# Rope easier to break the longer it is?

In Stephen King’s novel “The Eyes of the Dragon”, a captive prince escapes from a tower prison with an improvised rope he has made. But the story goes on to say that he didn’t know that the longer a rope or cable is, the more likely it is to snap. Am I misinterpreting this? Obviously the longer a rope is, the more it weighs hanging from one end and therefore more likely to break. But the story made it sound like the length itself makes it easier to break, like a matter of leverage or something.

Homemade with what? If it was sheets tied together, I could see longer being a problem as there are more knots and there for more chances for a knot to come loose, but I get the feeling that’s not what’s being infered.

It’s been a few years, but I think he uses napkins.

Well if a rope has flaws in it that reduce its tensile strength, and those flaws occur at an average density of one every X feet, and the severity of those flaws varies according to, say, a Bell curve, then yes. The longer the rope is, the more likely it is to have a flaw on the weakest end of the curve, and the more likely it is to fail.

Ages since I read the book, but I think he made the rope using a tiny loom in a replica of a castle or something, out of threads he frayed off the edges of his napkins. Or something like that.

Coolest thing I got from that book was the fact that if you breathe very deeply for about a minute or so, you flood your body with oxygen and can hold your breath for a really long time. I’m a smoker and topped 2 1/2 minutes I think.

It’s been at least a decade or so since I’ve read the book. I think Gorsnak is correct in that he created a rope from threads of fabric from his napkins.

I remember reading somewhere that Eyes of the Dragon was almost named “Napkins” instead.

Wow. Good thing they made the change; “Napkins” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Funny - I knew that the OP involved The Eyes of the Dragon before I even opened the thread.

Yes, Peter uses napkins, but yes, he weaves himself a rope from threads he pulls from each napkin - he doesn’t tie the napkins together to make a rope.

I don’t know about the question, but perhaps the thickness of the rope also has something to do with it? Peter’s rope is very slender, and while it can support his weight at very short lengths, perhaps it’s not as capable at doing so at longer lengths. Remember, as the rope gets longer, it not only has to support Peter’s weight, but also its own weight. The rope’s own weight might not be much (as I said, it is slender), but it might be enough to push it over the breaking point.

A rope, long or short, is only as strong as its weakest “link”/“strand”.

I’m pretty sure he has that backwards.

Assuming the guy is stationary, hanging from the end of the rope:

A longer rope spreads the force of the hanging princeling over a greater area. I remember an experiment I did a long time back in which we played around with Hooke’s Law by hanging weights on the end of a spring, and the longer the spring, the more weight it took to reach its plastic limit.

Of course, the rope isn’t homogenous like a steel spring, so maybe you need a textile engineer to answer this one.

The rope has weight of it’s own – a long rope adds it’s own weight to the total load supported. I don’t know how long his rope was, but that could be the problem. Say max load for a rope is 200#, and the rope weighs 1# per 25’. The maximum length depends upon the weight of the man. A 150# man could use a 1250’ rope. A 180# man could only use 500 feet.

This sounds really interesting. How long was he in prison? Even with three meals a day it seems like it would take him years to make a rope of any significant thickness or length.

It also seems like they must’ve had a circulation of thousands, if not tens of thousands of napkins for him to take little enough of each one so that they didn’t notice their napkins shrinking. How many prisoners were in that prison?

And what kind of prison gives its inmates cloth napkins, anyway? I only get the damn things once a year (the day after tomorrow, in fact.)

It’s been years since I read it, but I’ll give this a shot…

Oh, and Spoilers Ahead.

Years. Many, many years.

Just him. It was the typical “fairy tale-style high tower”. He had to pull just a thread or two off of each napkin, lest his guards catch on. Ironically, he never realized that no one gave a rats ass about the napkins, and he could’ve used the whole damn thing if he chose.

That kind that imprisions royalty in a high tower. I forget the details, but he was a prince or some such. IIRC correctly, his two demands for giving himself up were: 1) the royal cloth napkins with his meals, and 2) his dollhouse (thereby giving him access to the tiny loom).

Ropes are subject to legends just like everything else. For example, some people claimed that a rattlesnake will not cross a rope made of horse hair. So if a rattlesnake is ever chasing you just surround it with your horsehair rope and you are safe.

My father also told me that when he was young the story was that you could hold a horse on 100’ of rope no matter how much he tried to pull away. It just so happened one time that a neighbor had replaced the hay rope in his barn had still had the old one. Such ropes are about 1"diameter and about 100’ long. So they tied the old rope around a horse’s neck, had the strongest guy in the neighborhood sit and brace his feet against the bank of a creek and started the horse who leaned forward and pulled the guy to a standing position and walked off with him.