Dorothy Dunnett

The Lymond Chronicles

Dragut’s Smile - What did it mean?

Q. While I have long been converted to the fact that Kuzum is Gabriel & Joleta's offspring, there is a small part of my brain that continues to wonder why Dragut smiled when he returned Gabriel's money and announced that the child was of no value to his parents or the Sultan and that he intended to sell him. This seems like a good time for the switch to have been made.

"Whatever happened later, I rather think that Dragut was simply amusing himself at that point with another variation in the mild game he was playing with Lymond and Gabriel. Of the two he rather preferred Lymond - he’d already offered to kill Gabriel for him, and warned him of Gabriel's plans for Scotland. Lymond goes to save Scotland (contrast with anyone else we know?) but has failed so far to kill Gabriel, which Dragut was rather hoping for. All this while, the corsair has been harbouring the child, the pawn, whom he knows to be Gabriel's lever against Lymond, and whom Dragut might therefore find useful. But if the child and the woman die soon, the game is off. Therefore Dragut alerts Gabriel that the child is going to die or be sold, to see what Gabriel will do. He probably anticipates what will actually happen - Gabriel will tell Lymond that he has a son, and the duel will transfer itself back to the Mediterranean, where Dragut can take a direct hand if he likes."


Dame de Doubtance

Q. I've never been comfortable with the thought of Lymond being a 'believer' in the Dame's schemes and prophecies. Someone recently suggested that his identifying her with Camilla of the Volscians was a process of distancing himself from her - putting his free will against her playing 'fate'.
Bill Marshall's comment: This question seems to come from the fact that some people interpret the final scene in Checkmate as Francis and Philippa, kneeling on the prayer-stool, putting themselves in the hands of the D de D while others see them as having shaken off her influence and saying they are going to do things their own way. Those who think the former are often uneasy with the idea and look for things to suggest that it might not be so. The Camilla of the Volscians idea is one of these.

"The Dame (emphatically, by the way, not my alter ego. No wig and the only livestock I ever kept was a budgie) was called Camille, and the Volscian was no more than a baroque image that seemed to fit her grotesque/eccentric character, and lent itself to later associations. I don't want to pre-empt the last book, but thinking people do hit on various ways of trying to shape the future for the better, and practical and spiritual influences both play a part. If it helps, the most important words spoken to the Dame de Doubtance on the last page of Checkmate are simply, ‘We are here'."


The Event in the Tent - who was it?

Q. Is it really Francis or Gabriel in the tent with Oonagh? In PF, who is the "Unbeliever" who visits Oonagh in her tent and makes love to her? Some of us believe, like Oonagh, that it is Francis. Others believe Dragut when he later tells Oonagh it could not have been Francis, and that therefore it was Gabriel. She seems to believe Dragut, and on this side of the argument, the author did tell us after their first love scene (in QP) that this was the first and last time Francis and Oonagh would make love. Some say this was an act uncharacteristic of Francis but very characteristic of Gabriel; others feel that had it been Gabriel, he would later have taunted Francis with this and he never does. How could Oonagh not know the difference between Francis and Gabriel - even in the dark - when they are physically so different? So who is right?

"Advice: when you hit a puzzle, it often doesn't work to analyse the scene in isolation. That way, you can probably find as many cogent arguments on one side as the other. What is ideal - and God forbid that I should expect you to re-read more than you want to - is to have the whole series fresh in your mind, including all the history of these characters, both on their own and in their relations with one another. These little episodes are ways of asking you to stop and think again about people in the light of the story's overall themes, which have a lot to do with arrogance and responsibility, and very little to do with sentiment. Finally, an authorial voice is an authorial voice. Believe it."


Guzel and her fate

Q. Guzel chose to fly in the face of the Dame de Doubtance's prophecies, believing she could alter destiny or make her own. Did she in fact, as was posited by one character, choose Vishnevetsky as a form of suicide? Did she see no other avenue of advancement, or was she - the idea which puzzles me most - emotionally involved for the first time and unable to cope? I understand that this character, unlike her friend Roxelana Sultan, was not based on a historical personage; where did she come from as an idea?

"I imagine she entered open-eyed into the relationship with Vishnevetsky, and might have won through. But as you say, by that time her fate was no longer important to her. I was attracted to exploring the avenues open to the courtesan of differing ranks in these days, from Primaflora to Diane de Poitier. Everyone has, of course noticed Vishnevetsky's ancestor in Caprice? "


Did the Geomalers really exist?

Q. I am interested in the terms "Geomaler" and "Pilgrims of Love," such as the character Mikel in PAWN. Obviously these terms are Ms. Dunnett's creation but they seem so familiar to me. Can she relate the historical basis, if any, for pilgrims?
Also from another questioner
No one can seem to find anything on the "Pilgrims of love." I have spoken to several people now and searching has been futile. Are/were they real? If not, where did the idea come from. If they were real; can we have a little background, research info, etc.

This answer is not from Dorothy directly but is from information I've received and which is also mentioned in the Dorothy Dunnett Companion.
The Geolmalers did indeed exist and are mentioned in Nicholas de Nicholay's Navigations into Turkie. They were essentially a religious cult who called themselves "Pilgrims of Love". The following is an extract from part of de Nicholay's description.

The life of the Geomalers (to beginne first with them) is not much different from that of the worldly sort, for that the most part of them are fayre young men and of ryche houses, whiche willinglye doe giue themselues to runne about the countrie, and to trauel through many and diuers regions & prouinces, as through Barbarie, Egypt, Arabia, Persia, the Indies, and the whole land of Turkie, for to see and vnderstand the world with great pleasure at other mens charges, vnder colour of their pilgrimage and religion: the most parte of these are good artificers, & the other giuen to reading, & to describe all their voyages, the lands and countries which they haue runne through and trauailed.


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What was the Relationship between Lymond and Wenceslas in Ringed Castle?

Q. My question is about the relationship between Lymond and Venceslas in "The Ringed Castle." What's going on? It isn't just a homosexual relationship is it, because at the time, Lymond is sleeping with Guzel. And also, in previous books, Lymond's homosexual relationships always seem to be a form of manipulation rather than simple pleasure.

Extra comment from Bill Marshall. I mentioned to the person who asked this question that I'd found the scenes with the Aga Morat difficult to interpret, and that seemed to me a more important case, so I put both parts in to Dorothy. I was particularly intrigued to know what was behind the scene where Jerott is called see to the Aga Morat and finds him and Lymond arguing, and Lymond sends him away. Is this a simple case of Lymond protecting Jerott from the Aga's advances or is there more going on? I'm assuming that Lymond had agreed to advances to himself to protect the others after the ambush.

"Read it all through again and see if you can fathom what Guzel is doing. Of course Lymond isn't interested in Venceslas (or anybody). As with Jerott and the Aga, all you have to do is remember that, like Nicholas, Lymond sometimes protects people, and understands that he must pay for it."


Lymond and Eloise

A common question concerns the relationship between Lymond and Eloise, and whether, as Richard seems to think sometimes, there was any incestuous element or not?
Elaine Thompson kindly supplied me with Dorothy's answer from an event in 1982 which also matches well with what she said at her 97 California signing:

"From what I remember about Eloise, the point was that, by being responsible, in a way, for the presence of the gunpowder at the convent, Lymond unwittingly gave his sister a means of finding death, or at least of not avoiding it. The relationship, misunderstood by others, was made tortuous by the fact that Eloise had discovered half the truth about Lymond's birth and, knowing his feeling for Sybilla, didn't know what to do about it, while of course suffering in the knowledge herself. As time went on, and his suspicions grew, she grew more and more afraid of what might happen, and of being the accidental cause of a revelation."

To which she later added this further response:

"The Lymond-Eloise answer is exactly right. I hoped it was obvious that Eloise was wholly untouched, and her death a tragic accident, for which Lymond blamed himself."


St. Mary's - Fact or Fiction?

Q. Is there any historical basis for the mercenary troop at St. Mary's in Disorderly Knights?

"No. But readers in the past, on their way to tour the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch's house at Bowhill, have been able to stop by the side of this very beautiful lake and see where it might have been."

This bring us to a subsidiary question that is often posed by non-Scots - How do you pronounce Buccleuch?
The simple answer to this is Buckloo.
You see and hear more pronunciations and meaning on the Pronunciation page


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Original poetry in Checkmate

Q. In Checkmate, what was the only original poetry by DD, later to be noted on the Rosebush Gift?

"Part IV, Chapter 1. Six lines, of which the second was charmingly engraved on the rose bush:
Thy flying wit I braid with jewellry."


Hexagonal brooch in GK

Q. Is the large Hexagonal brooch in GK based on a real piece of jewellry? ‘A vast, hexagonal brooch set in ebony and diamonds shouted into the sunshine in a cacophony of light. The thing was enormous. Crouch, sitting within yards of the bed, could see the centrepiece was a heart set with pointed diamonds: around the heart and attached to it by foliated gilt wire were crystal plaques, each bearing an angel's head, bewinged and carved in onyx: the plaque below the point of the heart was joined to it by a scroll, and on the scroll in diamonds were the initial letters H and D, entwined. It was the most expensive-looking jewel Mr. Crouch had ever seen in his life.... "H for Henri, D for Diane de Poitiers!" cried Mr. Crouch.’ Anyway, what struck me about this description this time around is that it sounds like an actual piece of jewelry that DD might have seen somewhere.

"Without my notes, this sounds like a description of a piece actually owned by Diane de Poitiers, presumably now lost, or I wouldn't have introduced it. At a guess, I got it from an inventory of Diane's jewellery in one of the many books written about Diane and the French court she lived in."


A Special Item

Dorothy very kindly passed me a copy of an astrological chart for Francis Crawford which she had prepared by a professional astrologer some years ago. Was this what was forcast by the Dame de Doubtance?


 

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