Sarah Canary Q10 - “Owls hoot in B flat, cuckoos in D..."


I had meant to slip gaming discussion into the other threads, but now think it would be better in it's own.

The main thing I'd like to discuss is the format, and we could even take a step away from this novel and discuss this instead in terms of The wizard of Oz. TWoZ presents us with a ready-made part of characters, each of which has strengths and weaknesses - which is pretty much a classic adventuring set-up as per D&D. However, the difference is that the focus is on the weaknesses, rather than the strengths - the thief's heartlessness, if you will, rather than his lock-picking ability. And each character has a personal quest to relieve themselves of their weakness. In TWoZ, they all share the same quest - to first find the wizard, who then insists that they kill the witch before he will help them, so the quest itself is not especially tied to the problems each character needs to solve. This means that they either all receive the help they were looking for, or none do - assuming they all survive.

Any thoughts on this structure? Any ideas on games with which to play it? I know of two Oz inspire games and I have both, but have read neither. Adventures in Oz is one, and I know it trades on a friendship-building mechanic, so it might be just the thing, here. The other is The Zoerceror of Zo, which uses PDQ or PDQ# as the mechanism, if I recall.


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    Interestingly (and nothing to do with gaming, for which sorry) the statement "Owls hoot in B flat, cuckoos in D" was a point in the book where I thought, "I wonder if that's true?" and went off to check. And, apparently, it isn't, according to Gilbert White's Natural History of Selborne, first published in 1789 (not that this discovery in any way changed my opinion of Sarah Canary pro or anti).

    For the dedicated nerds among us - and surely there are some - here is an extract from p175, which perhaps triggered the passage in Sarah Canary...

    "My musical friend, at whose house [Fyfield, near Andover] I am now visiting, has tried all the owls that are his near neighbours with a pitch-pipe set at concert pitch, and finds that they all hoot in B flat. He will examine the nightingales next spring"

    Now, that looks promising, but then...

    "From what follows, it will appear that neither owls nor cuckoos keep to one note. A friend remarks that many (most) of his owls hoot in B flat; but that one went almost half a note below A. The pipe he tried their notes by was a common half-crown pitch-pipe, such as masters use for tuning of harpsichords; it was the common London pitch.
    A neighbour of mine, who is said to have a nice ear, remarks that the owls about this village hoot in three different keys, in G flat or F sharp, in B flat, and A flat. He heard two hooting to each other, the one in A flat and the other in B flat. Query: do these different notes proceed from different species, or only from various individuals? The same person finds upon trial that the note of the cuckoo (of which we have but one species) varies in different individuals; for, about Selborne wood, he found they were mostly in D; he heard two sing together, the one in D, and the other in D sharp, which made a disagreeable concert; he afterwards heard one in D sharp, and about Wolmer Forest some in C."

    So apparently there is natural variation amongst both owls and cuckoos...

    True enthusiasts can purchase The Natural History of Selborne for a mere £1.99 on Kindle; and no doubt something similar in other currencies...

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