Friday Fun Facts - 8/3/2012

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

1) Here is a photo of some seals, or silkies as they are known in Scotland.

Grey seal, near Dunnet Head, Scotland
Grey seals, near Dunnet Head, Scotland.

I love the scene in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES where Jamie explains to his young grandsons what silkies are:
"A silkie is a creature who is a man upon the land, but becomes a seal within the sea. And a seal," he added, cutting off Jemmy, who had been opening his mouth to ask, "is a great sleek beastie that barks like a dog, is as big as an ox, and beautiful as the black of night. They live in the sea, but come out onto the rocks near the shore sometimes."

"Have you seen them, Grandpere?" Germain asked, eager.

"Oh, many a time," Jamie assured him. "There are a great many seals who live on the coasts of Scotland."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 49, "The Venom of the North Wind". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's some interesting folklore about silkies.  And for more about Scotland's seals, look here.

2) The photo above shows a bridle with a snaffle bit. No wonder two-year-old Willie got himself hopelessly tangled in it when Jamie left him alone for a few minutes with one of these!
He made his way back, careful with the heavy, steaming bucket, and found Willie still sitting on his stool but having now succeeded in entangling his head and arms in the bridle, which he’d evidently tried to put on.

“Elp!” Willie said, thrashing wildly. “Elp, elp, elp!”

“Aye, I’ll help ye, ye wee gomerel. Here, then.” Jamie set down the bucket and went to assist, thanking his guardian angel that Willie hadn’t managed to strangle himself. No wonder the little fiend required a nursemaid to watch him.

He patiently untangled the bridle--how could a child who couldn’t dress himself tie knots like that?--and hung it up, then, with an admonition to Willie to keep well back, poured the hot water into the bran tub.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 5, "Why Am Not I At Peace?". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

3) This is crown vetch (Coronilla varia), the plant Claire was looking for in the graveyard at St. Kilda's.
"Roger’s invited us to go up to a place called St. Kilda tomorrow. He says it’s an interesting old church.”

“I’ve heard of it,” I said, yawning. “All right, why not? I’ll take my plant press; maybe I can find some crown vetch--I promised some to Dr. Abernathy for his research. But if we’re going to spend the day tramping round reading old gravestones, I’m turning in now. Digging up the past is strenuous work."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 4, "Culloden". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I never noticed this small detail until I was listening to DRAGONFLY the other day. I really do pick up new little details all the time! <g>

Why would Joe Abernathy have been interested in crown vetch? From what I could find online, the plant seems to be mostly used as a (very invasive) ground cover. On the subject of medicinal uses, this site says, "It is one of the most toxic plants growing in Britain....The whole plant, used either fresh or dried is a cardiotonic. It should be used with extreme caution. A decoction of the bark has been used as an emetic. The crushed plant has been rubbed on rheumatic joints and cramps." Maybe Dr. Abernathy wanted to study its cardiac benefits, who knows?

4) The photo above shows a simple wooden whistle, like the one Bree and Roger gave to the Beardsley twins near the beginning of ABOSAA. (The whistle in the book is not described in detail, but I imagine it as being rather crude, because neither Bree nor Roger had a lot of experience in wood-carving.)
Jo Beardsley had plainly never seen a whistle before, but didn’t care to admit it. He turned the little object over in his hand, trying not to stare at it.

Roger reached out, took it from him, and blew a healthy blast that shattered the night. Several birds, startled from their rest, shot out of the nearby trees, shrieking, followed closely by Kezzie Beardsley, eyes huge with amazement.

“Blow in that end,” Roger said, tapping the appropriate end of the whistle before handing it back.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 6, "Ambush". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

If you want to try it yourself, here are some simple instructions for making a whistle out of wood.

5) Daniel Morgan (1736-1802) was a real historical figure. According to this site,
In the spring of 1756, as Morgan was taking a load of supplies to Fort Chiswell, he somehow irritated a British Lieutenant who struck Morgan with the flat of his sword. Morgan characteristically knocked out the officer with a single blow of his fist. As a result, he was court-martialed and sentenced to 500 lashes. In later years, Morgan delighted in telling that the drummer who was counting the lashes miscounted, and he only received 499. Morgan always maintained that the British owed him one more lash.
Here's Morgan in ECHO, displaying his scars:
He shambled to the center of the gathering, where he stood swaying like an old bear, his long gray hair wafting in the wind of the fire and his eyes creased with amiability. They were focused on Jamie, though, I saw.

“Got something to show you, Mr. Fraser,” he said, loudly enough that the women who had still been talking stopped, every eye going to him. He took hold of the hem of his long woolen hunting shirt and pulled it off over his head. He dropped it on the ground, spread his arms like a ballet dancer, and stumped slowly round.

Everyone gasped, though from Mrs. Graham’s remark, most of them must have seen it before. His back was ridged with scars from neck to waist. Old scars, to be sure--but there wasn’t a square inch of unmarked skin on his back, massive as it was. Even I was shocked.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 61, "No Better Companion Than the Rifle". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I wonder if we'll see Morgan again in a future book? He played a major role in the Battle of Cowpens, which took place in South Carolina in 1781, and I think it would be really interesting to see Jamie and Claire return to the Carolinas for at least part of the Southern campaign of the Revolutionary War. If not in MOHB, then maybe in Book 9?

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!


Anonymous said...

Hmm..,,,,, book nine. I already like the sound of that!
Great Friday Fun Facts, as always. I look forward them each week.

Sara said...

Someday we'll have to stop on our way up I-85 to see Cowpens, since we pass it. My husband and I mention the funny name all the time, but he said they "pronounce it wrong". They call it coo-pens. It wasn't until I read the series that I realized that the Scots called cows "coos," so it's absolutely correct!

Karen Henry said...

Catherine - Thanks so much! :-) I like the sound of "Book 9", too, but it's not official yet. Keep your fingers crossed!

Sara - that's an interesting point about the pronunciation of "Cowpens". I'll have to take a trip there one of these days. It can't be all that far from where I live in Raleigh, NC, but I've never been there.


Anonymous said...

Crossing my fingers. Do NOT want the series to conclude. There are too many wonderful characters!

Christiane Kypreos said...

Hello Karen,thanks for the FFF, such a good job as always. I love the informations about the silkies, such a beautiful animal.I enjoyed reading the folklore about them too. In SP,the moments when Jamie and Willie are together are so moving and beautifully written.Poor Jamie, he never could raise any of his children..he'd have made a good father. Looking fwd to next friday!Greetings from Greece

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your FFF! keep up the good job!

Karen Henry said...

Thanks very much! :-)


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