Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.
1) This photo shows the fridstool at Beverley Minster in Yorkshire, England. What exactly is a fridstool? As Sister Eudoxia explained to Jamie in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:
"Are you not familiar with the term? Ah. I see. You are Scotch, and yet you knew to call me ‘Sister,’ from which I deduce that you are a Papist. Perhaps Papists do not have fridstools in their churches?”
“Perhaps not in Scottish kirks, Sister,” he said cautiously. He’d thought at first it might be a sort of closestool or private privy, but probably not if you found them in churches.
“Well, everyone should have one,” she said firmly, “whether Papist or not. A fridstool is a seat of refuge, of sanctuary. Churches--English churches--often have one, for the use of persons seeking sanctuary, though I must say, they aren’t used as often these days as in former centuries."
(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 14, "Fridstool". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's another example of a fridstool, or frith stool, at Hexham Abbey, Northumberland, UK. Diana Gabaldon says her personal version of a fridstool is an upturned bucket in the back yard. <g>
2) Remember Jamie telling Claire about his being beaten with a tawse when he was a schoolboy?
"I didna like being beaten at all, of course, but if I had a choice, I’d rather my Da than the schoolmaster. We’d mostly get it across the palm of the hand with a tawse, in the schoolhouse, instead of on the backside. Father said if he whipped me on the hand, I’d not be able to do any work, whereas if he whipped my arse, I’d at least not be tempted to sit down and be idle."
(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "Reckonings". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The photos above show what a tawse looks like. Top: tawse from the Seafield Residential School, Ardrossan, Scotland. Bottom: late-19th century tawse used at Millport Primary School. Both of these straps were donated to museums in Scotland. (Photo credits: North Ayrshire Council, on Flickr.)
The Lochgelly tawse was widely used in Scottish schools for about 100 years, until corporal punishment was banned in the 1980s.
3) This is the Tree of Life, the central symbol used in the Kabbalah, a form of ancient Jewish mysticism that originated in the 12th-13th centuries. From Wikipedia:
The symbolic configuration of 10 spiritual principles....arranged in 3 columns/pillars, describes the manner in which God creates existence ex nihilo, the nature of revealed divinity, the human soul, and the spiritual path of ascent by man.You may recall Claire's encounter with Master Raymond in DRAGONFLY:
The cabinet was painted with a number of odd signs, tailed and whorled, among what appeared to be pentagons and circles; Cabbalistic symbols. I recognized one or two, from some of Uncle Lamb’s historical references.From the time of the Renaissance, Kabbalah has been associated with magic, alchemy, and the occult. You can see some examples of alchemy symbols here.
“Interested in the Cabbala, are you?” I asked, eyeing the symbols with some amusement. That would account for the hidden workroom. While there was a strong interest in occult matters among some of the French literati and the aristocracy, it was an interest kept highly clandestine, for fear of the Church’s cleansing wrath.
(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "The Nature of Sulphur". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
4) This photo shows a British MID (mentioned in despatches) medal of the type used in World War II. According to this site,
The Mention-in-Despatches (MID) was awarded for acts which were judged of sufficient merit to be officially mentioned in the despatches sent by the officer, commanding a theatre of operation, back to the War Office in London. The War Office is the forerunner of the current UK Ministry of Defence.This is the same type of medal that Roger's father, Jerry MacKenzie, was awarded posthumously, in "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows". His wife Dolly's reaction is just heartbreaking:
The MID is a gallantry award. It is now the longest continuous British gallantry award for military personnel, and can be awarded posthumously.
Captain Randall eyed her cautiously, but took up the little box and held it out to her.
‘It’s Lieutenant MacKenzie’s,’ he said. ‘An MID oakleaf cluster. Awarded posthumously for--’
With an effort, she pushed herself away, back into the cushions, shaking her head.
‘I don’t want it.’
‘Really, Marjorie!’ Her mother was shocked.
‘And I don’t like that word. Pos--posth--don’t say it.’
She couldn't overcome the notion that Jerry was somehow inside the box--a notion that seemed dreadful at one moment, comforting the next.
(From "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows" by Diana Gabaldon, in A TRAIL OF FIRE. Copyright© 2010 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
5) The painting above, by Louis Moeller, depicts the legendary couple, Darby and Joan.
Brianna’s parents were in the parlor with the Wilburs, who turned out to be a nice, elderly couple--what her mother would call a Darby and Joan. They fussed appropriately over her appearance, insisted politely on seeing the portrait, expressed profound admiration for both subject and painter--though blinking slightly at the former--and generally behaved with such kindness that she felt herself relaxing.According to Wikipedia, Darby and Joan were first mentioned in a 1735 poem by Henry Woodfall:
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 73, "A Whiter Shade of Pale". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Old Darby, with Joan by his sideThe phrase "Darby and Joan" refers to an elderly, happily married couple who lead a placid, uneventful life. In the UK, clubs for senior citizens are known as "Darby and Joan clubs".
You've often regarded with wonder.
He's dropsical, she is sore-eyed
Yet they're ever uneasy asunder.
I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts, and please come back next week for more.