Welcome to Easter Egg Wednesday, although I guess it’s not so much Easter Eggs as stories behind the story. Each Wednesday, I’ll go through a chapter of a book or work in progress and provide a bit of background information on five random things that have some meaning or story behind them. If you have a request for a particular book (or a question about something in a particular book and what’s behind it–a name, an event, a thing), just let me know in the comments!
We need to stay spoiler free, however!
I thought I’d start with BELLE CHASSE since it’s the newest book. Here are some of the things that you might find interesting.
The Flambeaux. In the first chapter, Jean Lafitte is holding a flambeau, and flambeaux (plural) are set up around the transport. Here is a flambeaux:
So, yeah, basically it is a flaming torch. In New Orleans, flambeaux have traditionally been tied to Mardi Gras, as flambeaux carriers would walk alongside the parade routes to light the way. Now that there are street lights, one might think the flambeaux carriers would be out of work, but NOLA hangs onto its traditions, and so the flambeaux carriers still accompany many of the krewes (parading clubs). It’s also tradition to toss the flambeaux carrier a coin for his work. DJ did not give Jean Lafitte a coin, however 🙂
Grand Terre Island. The opening scene of Belle Chasse takes place on Grand Terre, a coastal barrier island off the Louisiana coast south of New Orleans. Grand Terre and its “twin,” Grand Isle, were in Jean Lafitte’s time both fairly large islands, and it was on Grand Terre that Jean lived and off which he anchored his ships. After the War of 1812, the Americans went back on their word and burned all of Jean’s village on Grand Terre, driving him and his men over to Texas, and then they built a fort, Fort Livingston. Today, Grand Terre has mostly disappeared due to erosion, and it is maintained as an uninhabited wildlife refuge. The remains of Fort Livingston are still there. (To the west, Grand Isle has survived and is a popular fishing and vacation spot.)
Barataria. Grand Terre is the southern edge of the area known as Barataria, lying between Barataria Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The northern edge of the bay in Jean Lafitte’s time was swamp crisscrossed by serpentine waterways, of which he and his men were said to be very skilled in navigating. This was his “kingdom,” and the authorities of New Orleans were afraid to venture into it. Today, the northern edge of Barataria Bay is taken up by the small town of Jean Lafitte, Louisiana, and by a wetlands preserve that is part of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. I think Jean would be pleased at the irony of it!
Mahout, aka Charlie. DJ’s elven staff has the ceremonial name of Mahout. Even though I generally use Welsh as the elven language in the series, Mahout is derived from a Sanskrit word and refers to an elephant trainer. Don’t tell DJ, however, or she might think Rand is calling her an elephant and those two have enough issues.
Andouille. Most of you probably know this one. DJ at one point says Rene is hauling her down the beach like a sack of andouille. This is simply a Cajun version of a spicy smoked pork sausage. Lots of places sell it, but lots of folks in New Orleans (including me) would drive west to the suburb of LaPlace, La., to Jacobs’ “world-famous” store. My friend Debbie and I would make semi-annual pilgrimages to Jacobs to stock up.
And that’s it for this week! Have you ever tried andouille? Lots of mainstream companies make it now…although it’s not quite the real thing. 🙂