I can’t believe I just noticed this: Hobbits don’t like boats, right? The Shire is a fictional version of the West Midlands, right?
Of the nine regions of England, eight are on the coast. I’d expect that from a country that’s (a) an island and (b) a maritime power. One of the regions doesn’t touch the sea. It’s only natural that, compared to the others, West Midlanders would get a reputation as incompetent mariners.
So is this the origin of the sidelong remarks in The Lord of the Rings about how incompetent hobbits are on the water? Even if it’s not, I’m perfectly happy to find another reason that the Brandybucks belong in the “liminal” category.
Next question – is this why mariners are exotic heroes from far away in LotR and The Silmarillion?