Friday Fun Facts - 3/9/2012

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.

1) There really are white deer, just as Lord John described them in AN ECHO IN THE BONE:

“In the evenings, quite often, deer come out of the forest to feed at the edges of the lawn. Now and then, though, I see a particular deer. It’s white, I suppose, but it looks as though it’s made of silver. I don’t know whether it comes only in the moonlight or whether it’s only that I cannot see it save by moonlight--but it is a sight of rare beauty.”

His eyes had softened, and I could see that he wasn’t looking at the plaster ceiling overhead but at the white deer, coat shining in the moonlight.

“It comes for two nights, three--rarely, four--and then it’s gone, and I don’t see it again for weeks, sometimes months. And then it comes again, and I am enchanted once more.”

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 95 ("Numbness"). Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I didn't realize that white deer actually existed, until I saw this video, which shows several white deer in Wisconsin. They're really quite beautiful, mysterious and exotic-looking creatures.

2) Remember the reference in LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER to malaria as a cure for syphilis?
"'Tis a thing I learned from the surgeon, sir--the man as saved me life. He told it me while I lay sick, and I saw it work several times after."

"Saw what, for God's sake?"

"The malaria. If a man suffering from pox happened to contract malaria, once he'd recovered from the fever--if he did--the pox was cured, as well."

(From LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "Nemesis". Copyright© 2003 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
It seems Scanlon the apothecary was way ahead of his time, to be using this cure in 1757.  According to Wikipedia, Julius Wagner-Jauregg of Austria was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1927 for his study of this same phenomenon.  (This is possibly the only good thing that can be said of him, as he later turned out to be an ardent Nazi.)

3) Here is a sketch showing what the interior of a Mohawk longhouse looked like.

It looks exactly like what Diana described in DRUMS OF AUTUMN, don't you think?
Five hearths burned, down the length of the house, each with its own smokehole, and the far wall was divided into cubicles, one for each couple or family, with a low, wide shelf for sleeping and space beneath for storage.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 53 ("Blame"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Looking at this picture, it's easy to imagine Ian and Emily (and Rollo) living in a similar longhouse.

4) Remember the scene in DRAGONFLY where Jamie and Fergus are playing with a ball-and-cup toy called a bilboquet?
Placing the hand over his eye, [Jamie] fixed the other piercingly on the bilboquet and gave the ivory cup a toss. The tethered ball leaped from its socket into an arc, and dropped as though guided by radar, landing back in its cup with a snug little plop.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 12 ("L'Hopital des Anges"). Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I saw this in a gift shop in Colonial Williamsburg in 2008.

Naturally, the moment I saw it, I decided I had to have one. It's not nearly as easy as it looks! <g> This may not look exactly like the French version mentioned in DRAGONFLY, but the basic idea is the same.

5) There was a famous pirate named Stede Bonnet in the early 18th century. A relative of "our Stephen", perhaps?

Diana has been asked about him on Compuserve, and she says Stede Bonnet may have been Stephen's father (or maybe grandfather, given that Stede Bonnet died in 1718, almost 50 years before we met Stephen Bonnet). Certainly it's plausible that a man like Stede Bonnet would have left any number of bastard children behind.

I always enjoy finding connections between Diana's fictional characters and real historical figures. The Stede Bonnet-Stephen Bonnet connection is one of my favorite examples. There's more about Stede Bonnet here.

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!


Pat Rice Talma said...

Karen, I live in upstate New York and we have white deer here also. They are basically enclosed in what used to be the Seneca Army Depot, a base left over from WWII that has been closed for a long time. A state highway runs along one of the fences for this Depot and many times, driving along this route, you can see white deer along with their brown counterparts on the other side of the fence. In the process of driving ourselves in the area, my husband and I have seen people parked along this road taking pictures of said deer.

Nicol said... My husband was in the Army and was at Seneca before it closed. The deer are adorable!

Christiane KYPREOS said...

Hello Karen, the FFF interesting once more. I love the Mohawk longhouse, it was more or less like that in my mind. There are white deers as white lions or tigers (rare) I suppose ? they are beautiful.Don't know if any white deers in Europe?may be.Thanks a lot. Christiane K

Anonymous said...

Enjoying your blog and fun facts... on the white deer - how about this on white bears in North America? Sounds much like the one that Jamie was hunting before the great fire and the lightning storm (BOSAA?)

TheresaS of Lallybroch

Karen Henry said...

I have never seen a white deer, but they're beautiful!

Theresa - thanks so much for the link! I'll include this in a future blog post, definitely! So there really are "ghost bears", huh? I had no idea. Thanks for sharing this.


Carmen said...

Hi Karen,

I love the fact that bilboquet's are still available. I had one as a child but it was an old one and I never saw an newer.

vthor said...

Hi Karen,

Loved the video about the white deer (link was from our local PBS station here in MN).
The longhouse illustration is fascinating. I've helped a number of students create small replicas for social studies projects. At least the Ian and his bride had some privacy in their small area. ;-)

jkc said...

Karen, I just want to thank you for the long hours and dedication that you put into everything you do regarding Outlander! You make everything in these exceptional books become even more into focus...if that is possible. You prove that it is.

Kerry Dutton said...

I was in NY for a wedding and we drove past that army depot. We saw a white stag and took some beautiful!

Niki said...

I live in Greensboro, NC, and saw a white deer near my neighborhood a couple years ago. I saw it in a field a couple times with a few other deer. This was a couple years ago. I haven't seen it since.

Stede and Stephen Bonnet: I have a great love for my home state of NC and have read a lot about it. I've known about Stede Bonnet for many years. I wondered about the connection between Stede and Stephen Bonnet in the books. :-)

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