influence, too. Varchas's use of mirrors might amplify the light, boosting its power, explaining why they are still immortal, despite being further than London is.


    Many of the islands that have a lot of vitality, such as the Mangrove college, as well as where immortals live, such as the Fantomking's Hold, are nearby.


    The parts where death is more apparent, such as the Chelonate and the Chapel of Light, fall outside of this sphere. The further you go North or East, the darker it gets, and these places tend to be more dangerous.


    The Tomb Colonies are also further North, even more at the peripheries of the aura, where the vitality is weaker, and they can eventually pass away with the help of the Sanitorium and Frost Moths.[/spoiler]


    So, long story short, London's location makes it harder, but not impossible, to die, and the location of the Thames, passing through Hell, allows the dead to exit, and rejoin the living. The unnatural vitality in the air allows them to then recover. The Tomb Colonies, which are not located by the Thames, and are less influenced by the aura of immortality, are not as lucky. But, if your body is literally rotting apart, do you really want to continue living?


    Anyways, I hope that you enjoyed my wall of text, and it helped shed some light onto this mystery.



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    Lady Sapho Byron
    Lady Sapho Byron
    Posts: 464

    12/23/2015
    navchaa wrote:
    Lady Sapho Byron wrote:
    Only one's soul or essence goes on the boat; various in-game texts indicates that your body is left were it fell and is patched up by friends or other do-gooders while you spirit is on the boat.

    If that's the case, why is death the only escape route from a certain dark, confined place in an area outside of London. This is something that has puzzled me ever since I had to take that journey. Or is it plot hole that does not need to be patched?


    Good question! Not a wise one. It does seem at odds with this sidebar: "Death in the Fifth City isn't necessarily the end. If you're stabbed or shot, someone may come along and sew you back together soon enough." And this, too: "One of the research fellows in the Department of Antiquarian Esquivalience has been found dead! Slumped on his usual table in the library!" I have no answer ...

    --
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    the truthseeker
    the truthseeker
    Posts: 1175

    12/23/2015
    [in Ted Knight 70' s voice over style] This Looks like a Job For RatMan!
    edited by the truthseeker on 12/23/2015

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    Parelle
    Parelle
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    12/25/2015
    Ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, Ratman!
    Ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, Ratman!
    Ratman, Ratman, Ratman!

    --
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    Vavakx Nonexus
    Vavakx Nonexus
    Posts: 795

    3/23/2016
    Lady Sapho Byron wrote:

    Good question! Not a wise one. It does seem at odds with this sidebar: "Death in the Fifth City isn't necessarily the end. If you're stabbed or shot, someone may come along and sew you back together soon enough." And this, too: "One of the research fellows in the Department of Antiquarian Esquivalience has been found dead! Slumped on his usual table in the library!" I have no answer ...



    I have thought that "found dead" for the researcher refers to the reversible Neath-death, which is not the end, but still annoying. Imagine having to wait on a slow boat for hours to get back home. THAT'S WHAT WE POOR LONDONERS HAVE TO GO THROUGH EVERY DEATH!

    --
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    Sir Joseph Marlen
    Sir Joseph Marlen
    Posts: 470

    3/24/2016
    Just as a forewarning, spoilers ahead about Death, the River, and ...a bunch of other stuff.

    The Neath (and Fallen London in general) certainly takes inspiration from biblical work and theological teachings of it. The Neath itself could best be equated to the idea of Hell (no, not the Embassy's Hell in the game but the real world idea of Hell). John Milton described Hell in his poem Paradise Lost as a place of darkness, chaotic and malicious that was far away from God's light and rule. Sound familiar? The Neath is the epitome of darkness, its sole reason for its nature being that it has avoided the touch of the gods' light. This could also be seen as a mirroring between the Bazaar and Lucifer. Both wished to defy God/gods for their own wishes and made encampment in Hell with the plans to thrive their to pursue their goals. This makes more sense when you recall that a Correspondence sigil that means "Hurtling forever towards the earth", what with Lucifer being seen as a fallen angel. The Masters, what with being bat underlings to the Bazaar, could easily be linked to the winged demons of Hell that fell from God's grace and served under Lucifer.

    Now, as for the Boatman, I think it's safe to say that he's supposed to take inspiration from what we perceive as Death himself. Though it's unknown if he is quite literally death incarnate or simply the person in charge of its law in the universe, he is a representation of our personifications of it. He seems to take the role of Charon to ferry those across the Styx River to the afterlife, with a physical appearance and quality of death like that of the Grim Reaper, not to mention he looks like a freaking skelly.

    Now the River. It's never quite explained where the river is, but from what we can tell it appears to be a different realm in of itself. The people who take a trip down the river are not exactly a "soul" as we would think of it. Souls in FL are more or less a sponge of experiences and emotions that goes to the Judgements when we die for them to eat. We aren't really sure as to what it is that's on the boat, but it seems to be the actual mind of the person or "essence" of who they are.

    So far, only humans have been shown to be able to come back from death. While this isn't directly made clear, I hypothesize that it is because of our place in the Great Chain for all life under the rule of the Judgements. Masters have been shown not to pass as easily as humans (with one taking a bullet to the face in a possible future and another having an entire Ambition devoted to it getting killed) and devils do not necessarily "die" as we see death (given their unique existence that I won't spoil here). Rats and rubbery men, on the other hand, have been seen to be under the position of humans. I'm not sure where Snuffers lie, but keep in mind that they too only get one shot of life. Make of that what you will.

    All in all, death in the Neath is either like a short nap of death or the actual death that forces the person out of their body and sort of in a state of Limbo between life and death while on the Boat. It's assumed that the Boatman is a servant of the Judgements and their law, but it's still to be seen who actually commands him. Regardless of who is in charge, Death does not fully control, well, death. Returning to the land of the living is more a test of will to live and the gradual healing to the body, both from kind doctors and the rejuvenating powers of Stone.

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    Frenzgyn
    Frenzgyn
    Posts: 178

    1/7/2017
    Sorry for necroposting, but so, Rats plainingly die (is there any speculation on why they're baptised?), Rubbery men also die(Is it implied in some snippets?), And it doesn't matter that they are partly human and that being axile, they could mess with the chain.

    Devils, well, I would really like to know more about them.

    Now the question:

    What happens to cats? They seems quite powerful in FL, while rats are clearly perceived as inferior.

    --
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    Ixc
    Ixc
    Posts: 57

    12 days ago
    I (I had? Will?) think that Parabolan creatures, especially the Fingerkings, cannot die. As the Manager says, they never change, and you theoretically cannot kill something that doesn't exist or change.

    As for humans, my theory is that your body travels down the river to the Boatman. This is why you die permenantly at Zee, as your body/soul can't go to the boat. Perhaps the Fisher-King finds your Officers in the depths as a result of this, as they don't go to the boat, but instead into the Zee. Perhaps this is also the reason you permanently die if you're knocked off the boat.

    For the Boatman, he could have been Salt's underling, hence he's one of many. Perhaps he's used to find people useful to the Judgements. But Stone (and maybe Salt) put a stop to that. So now he's a bored psychopomp who plays chess to pass the time.
    edited by Ixc on 10/8/2017

    --
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    Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.
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    Catherine Raymond
    Catherine Raymond
    Posts: 1752

    12 days ago
    Charlotte_de_Witte wrote:
    An excellent question!

    <snip>
    It is also interesting that it is your body the Boatman takes, your soul possibly having already gone elsewhere. He certainly isn't taking anyone to Hell. I think you catch a train for that. <snip>

    Actually, not. At least one of the Opportunity cards available to you while you are on the Boat has you ruminating about what your body is up to back in London.

    That makes me wonder, though. Is the *real* problem with Soullessness that you cannot go to the Boat if you are killed, but must stay permanently dead with your Soul in Hell?

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