" war with Afghanistan "
This refers to the Second Anglo-Afghan War, fought between Britain and Afghanistan from 1878-1880. The events of this war dominate the final section of The Far Pavilions.
" must of course be an Afridi "
Afridi soldiers in 1895 - Credit: Idleguy
The Afridis are a Pashtun tribe inhabiting parts of India and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border regions. Most Afridis are Muslims.
" that same Major Cavagnari "
Pierre Louis Napoleon Cavagnari, who features prominently in the second half of The Far Pavilions
, was a real historical character. Cavagnari was born in France in 1841 but became a British citizen and served in the East India Company. He was made deputy commissioner of Peshawar in 1877, and the following year was part of a British mission to Kabul. He and the other members of the mission were killed in Afghanistan in 1879.
" ride like a Valkyrie "
The Ride of the Valkyrs by JC Dollman - Credit: Haukurth
Valkyries are female figures from Norse mythology. They were sent by the god Odin to claim dead heroes from battlefields and bring them to Valhalla, the 'hall of the slain'.
The Valkyries have inspired countless poems, paintings and musical compositions. They are usually portrayed as beautiful but armed maidens mounted on winged horses.
Listen on Spotify: The Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner.
" a new Viceroy, Lord Lytton "
The Earl of Lytton, Edward Robert Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, was Viceroy of India from 1876 to 1880. He served during the Great Famine of 1876-78
and during the Second Anglo-Afghan War.
Lytton also published several volumes of poetry under the name Owen Meredith.
" a hoopoe flew down "
The Hoopoe is a bird belonging to the family Upupidae. It is found in Africa, Asia and parts of Europe. The Hoopoe has a very distinctive appearance, as illustrated in the picture to the left.
" And dark and true and tender is the North "
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), was Poet Laureate during the 19th century. The line quoted in The Far Pavilions is taken from his poem "O Swallow, Swallow":
"O tell her, Swallow, thou that knowest each, That bright and fierce and fickle is the South, And dark and true and tender is the North."
Read Tennyson's poems online here:
" the rarefied atmosphere of Simla "
Simla (now Shimla), is the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh, India. It is a beautiful hill station located in the Himalayas and was declared the 'summer capital' of the British in 1864. Its name derives from the goddess Shyamla, who is believed to be an avatar of Kali.
Today Shimla is a popular tourist destination.
" Dost Mohammed Khan was once again Amir "
Dost Mohammad Khan
Dost Mohammed Khan became Amir of Afghanistan in 1826. He ruled until 1839 and then again from 1843-1863. After his death at Herat in 1863, he was succeeded by his son Sher Ali Khan.