Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #7

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) This photo, from, shows the courtship coloration of a male mandrill (scientific name, Mandrillus sphinx).  Mandrills are the largest species of monkey, and certainly the most colorful!
"What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen? An animal, I mean. A non-human animal,” I added, thinking of Dr. Fentiman’s ghastly collection of pickled deformities and “natural curiosities.”

“Strange by itself? Not deformed, I mean, but as God meant it to be?” He squinted into the sea, thinking, then grinned. “The mandrill in Louis of France’s zoo."

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 30, "Ships that Pass in the Night". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a short video from the BBC's "Planet Wild" about mandrills.

For more about mandrills, look here.

2) Here's an example of an 18th-century commode chair similar to the one Brianna used at River Run while she was pregnant in DRUMS. The seat cover lifts up or slides forward, and the chamber pot is discreetly hidden in the cupboard underneath. You can see more photos here.
The commode was magnificent, a beautiful piece of smooth carved walnut that mingled appeal with convenience. Particularly convenient on a rainy, cold night like this. She fumbled sleepily with the lid in the dark, lit by lightning flashes from the window, then sat down, sighing with relief as the pressure on her bladder eased.

Evidently pleased with the additional internal space thus provided, Osbert performed a series of lazy somersaults, making her belly undulate in ghostly waves beneath her white flannel nightgown. She stood up slowly--she did almost everything slowly these days--feeling pleasantly drugged with sleep.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 59, "Blackmail". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here's another style of commode chair from the 18th century, designed to fit into a corner. It's more elegant in design, made to blend in with the decor of the room as much as possible. Note the side flaps that lift up to allow easy access to the chamber pot underneath.

Wondering what it looks like on the inside? My sister took a photo of a 19th-century example of one of these commodes when we visited Castle Fraser in Scotland in July.

I suppose if you can't have indoor plumbing (something that I would most definitely miss if I traveled back to the 18th century!), these commodes are about as close as you can get, in terms of comfort and convenience. <g>

3) I didn't know until I read THE FIERY CROSS that lavender can be used to alleviate migraine symptoms.
"D’ye think Mrs. Claire would have some lavender left?” Duncan asked, turning to Roger.

“Aye, I know she has,” Roger replied. His puzzlement must have shown on his face, for Duncan smiled and ducked his head diffidently.

“’Twas a thought I had,” he said. “Miss Jo suffers from the megrims, and doesna sleep sae well as she might. I mind, my mither had a lavender pillow, and said she fell asleep like a babe the moment she laid her head upon it. So I thought, perhaps a bit o’ velvet--so as she could feel it against her cheek, aye?--and perhaps Mrs. Lizzie would stitch it up for me....”

In sickness and in health . . .

Roger nodded his approval, feeling touched--and slightly shamed--by Duncan’s thoughtfulness.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 4, "Wedding Gifts". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here are some simple instructions for making a lavender pillow.

For more about the use of lavender in treating migraine symptoms, look here.

4) I had never heard of the Wendigo before I read A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES.
"What kind of name is Weddigo?” Ian asked, putting [Donner's drawing] down.

Brianna had been clutching her pencil so tightly that her knuckles were white. She unfolded her hand and put it down, and I saw that her hands were shaking slightly.

“Wendigo,” she said. “It’s an Ojibway cannibal spirit that lives in the wood. It howls in storms and eats people.”

Ian gave her a long look.

“Nice fellow,” he said

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 55, "Wendigo". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to this site,
It cannot be emphasized enough that the Wendigo constantly hungers for human flesh, and no matter how much it eats, it always feels as if it is starving to death. So powerful is this hunger that the Wendigo goes forth crashing through the forests and uprooting trees, causing game animals to stampede, and causing whirlwinds. The monster is often thought to be the cause of ice storms, tornadoes, and violent weather. All of these weather-related events are believed to be signs of the creature's presence.
There is even a medical condition known as Wendigo psychosis. From Wikipedia:
The term "Wendigo psychosis"....refers to a condition in which sufferers developed an insatiable desire to eat human flesh even when other food sources were readily available....One of the more famous cases of Wendigo psychosis involved a Plains Cree trapper from Alberta, named Swift Runner. During the winter of 1878, Swift Runner and his family were starving, and his eldest son died. Twenty-five miles away from emergency food supplies at a Hudson's Bay Company post, Swift Runner butchered and ate his wife and five remaining children. Given that he resorted to cannibalism so near to food supplies, and that he killed and consumed the remains of all those present, it was revealed that Swift Runner's was not a case of pure cannibalism as a last resort to avoid starvation, but rather of a man suffering from Wendigo psychosis. He eventually confessed and was executed by authorities at Fort Saskatchewan.
One more thought about Donner in ABOSAA: It's not only his first name that carries the association with cannibalism! His surname recalls the infamous Donner party of 1846, a group of pioneers headed for California who resorted to cannibalism after they became trapped in the Sierra Nevada in winter.

For more about the Wendigo, look here.

5) 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.

I hope you enjoyed this 7th 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
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #5
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #6

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

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