Outlander has been one of the most popular recent fantasy series in both literature and on television. Here’s how the books differ from the TV series.
With the sixth season finale recently ending to acclaim and high viewership, Outlander is a journey to the past that has hooked viewers into binge-watching. Based on an unfinished nine-book series by Diana Gabaldon, who is also a consultant for the series, the story of the star-crossed lovers Jaime and Claire still has a lot to tell. With the American Civil War on the horizon, the couple will face some dreadful events. The first novel was published back in 1991, and it was supposed to be a practice novel; Gabaldon never intended for anyone to see it. Thankfully, that was not the case.
Over 31 years later, the fan base of this time-warping period romance story is so strong that old fans wait on the edge of their seats for new installments. In the latest published book, Tell The Bees That I Am Gone, Jaime and Claire are nothing like the young couple the reader met in the first book so many years ago, and yet, their love and adventures remain compelling, as does the feeling of being able to watch them grow older and have a family.
Book to film or series adaptations are tricky. There is a need to respect the original story, but at the same time, television is an enteriely different medium. Especially regarding the author’s dense material: the smallest book in the series has over 600 pages. Gabaldon said that, “The show does a wonderful job with adapting the source material, but they have very limited space in which to tell a story — I don’t.” Because of that, there are always alterations regarding the plot, and even the characters. Even though it remained remarkably loyal to the source material, a few changes had to be made. Here are the main differences between the Outlander
books and the show.
The Stones Didn’t Work
When Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and Roger (Richard Rankin) go to the stones to travel back to the future: it doesn’t work. However, when they do this in book six, to seek medical care that didn’t exist in that period of time for a family member, it works. This choice made fans confused as to why the series makes the walk all the way over there only for it to not work. Jeremy, their son, can hear the stones just like his parents; so there isn’t really a reason why it didn’t work.
How Murtagh Died
Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) was definitely one of those characters who the fans loved to see. He heartbreakingly died in season five of the series. However, that came as a surprise when the character reappeared after the Battle of Culloden on the show. In the book, Murtagh dies alongside many Scots in Scotland, in the battle the fans dread as much as the characters. Murtagh dies in the arms of Jaime (Sam Heughan, a potential Bond), just like in the show – but much earlier. It was a change that may have happened because of the love for the character, but either way it was nice to see his familiar face for a while longer (25 years more, to be exact). There is no point pretending otherwise: he would fight hand in hand with the Confederates (especially against the British) without a second thought.
Jaime Wears The Red Coat
Jaime wearing the red coat of the British army after battling the British and the injustices they committed in Scotland was hard to watch. Especially because he recognized the same issues he fought against in his homeland in America. It is important to remember that Jaime, at one point, was in prison and tortured (almost to death) by the British. So, to enter a battlefield against his own, wearing their colors, was almost physically violent to endure. In the books, this doesn’t happen, but the actor himself said he fought to see Jaime wearing the coat as a visual representation of the deal with the devil he made. After living in highlander skin for over five years, Heughan said he had a visceral reaction when putting on the coat.
Claire’s Stolen Wedding Ring
When the characters are traveling by boat, they are attacked by no other than Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speelers). While robbing the ship, he attacks Claire (Caitriona Balfe). She tries to swallow her wedding rings; one is Frank’s, and the other is Jaime’s. In the books, Bonnet steals Frank’s wedding ring and not Jaime’s like in the show. That’s why Brianna was able to recognize it instantly: it was her father’s (the man who raised her) wedding ring to her mother. However, the producers said that while it made sense in the books, in television it was just another golden band – a lot harder to identify.
Brianna’s First Encounter Back In Time
When Brianna travels through the stones and finds herself in Scotland, she continues her plan to find her parents. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as she imagined, because they are currently in what would become The United States. As she heads to her family’s home, Lallybroch, she encounters Jaime’s past lover (if you could call her that), Laoghaire (Nell Hudson). They become friends until Laoghaire finds out who is Brianna’s mother. In the books, Brianna meets her aunt Jenny, her uncle, and her cousins. It was an interesting change because it created a parallel with Claire and Marsali’s (Lauren Lyle), Laoghaire’s daughter, relationship.
Frank (Tobias Menzies) and Claire’s marriage is never the same when she comes back from the past. Having found her true love in the 1700s, Claire grieves the loss of her husband and the life she could have had with him. The marriage quickly falls apart, even though Frank decides, early on, that he is going to be a father to Brianna. In the books, it is clear that Frank has a lot of mistresses over the course of their years together. In the show he only had one. However, in the books, Frank is a lot more discreet regarding his affairs and never invited his mistresses to their home – as happens in the TV show.
Murtagh and Jocasta’s Love Affair
In season four, Murtagh and Jocasta (Maria Doyle Kennedy) develop a romantic relationship. This never happened in the books since Murtagh was already dead when the characters moved to the United States. It is revealed later on in the books that Jocasta did have a secret love affair while she was married to Hector Cameron, but with a completely different person. Jocasta had an affair of over 20 years with her butler, Ulysses. He does appear on the show, but he doesn’t have the same importance to the story.
Claire and Jaime’s Scars
When Claire has to go back to the future, with the Battle of Culloden minutes away from beginning, she is desperate to remember Jaime, who is most certainly dying in this battle. In the books, they scar their initials on each other’s hands, so that they have a physical reminder of each other – Claire for the rest of her life and Jaime for (what they thought were) the last minutes of his. In the series, they decided that Claire would leave him with a dragonfly in an amber rock, a wedding gift they received. The author of the book wasn’t too happy with the change, but it was mostly a matter of too many things to deal with in one scene.