Friday Fun Facts 3/16/2012

Here's this week's collection of Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books. I hope you enjoy them!

1) The picture above (from Wikipedia) shows a mammoth skeleton, like the one Ian took Brianna to see in ABOSAA.
The raked arches of ribs rose huge from the dirt, and she had the impression of a scatter of things half-buried in the rubble at the foot of the bank: enormous things, knobbed and twisted. They might be bones or simply boulders--but it was the tusk that caught her eye, jutting from the bank in a massive curve, intensely familiar, and the more startling for its very familiarity.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHESby Diana Gabaldon, chapter 70 ("Emily"). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Speaking as someone who has lived in North Carolina for more than 25 years, I find it hard to believe that mammoths once lived within a few hundred miles of my suburban Raleigh neighborhood. <g> But when I made a comment like that on Compuserve a few years ago, Diana's response was,
Now, surely you don't think I'd be making _up_ something like a mammoth, do you? <g> Nope, no less an authority than the NC Museum of Natural History in Raleigh says they were there.
2) Here is an example of a British army officer's gorget. (Click on the picture for a better view.)

You may remember Jamie's confrontation with Governor Tryon, shortly after Roger's hanging in THE FIERY CROSS:
The lamplight from the tent-flap gleamed off Tryon's gorget, a crescent of silver that hung round his throat. Jamie's hand rose slowly--so slowly that Tryon plainly perceived no threat--and very gently fitted itself around the Governor's throat, just above the gorget.

"Leave us, Claire," he said. There was no particular threat in his voice; he sounded merely matter-of-fact. A flash of panic lit Tryon's eyes, and he jerked backward, gorget flashing in the light.

"You dare to lay hands on me, sir!" The panic subsided at once, replaced by fury.

"Oh, I do, aye. As ye laid hands on my son."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 72 ("Tinder and Char"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
This example of a gorget comes from the 31st Regiment of Foot. As the accompanying article explains,
In 1777 elements of the 31st Regiment participated in Major General John Burgoyne's Hudson River campaign, seeing action at the Battles of Hubbardton (Vermont, July 7) and Freeman's Farm (New York, September 19). When Burgoyne's campaign ended in encirclement and surrender, the 31st Regiment's light infantry and grenadier companies were captured by colonial forces.
So this particular gorget might have been worn by the officers of William's regiment? Of course we don't know for sure that it was the same regiment, but it's fun to speculate.

3) Here's an example of a "jugum penis", mentioned in AN ECHO IN THE BONE.

The picture above seems very similar to the description in the book. (Although the one shown above dates from the 19th century, not the 18th, the concept seems very much the same.)
“What on earth is it for?” I asked, more amused than offended by his reaction. “Given the name, obviously--”

“It prevents” His face by this time was a dark, unhealthy sort of red, and he wouldn’t meet my eye.

“Yes, I imagine it would do that.” The object in question consisted of two concentric circles of metal, the outer one flexible, with overlapping ends, and a sort of key mechanism that enabled it to be tightened. The inner one was sawtoothed--much like a bear trap, as I’d said. Rather obviously, it was meant to be fastened round a limp penis--which would stay in that condition, if it knew what was good for it.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 67 ("Greasier Than Grease"). Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
It looks to me like a cross between a medieval torture device and some sort of modern-day S&M paraphernalia. <g>

4) Those of you who have read Diana Gabaldon's Lord John story, "The Custom of the Army", will recall the description of the "fire-ships" in the harbor at Quebec.

The painting shown above, by Dominic Serres the Elder (1767), illustrates the attack by French fireships on the British fleet at Quebec in 1759. (Click on the picture for a bigger view.)
"Fire-ships!" someone shouted. Grey shoved his feet into his shoes and joined the throng of men now rushing toward the water.

Out in the center of the broad dark river stood the bulk of the Harwood, at anchor. And coming slowly down upon her were one, two, and then three blazing vessels--a raft, stacked with flammable waste, doused with oil and set afire. A small boat, its mast and sail flaming bright against the night. Something else--an Indian canoe, with a heap of burning grass and leaves? Too far to see, but it was coming closer.

He glanced at the ship and saw movement on deck--too far to make out individual men, but things were happening. The ship couldn't raise anchor and sail away, not in time--but she was lowering her boats, sailors setting out to try to deflect the fire-ships, keep them away from the Harwood.

(From "The Custom of the Army" by Diana Gabaldon, in WARRIORS 3, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. Copyright© 2010 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I think it would be terrifying to be caught in the middle of that, trying to escape one of those burning ships.

The term "fireship" also appears in ECHO, in the chapter of that name, as a slang word describing a poxed whore.

5) And finally, here is one of my favorite bits connecting parts of the books together.

Claire in VOYAGER, examining the skull from the Pict-Sweet box:
The skull felt light in my hands, the bone fragile. I stroked her brow and my hand ran upward, and down behind the occiput, my fingers seeking the dark hole at the base, the foramen magnum, where all the messages of the nervous system pass to and from the busy brain.

Then I held it close against my stomach, eyes closed, and felt the shifting sadness, filling the cavity of the skull like running water. And an odd faint sense--of surprise?

"Someone killed her," I said. "She didn't want to die."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20 ("Diagnosis"). Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Compare this to Claire's reaction much later, in the middle of the hurricane near the end of VOYAGER:
Another clap of thunder and I screamed, not at the sound, but at the lightning bolt of memory. A skull in my hands, with empty eyes that had once been the green of the hurricane sky.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 63 ("Out of the Depths"). Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
No wonder that makes her scream, when she realizes all at once that a) she's actually held Geillie's skull in her hands (!) and b) it wasn't some unknown stranger 200 years ago who'd caused the woman's death, as she had assumed when she looked at the bones, but Claire herself. I think I'd scream, too, in her position. <g>

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please stop by next week for more!


Kerry Dutton said...

Very informative and amusing, as always! I had to google forget when I was reading the series, as it was a new word for me. Love the picture!

maria said...

man i never put the two and two together about the skull and Giellie's death. Oh by the way this blog is the reason i look forward to Fridays i get excited when it becomes friday in the US ( i live overseas). thanks for the cool facts

Karen Henry said...


Thanks! I'd never heard of a gorget either, before I started reading these books. :-)


Karen Henry said...


I'm so glad you're enjoying the Friday Fun Facts! And if it makes you feel any better, I was on my 5th re-reading of the series, at least, when someone pointed out to me that the bones were Geillie's, and I didn't make the connection to the bit from the hurricane scene until long after that.

It's VERY subtle, but now that you know what to look for, you'll notice it on future re-reads, I'm sure.


cslydon said...

Thanks for posting the picture of a gorget. I hadn't been able to picture it very well and hadn't made the time to research it on my own. Very much enjoy the Friday Fun Facts, thanks!

Karen Henry said...

Glad you enjoyed it! Please come back next week for more. :-)


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