Monday, April 23, 2012
On the surface, soap shouldn't be a problem. It's been around for centuries. Certainly, it was available in the 1830's.
So when I decided to have a bathing scene for my characters it should have gone quite smoothly. But wait! They're in the wilderness on a strange planet or dimension. Where would the soap come from?
Earlier in the story I established they had minimal supplies. Is soap one of the things they would have? If so, that generates new problems. My heroine was poor and deprived. It's not likely she would have commercially produced soap, although she could likely have homemade lye soap.
But since she was fleeing for her life--and tossed a few things in a basket on her way out the door--would she remember soap? Would that be something she might probably snatch up in a hurry?
And my hero...he's a Cherokee warrior. True he went back to his village for supplies but a) will he remember soap? And b) if so, would he be more likely to use something like soapwort or some other plant substitute?
I can't tell you how many "western" romances I've read where the hero/heroine used soapweed as they bathed in a river/pond/creek. I spent three hours researching only to find out you don't just dig it up and that's it. If you want suds, you clean the roots, pound/mash them, boil them for twenty minutes, and then use the cooled result to clean body, hair, or clothes. Not exactly conducive to spontaneous sexy bathing.
Back to the soap, then.
Perhaps my heroine could just make some soap. The basic requirements for soap are hardwood ashes, rainwater, and animal fat. It seems like all of that would be readily available in their situation. Oh, yeah. They also need a pot, which I thoughtfully provided earlier in the story.
I spent more hours researching the process of soapmaking. Uh-huh. Actually making it didn't seem too difficult. From beginning to end, it takes about six to eight hours. Of course, once it's "cooked" you need some molds to pour the liquid into. Hmmmm...
And then it needs a couple weeks to harden to a decent soap bar consistency.
All right, all right. One of them will just have to remember to bring along the soap!