No, not a reference to the famous Fellini film (how’s that for alliteration?), I’m calling this Episode 8-1/2 because it’s an interlude between the previous post (Episode 8, which was the end of Book II) and the next post, which kicks off The Songweavers, the third and final book of The Notherland Journeys.
Though the Notherland saga concerns imaginary universes, the book draws on a good deal of historical material from our own universe. Here’s some notes for the history geeks (among whom I count myself):
- The tragic fate of Sir John Franklin’s crew after his ships became trapped in the ice is well-known in the annals of Arctic exploration, as are the futile efforts of his wife Lady Jane to rescue him;
- A good deal of mythology surrounds Grania (aka Grace, Grainne) O’Malley, the Pirate Queen of 16th-century Connaught, but she is also a well-established historical figure. In 1593 Grania had a personal audience with Queen Elizabeth I, and in all likelihood narrowly missed having her head cut off when she carelessly tossed the royal handkerchief into the fire;
- Peggy, Gavi and Jackpine’s sojourn with William Blake takes place in the year 1795, when Blake is known to have been working on illustrations for his Songs of Innocence and Experience, as well as various paintings. His wife Catherine assisted him in coloring many of his works, and it’s believed that a few of the paintings attributed to him may be largely her work. The late 18th-century also saw the rise of the industrial revolution, with its exploitive child labour practices and the “dark Satanic mills” that Blake denounced in much of his poetry;
- Flutes made of animal bone have been found in many parts of the world, some dating back more than 50,000 years, making them the earliest known musical instruments;
- Humpback whales sing in patterns that resemble what humans call songs, using rhythm, refrain and even rhyme;
- The Flute Player or Kokapelli is a figure in the mythology of the Hopi people of the southwestern United States. In 2001 a pictograph found in Grotto Canyon in Alberta was identified as a Kokapelli, leading credence to the legend that a Hopi clan migrated north to a “land of ice and rock” many centuries ago.