Jules Verne Forum



A possible origin for the harfang in Les Indes noires

From: Ian Thompson <ithompson~at~geog.gla.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2005 18:18:28 +0100
To: "Jules Verne Forum" <jvf~at~Gilead.org.il>

It is well known that Verne used guide books and travelogues for specific
detail in his novels.In the case of his 1859 journey to Scotland it is clear
that he consulted Nadier's "Promenade de Dieppe aux montagnes de l'Ecosse"
(1821) which I have been reading today.In producing "Voyage à reculons en
l'Angleterre et en Ecosse" Verne provides detail and descriptions which
coincide directly with Nadier's observations (who covered the same itinerary
in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs). More intriguingly, in
the section of his travelogue around Loch Katrine, Nadier recounts two
frightening incidents involving large birds. First, he is pursued
aggresively by a "great white bird" for 5 or 6 miles (almost certainly an
owl judging by my own youthfull rural experiences when cycling at dusk).
Secondly, as night falls, Nadier is terrified by a giant owl suddenly
springing up from a tree beside him with its prey in its talons. It seems
possible that this combination of darkness, giant owls with fierce talons
and the location at Loch Katrine directly above the mine of New Aberfoyle
could well have triggered in Verne's mind the idea of the harfang (Snowy
Owl) in Les Indes noires. The idea of using a wild bird of prey as an
important character, indeed a determining character in the denouement of the
plot, is so imaginative that it is perhaps just possible that reading
Nadier's account (which was published in a handy pocket sized volume) put
the seeds of the idea in his head.
Perhaps there are stronger theories that I have not heard of.
Received on Wed 20 Apr 2005 - 20:04:15 IDT

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