Friday Fun Facts - 5/18/2012

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

1) Remember Claire's encounter with the four-eyed fish, in VOYAGER, when she first meets Lawrence Stern?
"Talking to a fish," I finished. "Yes, well...have they really got four eyes?" I asked, in hopes of changing the subject.

"Yes--or so it seems." He glanced down at the fish, who appeared to be following the conversation with rapt attention. "They seem to employ their oddly shaped optics when submerged, so that the upper pair of eyes observes events above the surface of the water, and the lower pair similarly takes note of happenings below it."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 50, "I Meet a Priest". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The scientific name of this species is Anableps anableps.

2) Here's one artist's conception of what a Nuckelavee looks like. (Drawing by Verdego at Click on the picture for a bigger view.
“Jem,” she said, the thought occurring as they came even with him. “Do you know what a Nuckelavee is?”

Jem’s eyes went huge, and he clapped his hands over Mandy’s ears. Something with a hundred cold tiny feet skittered up Brianna’s back.

“Aye,” he said, his voice small and breathless.

“Who told you about it?” she asked, keeping her voice calm. She’d kill Annie MacDonald, she thought.

But Jem’s eyes slid sideways, as he glanced involuntarily over her shoulder, up at the broch.

“He did,” he whispered.

He?” she said sharply, and grabbed Mandy by the arm as the little girl wiggled free and turned furiously on her brother. “Don’t kick your brother, Mandy! Who do you mean, Jemmy?”

Jem’s lower teeth caught his lip.

“Him,” he blurted. “The Nuckelavee.”

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "The Minister's Cat". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The following description of the Nuckelavee, from a site on the folklore of the Orkney Islands, sounds very close to the way the creature is described in ECHO:
From the few recorded descriptions of the Nuckelavee, we learn that his head was similar to that of a man only "ten times larger". He had an incredibly wide mouth that jutted out like a pig's snout and a single red eye that burned with a red flame.

Hairless, his body was also skinless, its entire surface appearing like raw and living flesh. It was said that his thick, black blood could be seen coursing through his veins, as his sinewy muscles writhed with every movement he made. His long ape-like arms hung down to the ground and from his gaping mouth spewed a foul, black reek.

All in all, not a pleasant sight to encounter on some lonely stretch of coastline.
Definitely not! <shudder> I can certainly understand why eight-year-old Jem was scared out of his wits at the prospect of encountering such a creature.

3) Here's a video showing how to put on a great kilt, or belted plaid. And here are step-by-step instructions, with pictures. (Please note, I can't vouch for the accuracy or the authenticity of either of the methods shown!)

Even Roger seemed to have some difficulty with this:
"All right," he said with resignation. "Laugh if ye must." Getting into a belted plaid wasn't the most dignified thing a man could do, given that the most efficient method was to lie down on the pleated fabric and roll like a sausage on a girdle. Jamie could do it standing up, but then, the man had had practice.

His struggles--rather deliberately exaggerated--were rewarded by Brianna's giggling, which in turn seemed to have a calming effect on the baby. By the time Roger made the final adjustments to his pleats and drapes, mother and child were both flushed, but happy.

Roger made a leg to them, flourishing, and Bree patted her own leg in one-handed applause.

"Terrific," she said, her eyes traveling appreciatively over him. "See Daddy? Pretty Daddy!" She turned Jemmy, who stared openmouthed at the vision of male glory before him and blossomed into a wide, slow smile, a trickle of drool hanging from the pouting curve of his lip.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 23, "The Bard". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

4) The photo above shows what tansy looks like. Claire advised Marsali to take tansy oil to keep from getting pregnant, but somehow I don't think Marsali actually did. <g>
“Here,” I said, pulling out a large chunk of cleaned sponge. I took one of the thin surgical knives from the fitted slots in the lid of the box and carefully sliced off several thin pieces, about three inches square. I searched through the box again and found the small bottle of tansy oil, with which I carefully saturated one square under Marsali’s fascinated gaze.

“All right,” I said. “That’s about how much oil to use. If you haven’t any oil, you can dip the sponge in vinegar—even wine will work, in a pinch. You put the bit of sponge well up inside you before you go to bed with a man—mind you do it even the first time; you can get with child from even once.”

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 46, "We Meet a Porpoise". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
5) In honor of Monday's release of the e-book edition of "The Custom of the Army" in the US and Canada, I wanted to share one of my favorite links between the books. (WARNING! What follows is a spoiler for "Custom of the Army", so you may want to skip this bit if you haven't yet read the story.)

First, here's Lord John in Quebec in 1759:
“We will baptize him as a Catholic, of course," Father LeCarré said, looking up at him. The priest was a young man, rather plump, dark and clean-shaven, but with a gentle face. “You do not mind that?”

“No." Grey drew out a purse. “Here--for his maintenance.  I will send an additional five pounds each year, if you will advise me once a year of his continued welfare. Here--the address to which to write.” A sudden inspiration struck him—not that he did not trust the good father, he assured himself--only... “Send me a lock of his hair," he said. “Every year.”

He was turning to go when the priest called him back, smiling.

“Has the infant a name, sir?"

“A--” he stopped dead. His mother had surely called him something, but Malcolm Stubbs hadn't thought to tell him what it was before being shipped back to England. What should he call the child? Malcolm, for the father who had abandoned him? Hardly.

Charles, maybe, in memory of Carruthers… of these days, it isn't going to.

“His name is John," he said abruptly,  and cleared his throat. “John Cinnamon.”

(From "The Custom of the Army" by Diana Gabaldon. Copyright© 2010 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And William, also in Quebec, on Christmas Eve, 1776:
We had a Guide for our Journey between St. John and Quebec, a Man of mixed Blood (he had a most remarkable Head of Hair, thick and curly as Sheep’s Wool and the color of Cinnamon Bark) who told us that some of the native People think that the Sky is a Dome, separating Earth from Heaven, but that there are Holes in the Dome, and that the Lights of the Aurora are the Torches of Heaven, sent out to guide the Spirits of the Dead through the Holes.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "Joyeux Noel". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Diana has confirmed that the young man William encounters is indeed the grown-up John Cinnamon. I like this connection very much.

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!


Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much Karen. I love your Friday Fun Facts.

Antipodean Janet

Unknown said...

Wow putting on a kilt that way is a lot of work! I love visual though.
Great post.

Christiane said...

Hello Karen,many thanks for today's FFF.How to put on a great belted plaid seems a lot of hard work!!You'll have to check that out in Scotland Karen..Be sure to meet THAT guy..I love too when suddenly I realize there's a connection with another book.

Sarah Mackenzie said...

Dear Karen,
I love the four eyed fish. Voyager has a little soft spot in my heart. And John Cinnamon gave me a

Karen Henry said...

@Janet - Thanks! I appreciate that very much. :-)

@Michelle - yes, and time-consuming, too! Glad you liked the FFF. :-)

@Christiane - I love those subtle little bits that connect the parts of the series together. This one is one of my favorite examples.

@Sarah - I think the four-eyed fish is kind of weird, myself. But this is one of those times when you can see Diana's background in marine biology reflected in her writing. :-)


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