Friday Fun Facts - 12/21/2012

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

1) The photo above shows a maypop fruit (Passiflora incarnata), mentioned in DRUMS OF AUTUMN in the scene near the end of the book where Roger returns to the Ridge.
Nayawenne had told me that the scent of carnivore urine would keep rabbits away—and a man who ate meat was nearly as good as a mountain lion, to say nothing of being more biddable. Yes, that would do; he’d shot a deer only two days ago; it was still hanging. I should brew a fresh bucket of spruce beer to go with the roast venison, though…

As I wandered toward the herb shed to see if I had any maypop fruits for flavoring, my eye caught a movement at the far edge of the clearing. Thinking it was Jamie, I turned to go and inform him of his new duty, only to be stopped dead in my tracks when I saw who it was.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 66, "Child of My Blood". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The gorgeous purple flowers are known as passionflower.  According to Wikipedia,
Traditionally, the fresh or dried whole plant has been used as a herbal medicine to treat nervous anxiety and insomnia. A small clinical study suggested that in the form of a tea it may improve the subjective quality of sleep. The dried, ground herb is frequently used in Europe by drinking a teaspoon of it in tea. A sedative chewing gum has even been produced.
For more information about maypops, look here and here.

2) The illustration above, from an 1845 engraving, shows villagers bringing in a Yule log, just as we saw in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER.(Click on the picture for a bigger view.)
They’d brought down the Yule log to the house that afternoon, all the household taking part, the women bundled to the eyebrows, the men ruddy, flushed with the labor, staggering, singing, dragging the monstrous log with ropes, its rough skin packed with snow, a great furrow left where it passed, the snow plowed high on either side.

Willie rode atop the log, screeching with excitement, clinging to the rope. Once back at the house, Isobel had tried to teach him to sing “Good King Wenceslas,” but it was beyond him, and he dashed to and fro, into everything, until his grandmother declared that he would drive her to distraction and told Peggy to take him to the stable to help Jamie and Crusoe bring in the fresh-cut branches of pine and fir.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 43, "Succession". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Where did this tradition come from?  According to Wikipedia:
The first mention of the Yule log in Britain is a written account by the clergyman Robert Herrick, from the 1620s or 1630s. Herrick called the tradition a "Christmas log" and said that it was brought into the farmhouse by a group of males, who were then rewarded with free beer from the farmer's wife. Herrick claimed that the fire used to burn the log was always started with a remnant from the log that had been burned in the previous year's festivities. He also said that the log's role was primarily one of bringing prosperity and protection from evil - by keeping the remnant of the log all the year long the protection was said to remain across the year.
Here's a modern Yule log tradition you may be familiar with. (I remember this very well, growing up in New Jersey in the 1970s.We used to watch it every year.) And there's also an edible Yule log, known as a Buche de Noel. <g>

3) Here is a video of Johnny Cash performing "Folsom Prison Blues".  You can see the lyrics here.
Jem was hanging round, too, bored and poking his fingers into everything. He was singing to himself, half under his breath; she paid no attention, until she happened to catch a few words.

What did you say?” she asked, rounding on him incredulously. He couldn’t have been singing “Folsom Prison Blues”--could he?

He blinked at her, lowered his chin to his chest, and said--in the deepest voice he could produce--“Hello. I’m Johnny Cash."

She narrowly stopped herself laughing out loud, feeling her cheeks go pink with the effort of containment.

“Where did you get that?” she asked, though she knew perfectly well. There was only one place he could have gotten it, and her heart rose up at the thought.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 99, "Old Master". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I always have to laugh at the thought of Jem, age 5 or so, doing an imitation of Johnny Cash.  I like to think he and Roger must have watched Johnny Cash on TV, or listened to his records, when they went back to the 20th century.

4) The photos above show a couple of examples of an 18th-century architectural form known as a folly. The top one is a folly in Stowe, England, called the Temple of Ancient Virtue, built in 1734. The bottom one is the Temple of Pan, in Osterley, England, built in 1720. (Click on the pictures to enlarge them.)

What exactly is a folly? From Wikipedia:
At best, some general guidelines can be produced, all of which have exceptions.
  • [Follies] have no purpose other than as an ornament. Often they have some of the appearance of a building constructed for a particular purpose, but this appearance is a sham.
  • They are buildings, or parts of buildings. Thus they are distinguished from other garden ornaments such as sculpture.
  • They are purpose-built. Follies are deliberately built as ornaments.
  • They are often eccentric in design or construction. This is not strictly necessary; however, it is common for these structures to call attention to themselves through unusual details or form.
  • There is often an element of fakery in their construction. The canonical example of this is the sham ruin: a folly which pretends to be the remains of an old building but which was in fact constructed in that state.
  • They were built or commissioned for pleasure.
Here's a description of the folly at Helwater:
The folly, a miniature Greek temple, had been erected by some forgotten architect, and while the site had much to recommend it in summer, being surrounded by copper beeches and with a view of the lake, it was an inconvenient distance from the house, and no one had visited it in months. Dead leaves lay in drifts in the corners, one of the wooden lattices hung from a corner nail, having been torn loose in a winter storm, and the white pillars that framed the opening were thick with abandoned cobwebs and spattered with dirt.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 14, "Fridstool". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more about follies, look here. You can see many more photos of England's follies here. And here is another page with wonderful photos of follies. (Thanks, Sandy!)

5) Finally, here's a fun fact for the holidays: Jemmy's first Christmas gift from his Grandda was a toy wooden horse, that might have looked something like the one shown above.
I glanced down in search of Jemmy; he had learned to crawl only a few days before, but was already capable of an astonishing rate of speed, particularly when no one was looking. He was sitting peaceably enough in the corner, though, gnawing intently at the wooden horse Jamie had carved for him as a Christmas present.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 34, "Charms". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Happy holidays to all of you!

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 the final FFF post of 2012!

1 comment

Genevieve said...

Thank you for all the Friday Fun Facts, and Happy Holidays to you!

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