Tuesday, October 25, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour: The Bone House Day Two

The Bone House
The protagonists of The Bone House interact with several historical personages on their ley travels and I suspect an English Egyptologist served as the inspiration for at least one of the protagonists.

Thomas Young (13 June 1773 – 10 May 1829) figures in the narratives of Kit and Wilhelmina and I'm hoping he will be back in The Spirit Well. An English polymath, Young made contributions to physics, physiology, and Egyptology, particularly deciphering hieroglyphics. Lawhead provides a biographical sketch of Young in the essay that concludes The Bone House. Wilhelmina describes Young as "the last man on earth to know everything" (p. 43).

Dr. Thomas Young by
Sir Thomas Lawrence.
Wilhelmina and Kit bring Young, at least the one living in a particular multiverse, into the circle of ley-knowledgeable people. Young at first thinks Wilhelmina insane but the force of her arguments and personality win him over and he agrees to a test. As a scientist, he demands some physical proof of Wilhelmina's claims. The proof turns out to be several items from the future that Kit presents to Young who is on an archeological dig in Egypt. Young's worldview is thoroughly shaken, but he soon recovers and makes forays into the philosophical ramifications of ley travel during a conversation with Kit. Young will serve as a great mouthpiece for voicing some of the themes behind Lawhead's multiverse world which is why I hope he returns in the next volume. Later, Kit guides Young to the discovery of the tomb of Anen, an Egyptian priest from the 18th dynasty who had known Arthur Flinders-Petrie. Young finds a treasure of artifacts in the undisturbed tomb and Kit finds a piece of the skin map. At one point during their conversations, Young tells Kit that his aim is “To unravel the mystery of tombs” (p. 179). We learn later that at least some of the skin map pieces have been hidden in various tombs which adds another level of meaning to Young's statements.

*Statue of Roger Bacon in the
Oxford University Museum of
Natural History.
The next historical figure to make an appearance is Roger Bacon, an English philosopher and Franciscan whom some consider an early champion of the scientific method. Bacon lived from circa 1214 to 1294. Known as Doctor Mirabilis, which means "wonderful teacher," he studied at Oxford and later taught there as well as lecturing at the University of Paris. In his writings, Bacon comments on mathematics, optics, alchemy, astronomy, and astrology. He called for reforms in theology, arguing that the Bible should be placed at the center of study and that scholars should thoroughly understand the languages of their source materials. Posing as a visiting scholar/monk from Ireland, Douglas Flinders-Petrie meets with Bacon in medieval Oxford to acquire his assistance in deciphering the symbols in the skin map.

Turms the Immortal plays a role in Arthur Flinders-Petrie's narrative. Many years previous, when Turms was a young prince, Arthur had been his student. Now the priest-king of the Etruscans, Turms receives omens, foretells the future, and passes judgements for his people. Arthur brings the pregnant Xian-Li to Turms to learn if the child she carries is still alive. Following a divination ceremony, Turms announces to the couple that the child is not only alive but will enjoy a long life. Unlike Thomas Young and Roger Bacon, Turms is not a real person but a deity from Etruscan mythology. Like the Greek god Hermes, Turms is a messenger between the gods and humans as well as the god of trade. The deity's role as a messenger seems appropriate to Turms the Immortal's role as a soothsayer.

Many critics make a career of speculating about and tracking down a writer's sources. While researching Turms, I came across a novel by Mika Waltari, a Finnish writer of historical novels, titled The Etruscan (1956). The story traces the amazing life of Lars Turms the immortal in ancient Greece and Rome. I haven't read Waltari's novel so I can't speculate on the connection between Waltari's Turms and Lawhead's Turms, but the coincidence is intriguing.

Flinders Petrie, in Jerusalem (1930's).
Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) was an English archeologist and Egyptologist who pioneered systematic methods and artifact preservation. Early in his career he surveyed various Roman and stone-age sites in England then traveled to Egypt to apply the same methods to the ancient Egyptian monuments. During his long career, Flinders Petrie performed excavations in Egypt and Palestine. He discovered the first mention of Israel in an Egyptian source and trained a generation of archeologists, including Howard Carter. Did the archeologist Flinders Petrie serve as an inspiration for Lawhead's Arthur Flinders-Petrie? Both are explorers, pioneers in new methods, and both have an affinity for Egypt.

Photo Credits:
*Photograph of Roger Bacon's statue taken by Michael Reeve, 30 May 2004. This image is used in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of The Bone House from the publisher.

Stephen R. Lawhead's website:

To read what other CSFF bloggers are saying, follow the links below.

Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
Carol Bruce Collett
Karri Compton
D. G. D. Davidson
Theresa Dunlap
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Janeen Ippolito
Becca Johnson

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Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant


  1. Jeff, as usual, you go above and beyond the call of duty. This is delightful.

  2. I really liked the extra effort you took to research the names. I suspected they were based on real characters but never took the time to check it out. Thanks! Great reviews.

  3. I agree with Thomas, Jeff. This is an outstanding post. I love the look at the historical characters, but even more the potential influences on Mr. Lawhead. Very intriguing. I know from his book trailer that he did a lot of research for this series. It shows!


  4. I really enjoyed your research. I wondered where the names came from and suspected they were based on real people. Good review. Thanks for the insight.

  5. Thanks, everyone. I'm glad you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed researching it.