hounds pitt pub

Penny for the boatman

So I’m replaying Dishonored for the third time this week (no mom I don’t have a problem I can quit whenever I want) and I just had a revelation which just floored me a little bit. I’m no doubt not the first person to realize this, but god damn I’m so excited I’m going to rant about it anyway. Caution if you haven’t played the game or if you don’t want to know what happens this is SPOILER HEAVY

This is Samuel Beechworth*, The Boatman:
*edited to fix name because somehow I missed that particular auto correct from my original mobile draft.

His job is to ferry you (and the others) over the river which divides the city of Dunwall into the two districts, the abandoned district where you and your cohorts are hiding, and the parts of the city where life still prevails, if somewhat corrupt and festering, though—and this is important—not entirely without hope.

Usually he will offer you token pieces of advice, like which streets to avoid, how the mood of the city is fairing and generally just wishing you luck. During non combat moments when you can interact with other characters, many of the characters will offer you little tidbits of conversation, some of it relevant, some of it a glimpse into how they are fairing under circumstances. Samuel usually offers the same words, sometimes about the sea, but usually about how he’s ready to leave when you are. Samuel is there to serve, and unlike the others, even the servants who always seem to be thinking of ulterior motives for why they are there with the Loyalists and how to escape and never return, he truly believes it. He is there to serve.

It is my firm belief that were you (Corvo) to turn up years later at Samuel’s door with your mask on, the old sailor would look down at his slippers and tell you to give him a moment to put his boots on.*

Depending on your Chaos levels (High: You done killed everyone son) (Low: You either did not kill anyone or you killed very few people (son)) the characters will interact with you differently (as well as altering how the final mission is played). If you are a high chaos player (And I was the first time, even though I thought I was playing neutral because I eliminated the main npcs in a neutral manner but was remiss with the others. Spoiler Alert, that’s not how being a good person works, just another example of why Dishonored has a better moral compass than the majority of games that claim to test your moral reasoning, looking at you Fable as well as allowing for a truly stealth immersive environment with actual consequences to your actions) But none are quite like Samuel.

There comes that particular moment in the game (if you’ve played it you know the part) which leaves you shouting “screw you guys!” every time you play the game again, but regardless of your Chaos level, Samuel always comes through for you. Even if you are playing High Chaos, Samuel does his duty and comes for you. He might be furiously disappointed in you, (or even disgusted as he expresses to you if you are playing High Chaos on your final boat ride together which will break your heart, especially if you thought you were being a Good Person until the game schooled you about how the little people in wars always matter more so than the politicians who can be replaced at the drop of a vote or an axe better than my school education ever did) but Samuel knows there is still work left to be done, and Samuel will never falter, even when you fall from grace. I spent the entirety of the game assuming that the Outsider, an indifferent and dark powered god, would weigh my soul at the end of it.

I was not expecting Samuel.

Samuel is literally The Boatman. He is Charon, the ferryman of Hades who takes you on your final journey, from the land of the living to that of the dead. He does this regardless of whether or not you have lived a good life or a bad one. It is his duty. He is there to serve. In some versions of the mythos if you lack the coin to pay him, he will cut you adrift and leave you stranded to wander alone, lost and suffering for years to come.

In Dishonored, Samuel asks for no material payment, but in his judgement of you, if you have killed without thought, or worsened the lives of innocent people, Samuel will pronounce judgement on not just you, but everyone.

“So the Admiral is power mad, Martin is a snake, and “Lord” Pendleton is a coward. And you Corvo…the things you’ve done…You could be the worst of us. I’ve seen a lot traveling with you. Now get off my boat. I’d wish you good luck, but I’d be lying. I don’t like what you’ve become, that’s why I’m going to tell them you’re coming. Get off the boat.”

And you are left stranded on the shore to wade through the very Hell you have wrought. You even get to see how it pans out long after you’re dead. And Samuel was right. You were the worst of them all, because you could have done something to prevent it. He is Charon the Boatman, but he is also your moral compass. And you had best hope you’ve paid your dues.

Because the Boatman will always take you where you ought to go in the end.

*(I like to think Emily makes him into her personal captain, and he takes her on leisurely rides along the river front. When they reach the area where the Hound Pitt Pub used to be they’ll both sit in silence as the engine winds down and the boat is carried on the current, both knowing that the two of them are remembering the time when an eight year old girl wearing the same white, soiled outfit she wore on the day her mother was murdered came running out of the rat infested streets, heading for the old man Corvo told her would be waiting on the water. She’s trying to be brave, but she’s shaking. And Samuel who never married and never had children, lifts her gently into his boat and does the only thing he knew how to do. He shows her how all the controls work, and tells her stories about mermaids and pirates and the song of the whales late at night. All the while keeping an eye out for you, knowing that if you don’t return it’s up to him to take the future Empress away to safety, his hands ever on the controls should a guard come by, telling himself “just one more minute” and hoping you will appear on the horizon. Years later, Empress Emily the first, dressed in white, takes out a battered old boat kept at the back of the docks, and pilots it herself out into the middle of the river and sits alone, listening to the song of the whales as the sun sets, one last time. Because even Boatmen must sale on in the end.)


I just finished the game (CLEAN HANDS!) again and was going through my screenshots and remembered I had taken one of Samuel in his boat, with the intention of looking up the name of the boat if and when I ever remembered.

And I just:

The boat is called ‘Amaranth’, which as well as being a plant, is Greek for “unwilting”. The Amarant(h) is considered to be a symbol of immortality in Greek folklore.

Samuel is literally on the immortal boat ferrying you between the path which leads to chaos and ruin, and the path which leads to peace and remembrance through your good deeds. Death is inevitable, but which side you end up on is entirely your own doing.