Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #5

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books. This is a collection of some of my favorite items from previous FFF posts. I hope you enjoy them!

1) There really are white deer, just as Lord John described them in AN ECHO IN THE BONE:
“In the evenings, quite often, deer come out of the forest to feed at the edges of the lawn. Now and then, though, I see a particular deer. It’s white, I suppose, but it looks as though it’s made of silver. I don’t know whether it comes only in the moonlight or whether it’s only that I cannot see it save by moonlight--but it is a sight of rare beauty.”

His eyes had softened, and I could see that he wasn’t looking at the plaster ceiling overhead but at the white deer, coat shining in the moonlight.

“It comes for two nights, three--rarely, four--and then it’s gone, and I don’t see it again for weeks, sometimes months. And then it comes again, and I am enchanted once more.”

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 95, "Numbness". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I didn't realize that white deer actually existed, until I saw this video, which shows several white deer in Wisconsin. They're really quite beautiful, mysterious and exotic-looking creatures.

2) The legend of the Dunbonnet in VOYAGER is based on a real historical figure, a laird named James Fraser. <g>
James Fraser, 9th of Foyers, was on very friendly terms with Simon, 13th Lord Lovat, later to be executed for his part in the 1745 Rising, and on that account, Foyers joined Lovat in supporting Prince Charles during his short reign in Edinburgh as King James VIII.


Foyers was excluded from the Act of Parliament pardoning treasonable offences committed in the rebellion, and was forced to live in hiding for seven years after the rebellion. One of his favourite haunts was a cave, a mile to the west of the Falls of Foyers. One day, on looking out of the cave, the laird saw a Red Coat secretly following a girl bringing food for him and, as to avoid capture was a matter of life and death to him, the laird shot the soldier who was buried where he fell. So Foyers's whereabouts could be kept secret, the inhabitants used to speak of him by the nickname "Bonaid Odhair" (Dun Coloured Bonnet).
The photo above comes from Alastair Cunningham's Living with Clans and Castles blog. This is the view from the inside of a cave near Foyers that Cunningham visited in 2007. It seems to match the description of Jamie's cave pretty well.
It was barely eight feet long, but the far end was lost in shadow. She lifted her chin, seeing the soft black stains that coated the rock to one side by the entrance.

“That’s where my fire was—when I dared have one.” His voice sounded strange, small and muffled, and he cleared his throat.

“Where was your bed?”

“Just there by your left foot.”

“Did you sleep with your head at this end?” She tapped her foot on the graveled dirt of the floor.

“Aye. I could see the stars, if the night was clear. I turned the other way if it rained.” She heard the smile in his voice and put her hand along his thigh, squeezing.

“I hoped that,” she said, her own voice a little choked. “When we learned about the Dunbonnet, and the cave... I thought about you, alone here--and I hoped you could see the stars at night."

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 79, "The Cave". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

3) Here are a couple of examples of Iroquois masks of the type used by the False Face Society.

As Ian explained to Brianna in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
After this second loss, the Medicine Society had taken the two of them to a private hut, there to sing and beat drums and to dance in huge painted masks, meant to frighten away whatever evil entities might be hampering Ian’s spirit--or unduly strengthening Emily’s.

"I wanted to laugh, seeing the masks," Ian said. He didn’t turn round; yellow leaves spangled the shoulders of his buckskin and stuck in his hair. "They call it the Funny-Face Society, too--and for a reason. Didna do it, though."

"I don’t...suppose Em-Emily laughed." He was going so fast that she was pressed to keep up with him, though her legs were nearly as long as his own.

"No," he said, and uttered a short, bitter laugh himself. "She didna."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 70, "Emily". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to this site,
Members of the society put on the false faces to visit the lodge of a sick man who has declared himself in need of a cure. With their masks on, and shaking rattles made of turtle shells, the members who are to effect the cure creep towards the sick man's home speaking a nasal "language" . They scrape their rattles against the door, and enter the house, continuing to shake the rattles. Then ashes and tobacco are used in a ritual meant to drive away the cause of the patient's illness. Anyone who is cured becomes a member of the society, or a man or a woman may join if he or she has a dream signifying that it is necessary to become a member.
Here is another site with more information about the masks.

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) Many of you will remember the song that Ian was so fond of in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES. It's an old Scottish ballad called "Eppie Morrie".
"...And put a pistol to his breest, his breest,” Young Ian chanted, “Marry me, marry me, minister, or else I’ll be your priest, your priest--or else I’ll be your priest!”

“Of course,” Roger said, dropping the song, in which a bold young man named Willie rides with his friends to abduct and forcibly marry a young woman who proves bolder yet, “we’ll hope ye prove a wee bit more capable than Willie upon the night, aye, Joseph?”

Mr. Wemyss, scrubbed, dressed, and fairly vibrating with excitement, gave him a glance of complete incomprehension. Roger grinned, tightening the strap of his saddlebag.

“Young Willie obliges a minister to marry him to the young woman at gunpoint,” he explained to Mr. Wemyss, “but then, when he takes his stolen bride to bed, she’ll have none of him--and his best efforts will not avail to force her.”

“And so return me, Willie, to my hame, as virgin as I came, I came--as virgin as I came!” Ian caroled.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 85, "The Stolen Bride". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
The video above features Karan Casey singing "Eppie Morrie". You can see the lyrics here.

I hope you enjoyed this 5th installment of the Best of the Friday Fun Facts! Here are the previous collections:

Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #1
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #2
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #3
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #4

Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please come back next week for more!

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