Friday Fun Facts - 3/15/2013

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

1) This is a painting called "L'Odalisque", by French artist Fran├žois Boucher (1703-1770). Click on the photo to see a bigger view.
"Thank you,” I murmured, with a charming smile, and wandered over to the wall, pretending to be absorbed in a large Boucher, featuring the backview of an amply endowed nude woman seated on a rock in the wilderness. If this was a reflection of current tastes in female anatomy, it was no wonder that Jamie appeared to think so highly of my bottom.

“Ha,” I said. “What price foundation garments, eh?”

“Eh?” Jamie and the Duke, startled, looked up from the portfolio of investment papers that formed the ostensible reason for our visit.

“Never mind me,” I said, waving a gracious hand. “Just enjoying the art."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "Untimely Resurrection". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The painting shown above dates from about 1749, so this is not precisely the same Boucher painting that Claire saw in the Duke of Sandringham's house in Paris, but you can certainly get the idea!

2) This is a 17th-century Spanish conquistador's helmet. (Photo from Wikipedia.) Click on the photo for a bigger view. I think it looks very much like the one described in ECHO:
The Spaniard leaned against the wall, bony legs stretched out, skull fallen forward as if in a doze. Tufts of reddish, faded hair still clung here and there, but the skin had gone entirely. His hands and feet were mostly gone, too, the small bones carried away by rodents. No large animals had been able to get at him, though, and while the torso and long bones showed signs of nibbling, they were largely intact; the swell of the rib cage poked through a tissue of cloth so faded that there was no telling what color it had ever been.

He was a Spaniard, too. A crested metal helmet, red with rust, lay by him, along with an iron breastplate and a knife.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 8, "Spring Thaw". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
These helmets, known as morions, were widely used in the 16th and 17th centuries.

I wonder if some day Jamie will return to the Spaniard's cave?

3) This is Clostridium tetani, the bacteria that causes tetanus. According to this site,
Tetanus is a dangerous nerve ailment caused by the toxin of a common bacterium, Clostridium tetani. Bacterial spores are found in soil -- most frequently in cultivated soil, least frequently in virgin soil.....If the spores enter a wound that penetrates the skin and extends deeper than oxygen can reach, they germinate and produce a toxin that enters the bloodstream.

Remember Byrnes, the overseer in DRUMS who died of tetanus?
I had never actually seen anyone die of tetanus myself, but I knew the symptoms well enough: restlessness and difficulty swallowing, developing into a progressive stiffening as the muscles of arms and legs and neck began to spasm. The spasms increased in severity and duration until the patient’s body was hard as wood, arched in an agony that came on and receded, came on again, went off, and at last came on in an endless tetany that could not be relaxed by anything save death.

“He died grinnin’, Ronnie Campbell said. But I shouldna think it was a happy death, forbye.” It was a grim joke, but there was little humor in his voice.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 13, "An Examination of Conscience". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
What a horrible way to die! Fortunately, this disease is preventable in modern times; the tetanus vaccine was first introduced in 1924.

4) This is a common ringed plover (Charadrius hiaticula). There are many different species of plovers, and I'm not positive that this is the same type of plover that appears in OUTLANDER, but it's probably pretty close. <g>
"Why did you do that?” I asked, curious.

“What?” He was momentarily startled; I think he had forgotten I was there.

“You crossed yourself when the bird flew off; I wondered why.”

He shrugged, mildly embarrassed.

“Ah, well. It’s an old tale, is all. Why plovers cry as they do, and run keening about their nests like that.” He motioned to the far side of the tarn, where another plover was doing exactly that. He watched the bird for a few moments, abstracted.

“Plovers have the souls of young mothers dead in childbirth,” he said. He glanced aside at me, shyly. “The story goes that they cry and run about their nests because they canna believe the young are safe hatched; they’re mourning always for the lost one—or looking for a child left behind."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "We Meet a Beggar". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more about plovers, look here.

5) Here's a video of the children's counting song, "The Ants Go Marching".
He had a song in his head--again. They sneaked in when he wasn’t looking, melodies singing in his inner ear like sirens from the rocks, ready to dash him in pieces.

Not this one, though. He smiled to himself, as he nudged the bar of the astrolabe and sighted on a tree on the opposite bank. It was a children’s song, one of the counting songs Bree sang to Jemmy. One of those terrible songs that got into one’s head and wouldn’t get out again. As he took his sightings and made the notations in his book, he chanted under his breath, ignoring the cracked distortion of the sounds.

“The...ants one.”

Five thousand acres. What in hell was he to do with it? What in hell was he to do, period?

“ ggetout...atha RAIN...bum, bum, bum..."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 82, "A Darkening Sky". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Many of you will remember this little song (I certainly did!), but I thought those of you who live outside the US might not be familiar with it.

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!


Michelle said...

Oh, my! As an artist Boucher was certainly talented and skillful. But I wouldn't want that hanging on my wall. Cringe. He must have had an obsession with women's backsides!

Anonymous said...

Awesome as usual. Thanks, nancy

Dawn said...

I know I'm pretty late to this, but I was looking to see if you had commented on the Spaniard in the cave specifically. I recently learned the Spanish had an inland fort in North Carolina, in or near the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was called Fort San Juan and established in a native village called Joara in 1567. Local Indians destroyed it the following year. According to the map on Wikipedia, it MIGHT be relatively close to the Fraser's Ridge area, but then, Joara's exact location is not known.

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