I would like to include in a story some details of Stoorish River-life and how it would it have differed from that of Shire-dwellers. The Gladden Fields sound like nothing but marshes and irises and I don't know how the inhabitants would compensate. Can anyone tell me about River-folk in our world?
I write river-hobbits, but later ones, living along the Brandywine River at the time when Merry Brandybuck was Master of Buckland. They are fisher-folk, a lot of them, and also some of them move goods for the farmers along the water, north and south--things like hay and pipeweed and various other products that can be sold and bartered with. Most of them are subsistence dwellers, though.
The time period you're talking about is much earlier, though, and fairly primitive. In the course of my research, I did find a bit of information you might use:
First of all, this quote comes from a little article online about marshlands in Iraq, of all places. It says a lot about how an isolated people live in such a place: "Living in the isolation of the river wetlands, the Marsh Arabs had preserved a unique culture. They harvested marsh reeds for building and weaving. They fished and grew rice, and they traveled the narrow waterways in canoes."
There is an ancient little boat called a coracle that works well for the early river-hobbits. I think we saw one in Return of the King. You can see more here: http://www.coracle-fishing.net/text-files/types1.htm. Be sure, after you've looked at all the boats, you click on the "coracle nets" button. They are some really interesting pictures there that almost tell some stories if you look closely.
And this is a uk site, a history of an English marshland that might prove useful for a few ideas: http://www.fordhead.co.uk/history.htm.
Good luck researching--I look forward to your story!
Well, here's my thoughts--which may not be anyone else's!
If we're talking about the days when Smeagol's people inhabited the Gladden Fields, then I think we're talking about a less progressive society than we're used to seeing in the Shire. I think these people would fall into a kind of Dark Ages 'peasant' category, a very insulated people with a very simple way of life. I think rather than inns they might have the kind of society where, if you were walking along the road (or sailing on the canal) you could knock at any door and the matriarch there would give you bread and soup and a pile of straw in the henhouse, perhaps in return for a fish and a reasonable accounting of your ancestry!
I may be wrong, though. I work alot on instinct, and there are people here at FITC who actually know these things and can give you chapter, verse and page number! I hope they will weigh in here too so you can get a more balanced view than mine might be.
(That said, the Golden Ring is fabulous, though!!) :)