Friday Fun Facts - 6/8/2012

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

1) The photo above shows a glutton, also known as a wolverine.  (Why does it have two different names?  Look here for a somewhat tongue-in-cheek explanation.)  Here's a member of Young Ian's Mohawk tribe impersonating a glutton:
Walking Elk was short and heavily built—not so much unlike a glutton himself, which made his imitations that much more entertaining.

He turned his head, wrinkling up his nose and growling through his teeth, as the glutton caught the hunter’s scent. Then he changed in a flash, became the hunter, creeping carefully through the brush, pausing, squatting low--and springing upward with a sharp yelp, as his buttock encountered a thorny plant.

The men around the fire whooped as Walking Elk became the glutton, who looked at first astonished at the noise, and then thrilled to have seen its prey. It leaped from its lair, uttering growls and sharp yips of rage. The hunter fell back, horrified, and turned to run. Walking Elk’s stubby legs churned the pounded earth of the longhouse, running in place. Then he threw up his arms and sprawled forward with a despairing “Ay-YIIIIII!” as the glutton struck him in the back.

The men shouted encouragement, slapping their palms on their thighs, as the beleaguered hunter managed to roll onto his back, thrashing and cursing, grappling with the glutton that sought to tear out his throat.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 69, "A Stampede of Beavers". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The video above shows a brief excerpt about wolverines from the BBC's wonderful nature documentary series, "Planet Earth". For more information about wolverines, look here.

2) The picture above shows what rowan berries look like.
I looked down and saw a layer of fallen rowan berries, gleaming red and black among the grass. Very appropriate, I thought, vaguely amused. I had fallen down under a rowan--the Highland protection against witchcraft and enchantment.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "A. Malcolm, Printer". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

This is what a rowan tree looks like. And here's more about the folklore concerning rowan trees, especially in Scotland. I have never seen a rowan tree in person, but perhaps I will when I go to Scotland in July.

3) The painting above is called Death of Brig-General Simon Fraser Ygr of Balnain (1729-1777), by John Graham. I found this picture on the Clan Fraser Society of Canada website shortly after ECHO was published in 2009. I like the way it's helpfully labeled to show who all the participants were. <g> (Click on the picture to enlarge it.)

Can't you just imagine Jamie kneeling by the General's bedside, with Claire nearby and William hovering somewhere in the background?
Jamie bent, then knelt himself, to come closer to Fraser’s ear. The general’s eyes were closed, but he was conscious; I saw his face twitch at the sound of Jamie’s voice. His head turned and his eyes opened, the dullness in them brightening momentarily in recognition.

“Ciamar a tha thu, a charaid?” Jamie asked softly. How are you, cousin?

The general’s mouth twitched a little.

“Tha ana-cnàmhadh an Diabhail orm,” he replied hoarsely. “Feumaidh gun do dh'ìth mi rudegin nach robh dol leam.” I have the devil of an indigestion. I must have eaten something that disagreed with me.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 66, "Deathbed". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Some of you may remember that Simon Fraser also makes an appearance in Diana Gabaldon's novella, "The Custom of the Army". And yes, it's the same man.

4) Here's the tarot card known as the Hanged Man, just as Bree describes it in her Dreambook:
Well, what else would I dream about?  I mean, this was not a subtle dream, no doubt about it. There it was, right in the middle of the spread of cards, and Deb was telling me about it.

“A man is suspended by one foot from a pole laid across two trees. His arms, folded behind his back, together with his head, form a triangle with the point downward; his legs form a cross. To an extent, the Hanged Man is still earthbound, for his foot is attached to the pole.”

I could see the man on the card, suspended permanently halfway between heaven and earth.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 73, "A Whiter Shade of Pale". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I don't know much about tarot, and I was fascinated to see how well the Hanged Man's description fits Roger's situation in THE FIERY CROSS. Look at the list of actions associated with the Hanged Man here and see what you think.

5) I think Daniel Rawlings' medical chest (the one that Jamie gave to Claire in DRUMS) must have looked something like the picture shown above.
"There's more," he pointed out, eager to show me. "The front opens and there are wee drawers inside."

There were--containing, among other things, a miniature balance and set of brass weights, a tile for rolling pills, and a stained marble mortar, its pestle wrapped in cloth to prevent its being cracked in transit. Inside the front, above the drawers, were row upon row of small, corked bottles made of stone or glass.

"Oh, they're beautiful!" I said, handling the small scalpel with reverence. The polished wood of the handle fit my hand as though it had been made for me, the blade weighted to an exquisite balance. "Oh, Jamie, thank you!"

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 8, "Man of Worth". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
If you ever get a chance to visit Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, the apothecary's shop there is definitely worth seeing! When I visited there in 2008, I saw a medical chest very much like the one pictured above, sitting on a table in a little room adjoining the main apothecary's shop. (Click on the photo below for a bigger view.)

I wish I could have taken a closer look at it, but the little room was cordoned off with a rope so visitors couldn't go inside. I took this photo leaning in the doorway, zoomed in as close as I could get. My parents, who accompanied me on that trip to Williamsburg, were very much bemused by my excitement at seeing a medical box "just like Claire's". <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!


Jen C said...

I love this kind of stuff - real-world connections. Thanks so much!

Karen Henry said...

You're welcome! I'm really glad you're enjoying the Friday Fun Facts. I have a lot of fun putting these posts together. :-)


Julia Lammert said...


Another fantastic edition. Thank you for sharing. You make my Friday mornings a treat!

Christiane said...

Dear Karen, thankyou so much once more ! very good job as usual. Greetings from Paris.

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully educating and entertaining as usual Karen.

Is it just me, or do all the people in the painting of Brig. Simon Fraser look very similar - I could swear there's two sets of triplets and a couple of sets of twins standing around the bed!

Very interesting about what the hanged man tarot card symbolises.

- Debbie

Hardys on the Road said...

I can only imagine how differently I'd relate to Williamsburg now, after being immersed in Diana's 18th century for the past 2 years! I loved the whole way it was presented when I saw it about 10 years ago, thanks for great articles this week

Anonymous said...

Luv these! Thx so much for taking the time to put these together!....Lenis Makua

TK said...

Thanks especially for the Rowan tree and medical box. Its great to actually see the things you tried hard to imagine while reading. Diana's descriptions are spot on.

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