Rope and Hollywood


I have here a piece of rope, but not just any old piece of rope oh, no This is a very special piece of rope or at least it is to me because I made this myself. Oh, yes, I have the video evidence to prove it. I made it in Visby and if I were to tie something up with this rope, and then you were to say to me, “Oh, sorry I need the thing, could you could you free the thing?” would you expect me to get a knife and cut this piece of rope that I made myself? Well, no, I’m not going to do that. It’s my bit of rope, this, and anyway, it’s a useful bit of rope. Why would I cut it when I could just undo the knots? If I had tied the knots reasonably competently then I should be able to untie them again. So why would I cut a piece of rope? Well, I’m not going to cut this piece of rope and don’t ask me to, but maybe I would in a desperate emergency – but in Hollywood movies we see people cutting rope all time and it really irritates me. Someone says “Free the prisoner!” and then you know what’s going to happen next: someone gets a knife and cuts the prisoner free. What you don’t then see is someone else coming on going “Oi, you just ruined my bit of rope that was a good bit of rope that you twonk what did you just do that for?” that was a good bit of rope that you twonk what did you just do that for?” See rope is valuable and useful stuff. So you don’t just go around cutting it unless you absolutely have to. It’s analogous to… You go with someone to his home, and as he’s Rummaging in his pocket to get his front door keys. You just speed things up by kicking his front door down. Will he let you into his home? No, he probably won’t because he’ll think you’re a complete nutter. Who kicks the door in when just by waiting a few seconds you can get the key out and open the door? Well, who cuts a piece of rope when you’re just a tiny bit more patient you could undo the knot? People in ancient and medieval times, I’m pretty sure, Did not cut ropes lightly. Now, when I say that I made this bit of rope, really all I did was finish it off because, um, I was presented with a spool of Jute Fibers and these just had to be spun into strings and the strings into cord and the cord into rope I didn’t clear a field of stones and so forth. I didn’t plough the field, I didn’t sow the field with jute seeds I didn’t grow the crop, water the crop, weed the crop, keep pests off the crop, harvest the crop, and then go through the back-breaking and laborious process of Processing all the crop to get the fibers out and then drying them out. No no no no no. I started with jute fibres. I had it easy really I was just finishing this rope off. Making ropes in the medieval and ancient world was a fair bit of work and people would not cut ropes lighhtly. Yet in the movies. It’s absolutely standard to cut a rope, in fact hardly ever does anyone ever undo a knot There are even a machines in films – the catapults and so forth – where the mechanism for launching is to cut a rope. No, no They had all sorts of other ways of launching a catapult with hooks and eyes and levers and and so forth You don’t cut a rope every single time you want to launch a missile That’s just that’s just stupid, so, um it’s only three fathoms of rope but it’s three fathoms of my rope and so that’s very it’s very precious to me and It has occurred to me that some people don’t know what a fathom is. You may know the expression. I can’t fathom it out. You may know the expression ‘I can’t fathom it out’. Well, fathoming is to do with finding the depth of a piece of water, and a fathom is six feet, and it’s a very convenient length of rope, because when you’re pulling the rope with its lead weight out of the water to find out how deep the water you’re in is, you could then stretch out your arms like this and that would be roughly six feet between your hands, and then start winding the rope in like this, hand over hand, and each time you did that that would be one fathom. Now, you may say “But hang on, maybe You’re a bit of a short guy, and you not exactly the right height for that.” Well, you would very quickly learn how much slack between your outstretched arms you needed to (if you have your thumbs like this) how much slack you would have to leave hanging down in between your thumbs, too, for that to be six feet on you. So there you go, that’s why it’s a fathom, and it’s a very useful measurement. And one inch to one fathom is exactly 1/72nd scale which is quite a useful scale Right, got a bit off the point, there. Yeah: ropes – you don’t just cut them! Lindybeige

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Reader Comments

  1. Leslie Franklin

    Nice rope. BTW, Alexander the Great cut the Gordian Knot. He decided it wasn't worth his time to untie that rope. He had a lot of other things to do.

  2. Gareth Harper

    In Hollywood movies it's generally the rope of someone you don't like, so cutting it is no big deal. Also, it speeds things up and that helps keep running costs and movie length down. Perhaps you can do a video on how people in movies almost never go to the toilet and I'll leave it to you to figure out why that is.

  3. william Burgos

    Good point. A good length of rope, line, or twine is never handy when you need it. So why cut it when you can untie it if time permits of course.
    My pet peeve is people who carry on a conversation while while they are getting rescued even to the point of arguing. Oh! And gun battles where they never reload. It doesn’t take long to empty a magazine, really, it doesn’t.

  4. fishyc150

    To be fair when I say "I drove home" I had some help. I didn't level the ground, build and surface the road, mine for metals to forge into a car, plant a rubber plantation to make the tyres then dig out clay to mold into bricks to build my house with.
    I just did the driving bit.

  5. IrishCarney

    Talk to a woman – they often have to throw away their pantyhose after wearing them just once. Imagine if we had to do that with our socks or undies…

  6. rickysmyth

    Lloyd exaggerates how often it occurs. I’ve never seen any show or game where they cut a rope. It’s always untied. Usually quicker than it would take in real life

  7. Dianos Oddone

    In Italy we have a say “tagliare la corda” (cut the rope) and it means to get away from a dangerous situation without any time wasted 😉

  8. kcsolh

    I’m very impressed with your knowledge of history and military tactics, and it’s all perfectly sound, common sense commentary. I would like to see you make a video about the subject of Heraldry. I think you would make a very good one. Do you yourself have a Coat of Arms?

  9. James Roper

    The other thing that movies show a lot. Is people cutting metal chains with swords. That's as annoying as seeing sword cutting through armor like it's made of cardboard.

  10. Kiki Lang

    As child, a length of rope was endlessly useful, who would ever cut it. When I go my firtst car, I had several lengths of rope with floatation device, with a metal hook on both ends. Handy in an emergency it thought. Sadly, a family member cut it up for emergency dog leash. later in life, I went to a lecture, and a journalist explained why they retired from war reporting. She was on a transport truck leaving a conflict. The man driving the truck stop at large dead tree in the middle of the desert. Only truck was left. and the smaller branches had been remove for fire wood. Around the truck was tied a man. The truck driver jumped from the cab, and untied the man. He turned to the other man sitting in the cab with him, and said "Who would leave all this good rope out here to waste in the middle of the desert?" The man wasn't dead, but was incapible of standing. The journalist paid a couple of men to lift him in the naked man into the truck. She then paid some loser pr*ck American for some of his clothing to dress the man. After a bit of water, the formally naked man, explained he was British journalist too, and was greatful rope was so valuable, or he would still be tied to the tree.

  11. Jim Farris

    That's funny, I used to live on a boat and you probably wouldn't be surprised at how many times I was asked where the big rope cutting knife was. As they were looking at a line attached to a cleat, not even a knot to untie. It's really hardwired in there from all the movies.

  12. Guy Jones

    In terms of survival, cordage is one of the most important items to have. You NEVER cut cordage! You learn to tie knots that can be undone rapidly without cutting. Virtually any man in the past would have had some skill with knots and would likely have been furious had his cordage been cut without a very serious cause. Great video!

  13. DallyLama

    Yes well I'm pretty sure the person who tied you up won't care about the rope as much as he'll care that you got away. What is the point of this video again?

  14. BigBossTussBall

    This scenario always bothered me:
    Aha! We have this catapult! Fire away!
    *cuts rope holding down throwing arm to fire, usually with a sword
    Me: …well that was a waste, and did you only plan on shooting it once, because you cant uncut a rope.

  15. Ben

    These days I'd look around for plastic string if in a survival situation. There's likely some around, even in the woods. But natural string is still great to learn. I know some northern ones pretty well, like milkweed, basswood inner bark, and spruce root. Desert agave family plants make amazingly strong string and you can bite/cut the thorn tip and strip off a long fiber with it for instant needle and thread. I know a lot of basic string sources but it'd be tricky if you needed a lot. That's where clearing and planting a field of hemp or flax makes sense. I'd prefer to raise some merino sheep for long term clothing production. That'd be dope, crude merino wool clothing keeping me warm out on the land. Imagining primitive grass cape and stick/grass thatch umbrella as mobile rain protection and warmth if nothing else. That'd be pretty cool actually, itchy but great camouflage and potentially good rain protection.

  16. Andy Winds

    This is especially true in movies where someone cuts a line on a ship. Every piece of rigging is there for a reason, it's either holding up big heavy spars that would just love to fall to the deck and break every bone in your body, or it's for moving the things up there around and if you try to put your weight on a line and play Tarzan, you're going to go straight up, straight down, or any direction other than what could concievably have use. And you've also helped out the enemy in their goal of breaking as many parts of your ship and taking the fight out of its crew as possible.

  17. Lloyd'sPhysicsLab

    If in a movie you cut someone free you don't really care about the rope because whoever owns it is an enemy and it serves them right.

  18. Gus Mc

    nearly 5 minute video about how important rope is yet the fact the ends aren't back spliced is driving me nuts lol
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=uivsF61ytLQ

  19. DragNetJoe

    Well, from your first example, people kick in doors in movies all the time. Usually because they don't have a key and they don't mind offending the owner of the door. If you are escaping from the bad guys you probably are not terribly interested in conserving their bit of rope and time is in short supply. So if you can cut the prisoner free in 15 seconds, and untie the prisoner in 30 seconds, sorry, cutting wins.

  20. Asha Lee

    there is 1 show on tv where i seen a character 'untie' another. Avatar: The last airbender. the character Sokka did just that, commented on how nice the quality of the rope was, and later on in the series, actually used it.

  21. Nigel Heather

    Reminds me that every time someone wants to set light to something in a Hollywood film they take out their precious and treasured zippo lighter, ignite it and then throw it in to fuel. What, that’s a decent lighter, don’t just through it away. Light a stick or some paper and chuck that in the fuel.

  22. Jacob Jiang

    Petition to get LindyBeige to cut his rope.
    Comment to sign the petition lol.
    And yes, I am aware that this is like 3 years old BUT WATEVER maybe he still has it lol.

  23. Kambria Delaney

    I'm so glad I'm not the only one who thought the catapult thing was dumb. But like how are they supposed to relonch it if they just cut the rope just like get rid of it and bring in a new one, I mean catapults weren't cheap.

  24. Gato Villano

    LOL, I never thought about it. I used to play world of warcraft and there was an instance called blackfathom deep. Now that I know what a fathom is, that dungeon doesnt seem very deep anymore LOL

  25. William Ferguson

    The thing is Lindy, when I cut my friend free I'm cutting the rope of our enemy, and I really don't care about his precious rope. There again I could untie it and steal it.

  26. Red Ram

    I’d have whipped the end of that rope if I loved it that much. Also, you’re assuming everyone has the same value towards property, especially the property of others

    Didn’t cavalry officers break champagne bottles with swords?

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