Ah, how quickly Dr. Fian’s star rose.
You’d think that of the two, Ignacio would be based on a real person, but back in the game-days I just named him and left it at that. He wasn’t going to be that important. Doubly so for Dr. Fian, who, if I recall correctly, wasn’t in the game at all and only surfaced in the story as the punchline to an off-hand remark.
Let’s see if we can retrace the steps.
I did a lot of reading on historical figures, in the broadest sense of the word, who (allegedly) made deals with the devil. There are the obvious choices, like Robert Johnson, or Niccolò Paganini. Both are referenced, naturally. Paganini literally and Robert Johnson by way of the crossroads, as is basically law when dealing with the devil. Also Bernard Fokke, who turned out to have been the model for the captain of the Flying Dutchman. I wound up with a whole bunch of people I thought I was going to use for a gag with the Hecatelecom Automated Phone Service menu in the game, but it never managed to take any form before I abandoned the project entirely.
And that brings us no closer to the enigma that is Dr. Fian. Well, I very much wanted a Scottish link to the Underworld, because I was sticking everything I loved in the game and I hadn’t done Scotland yet. Turns out the Scots don’t really need the devil’s help to get things done.
Except for John Fian.
I’m gonna give you the story as history remembers it, but I have to inform you that my version of Dr. Fian has some of those elements reshaped to better fit the joke he initially was.
Right. We find ourselves at the end of the 16th century in the general East Lothian area of fair Scotland. Can’t really get it closer than that, there are various accounts of the story and none of them agree on much, so I picked the one I liked best.
A school teacher by the name of John Fian a.k.a. John Cunningham a.k.a. Johnne Sibbet is going about his business, lusting after the sister of one of his pupils, as you do. Back in those times, this was nothing of note and everybody was having a McHappy time.
Except for the local magistrate, David Seton, and his son, David. Not a lot of names had been invented yet.
These Davids were both fervent witch hunters—a legitimate hobby in the 16th century—and the elder David thought it was about time to start suspecting one of his maidservants, Geillis Duncan, of witchcraft. In the resulting torture session she quickly confessed and named several others, accidentally triggering what became known as the North Berwick witch trials. I’m not going to make any criticism of the 16th century Scottish judicial system because everybody knows that torture is the most effective way to acquire tangible proof.
Now, this is where the story gets a little hazy, as it seems like Fian is brought to trial and is let off the hook because even though he dealt with Satan, he renounced Satan now, and that was okay. The complexities of law have always eluded me, so this is what’ll we have to work with.
It was probably because John Fian did deal with the devil, and the devil promised him he would get everything he wanted. Likely, Fian really wanted to not be executed.
Another thing Fian really wanted was Agnes Sampson (though I believe I may have mixed up some names here and you should never believe a fiction-writer’s recounting of history), the sister of the pupil mentioned earlier.
This part of the story gets really odd and I like how this was just a thing you did back then. Okay, so check this out. Because Fian has such a witch-boner for this girl, one of the witches in the coven he turned out to be the boss of, tells him he needs three of Agnes’ pubic hairs to enchant. Still with me? It gets better.
He decides to acquire these hairs through Agnes’ little brother, by promising not to beat him during his lessons.
“Hey, kid! See how I’m not beating your ass right now, like a normal person? There’s more where that came from if you get me your sister’s pubes.”
Well, the kid went for it. Sadly, the kid also was a shitty ninja because Scotland in the 16th century wasn’t aware of ninjas. In fact, I would wager nobody is aware of ninjas until it’s too fucking late.
Right, the kid gets caught trying to—and I just want to say this one more time—steal his sister’s pubic hair. One more for the road: He gets caught trying to steal hair from the spot on his sister no brother should ever have knowledge of. Yes? Have you ever been caught masturbating? Don’t answer, please, and think back to that. Now add your sister’s pubic hair to the equation.
The recounting doesn’t mention if anyone got their ass whooped, but considering the way emancipation is going now, I assume the sister got a stiff bitch slap. Or maybe not, because the plot thickens, oh yes. Turns out, Agnes was a witch too and she knew her magic. She had the kid grab some hairs off a cow’s udder and it worked.
The cow fell madly in love with John Fian, much to the amusement of the villagers, and less so to that of the magistrate, who wasted very little time whipping out the Spanish boot.
And that’s the glorious tale of Dr. John Fian, or, a version of it. The wiki doesn’t even mention the cow situation outside of a caption. But this is the version I’m sticking with because as gruesome as it must have been then, it’s pure comedy gold now.
And this is a highland cow.