Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Help Me Solve a History Puzzle and Win "The Emotion Thesaurus"

I've started researching my next novel about Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen of New Orleans. Much of her legend is completely false, like stories about snakes named Zombi who eat babies and storms blowing houses away with priestesses inside.

Then there are facts that are proven but don't add up. One such mystery has me scratching my head so much that even though I don't think I'll use it in the book, it's going to bug me if I can't come up with any theories. 

I thought we could make a game of it.

Whoever can come up with the most imaginative answer to this question will receive a free PDF version of Emotion Thesaurus by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman.

Let's get our thinking caps on!

Marie Laveau's husband bought an eighteen-year-old slave named Juliette whose contract stated she must be freed at 24-years-old. He resold her within the year because she kept trying to run away. Her next owner sold her within a year for the same reason. Juliette continued swapping hands until Marie Laveau purchased her again, then sold her again. The girl was owned by ten people before she was finally freed at the age of 25.

What was Juliette running from? Or what was she running to? What was so urgent that she couldn't wait until she was 24? Most importantly, why did Marie Laveau buy her again after things didn't work out the first time?

Historical Clues:

My gut reaction says Marie bought her the second time out of pity, and perhaps the first time as well. It's an easy idea to support; Marie was known for being a philanthropist. Almost all of her slaves were in situations where they needed her help: an eight-year-old girl and two pregnant women who already had infants. It's possible that these purchases were all service projects.

If Marie bought Juliette out of pity, it meant she thought she could help the girl somehow. Since the girl was sold again only nine months after her purchase, whatever Marie planned on doing with her - helping her, keeping her safe, using her as a maid - didn't work out. 

Or perhaps Marie planned on owning her for only nine months from the beginning. That doesn't make sense to me, especially since the girl ran away again shortly after Marie purchased her.

There are rumors that Marie Laveau was a procuress of prostitutes, which would lead you to believe Juliette was running from sexual slavery. This is impossible to support. While Marie Laveau was openly criticized for many things in her lifetime, this accusation was only made against one voodoo priestess - Betsy Toleano - who was arrested multiple times for "illegal" mixed-racial gatherings. This is most likely outrageous libel, but even if it was true, no one suspected Marie Laveau of any such misconduct until long after her death.

Modern Marie Laveau enthusiasts say she fought for civil rights, so one might think she wanted to help Juliette earn her freedom before she was 24. This is ridiculous. While Marie owned several slaves, she never freed any of them, and if she was concerned with Juliette's freedom, she wouldn't have sold her twice.

Let the creative theorizing begin!


  1. I won't include my answer since I already own this book, but I can say, it's a great tool and I suggest buying it, even if you don't win the copy. :)

  2. What a great idea for a giveaway contest! Can't wait to see the responses :)

  3. T_McClinton: I can always give you a pat on the back as your reward and give the book to the next best guess.

  4. Nine months? That leads me to wonder if she was with child from her previous owner. And here goes lots of sky high speculation:

    1. Marie was harboring her to protect her. Perhaps the girl was very beautiful and the previous owners became jealous of her.

    2. Reason for first sale: Perhaps there was then tension between Marie and the girl because of Marie's husband, despite her best intentions, for a similar reason. (Ie, love triangle.) Yet when push came to shove, Marie realized that the girl had been done a wrong by being sold.

    3. Or, better yet, maybe Marie was in love with her too. (Could Marie be bisexual?)

    4. Or the girl represented some sort of unresolved conflict from her childhood. Maybe Marie had a sister who resembled her? or something similar? Or she saw her as a daughter figure?

    Anyway, you get the idea.

  5. Nice work, Kris! There are many other possibilities, so let's hear what else you guys got!

  6. Most imaginative answer? Since I need to get into the spirit of thinking up situations and possibly writing, I shall take a crack at this.

    Juliette obviously comes from a long history of powerful women, unfortunately, not for the women. The first woman of this line, was born with a gift. That of giving healthy, bright and beautiful children to others, but never to be kept for herself. This gift was passed on to one daughter in each generation - Juliette being one of these.

    Marie Laveau's husband heard about this legend and purchased her, because he wanted a beautiful, bright and healthy child. After nine months the child was born, looking exactly like a perfect mix between him and his wife. Happy with the outcome, he sold Juliette to someone else.

    Juliette did not want this faith, and though she knew the "blessing" would end at the age of 24, she kept trying to run away. Some of her owners grew tired of it, and sold her off before ever impregnating her, others kept trying and successfully got their child, and then sold her on.

    Due to a horrible tragedy, Marie Laveau's child died in an accident, and while crushed with grief they bought Juliette once more. This time, however, it did not work - as only one child per family could ever be given. Once he realized this he sold her to another family.

    This continued until she was 25, as just before her 24th birthday she became pregnant again. After giving up her babe, she was freed.

    This makes complete sense to me.

    Don't forget to bribe your muse!


  7. Chessny: That's not bad - I can even support it historically. Marie gave birth to seven children, and five of them died young, four in infancy. The second time they bought her was two years after Marie's seven-year-old son died, so you're right about there being a horrible tragedy. They had no other living sons, so it's possible they were trying for a boy.

    I actually told you the wrong dates (embarrassing!). The first time, they only owned her three months, and the second, they only owned her five. Pregnancy could still play a factor, like what you and Kris said, but that timetable complicates things.

  8. It's crazy how different our answers are. My initial idea was that Juliette had a lover she was trying to run away with, but got caught every time she tried to meet him.

    He was bad news and Marie agreed to buy Juliette only if she promised to stop seeing him. When Juliette broke her promise, she sold her, and she bought her again when Juliette promised again she wouldn't run away. Again, she lied and Marie sold her.

    Obviously I can't win my own prize, but I couldn't resist; you guys are having too much fun without me!

  9. She was escaping the threat of a soul bottle.
    She had a sensitivity that Marie desired to exploit

  10. Ooo, what's a soul bottle?

    So maybe she wasn't running away from individual owners but only from Marie, who wanted her so badly that she bought her twice. I like it.

  11. I'm not sure how I missed this until now, but what a cool idea! I'm honored you chose the ET to give away. I hope all these answers give you some good writing ideas as well! :)

    Have a great weekend,


  12. I know this is not creative enough to win, but I'll speculate a little on Juliette's personality. She wanted to be free, and she was a teenager, the right age to run away from something with no clue as to how she will eat or where she will sleep. It might be, too, that she was aware that Marie never freed a slave and likely didn't trust Marie and her husband to honor the contract.

    Was Marie's husband attracted to Juliette? Had Juliette been abused by a jealous wife in such a situation before and fear it would happen again and run away before it could? Did Juliette long to be free and have control over her own body or simple wish for the respectability and stability that free women have? Or what Juliette thinks they have?

    Marie could have moved by pity. Perhaps Juliette was in such a bad situation, she begged Marie to buy her, and then Juliette is a difficult person to be around. Or she's crying all the time and Marie does not know what to do with her.

    This is more long-winded than I intended but I hope it gives you food for thought. Mysteries like this can leave the author overwhelmed by choice but they are perfect place for the novelist to speculate.

  13. I wouldn't say that was uncreative at all! It makes complete sense, and it both explains the events and determines both Marie and Julliet's character. Not to mention the theme of the importance of freedom.


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