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Recently, I have been reading a lot of stories that involved bridges, for some reason. And watching movies, too. To name just a few:

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkein. In the second book of the first volume, to escape from Moria, the Fellowship must cross a narrow bridge. The bridge is their downfall–Gandalf holds the bridge against a Balrog and is lost (which I frankly could not believe happened and was in shock for quite some time afterwards! Up until Gandalf returned in The Two Towers, in fact.) Another mention of a bridge (not such an ill-fated one, though) in Fellowship was the Last Bridge, over the Mitheithel or Hoarwell, which they had to cross before they could ford the Bruinen, also known as the Loudwater or the river of Rivendell, in order to enter Rivendell. Perhaps the reason for their better luck with this one was 1) that Glorfindel had passed before them and left a “token” in the form of a beryl, a kind of elf-stone and 2) that they actually had a chance to scout it out before crossing. Not to mention that Glorfindel had drawn (or chased) all the Black Riders away, to give the hobbits and Aragorn some safety in crossing. (If you have only seen the movies and your experience of bridges in Fellowship is entirely bad, then I say “Bah!” to you. Come back when you’re older and wiser. ;-P)
  • The Bridges at Toko-Ri. This is a sad movie, especially because SPOILER! the father dies and leaves his family and wife widowed. END SPOILER Probably one of the biggest reasons I don’t like war movies so much… :’-(
  • A Bridge Too Far. This movie, about Operation Market Garden (which, if they had had a better chance, might’ve ended WWII earlier), is the other reason why I don’t like war movies. So tragic–SPOILER! everyone I liked died in the end. In fact, EVERYONE died in the end. END SPOILER
  • Ranger’s Apprentice: The Burning Bridge, by John Flanagan. In this story, a bridge that would allow Dark Lord Morgarath to cross over the Mountains of Rain and Night becomes the least of our heroes’ worries when Will and Evanlyn are kidnapped. (Yes, I was delighted to find the second book at our local library. And for those who wanted to know–John Flanagan does get better over time. The point-of-view skips which were the thing I liked least, non-plot speaking, about the first book have all but disappeared in the second, and the plot is equally intriguing.)
  • The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis. In this story, to reach the far north, Eustace, Jill and Puddleglum are forced to cross a giants’ bridge that leads to the road going to Castle Harfang. Before meeting the Witch-Queen of the Underworld, it was one of the most terrifying moments in the novel.

So why do bridges have such a bad rap in fiction and nonfiction? (Well, they probably have a bad rap in fiction only because of their bad rap in nonfiction… Shut up, Kysherin.)

Well, here are a few reasons why.

  1. Bridges symbolize decisions, especially irreversible ones. Thus, a bridge can be quite a dangerous thing, and may have serious implications.
  2. While on a bridge, you are exposed, and may not even have the cover of a low parapet if someone starts shooting or throwing lances, spears or knives at you, leaving you to trust your own judgement, which isn’t always a safe option, and dodge.
  3. Bridges often span dangerous things, such as fast-flowing rivers with sharp rocks sticking up, bottomless chasms, or deep ravines with rivers at the bottom. Since there’s nothing but a few feet of stonework or timbers, which may or may not be rotten, or, in the case of rope bridges, even just a woven walkway made out of knotted rope, or, if you’re lucky, planks, between you and utter disaster and nearly certain death. Gulp.
  4. Bridges are prime places for an ambush. After all, you can only get a limited number of people over them at once, and sometimes the obstacle they span is an impassable one, or at best, your troops are bogged down in chest-deep water and can’t move that fast. Thus, it would be relatively easy to wipe out the few men who could get over at a time if the bridge was held against you by an attacking force, or they could cut your men off and surround them, keeping them from receiving help from the remainder of your army. Scary stuff, here.
  5. Who likes to fall even five feet down? Still get that heart-dropping sensation at three feet!

Now, there’s probably more to the bad reputation bridges have than simply these five reasons. If any of you decide to research the question further, link me back to your findings! I’d love to check it out. 🙂

Thanks for reading, and God Bless!