30 Times The Outlander Show Differed from the Books
15th May, 2020
Sony Pictures Television
Outlander has had us hooked on it since it's release. It hasn't shied away from introducing a few plot points that make it a bit different from the book. We stan Jamie and Claire’s love that transcends time (literally), and with Droughtlander coming to an end, we’re doing a quick rundown of how much the series has moved away from the books in all these past seasons. Spoilers ahead!
In the books, “goodbyes” never last forever
In the books: Anyone who has read the Outlander texts knows that any “goodbye” does not imply that the characters will never see each other. Thanks to time travel, characters reappear anywhere in the narrative and tend to leave you surprised and entertained. On the show: The show has been unable to portray this. Every “goodbye” feels gut-wrenching, devastating, and set in stone.
The show skipped the moment Brianna gave birth to her child
In the books: In the fifth book, we see Brianna give birth to her son, Jem with her father Jamie and mother Claire in the room. Claire, being the doctor, helps her give birth. At this point, we see that Brianna has finally forgiven Jamie and holds on to him for her dear life. On the show: This extremely emotional scene is completely cut out of the TV series. The creators missed out on the opportunity to show the Fraser family bonding. Instead, the show had her give birth with Aunt Jocasta and handmaidens by her side. We were robbed, ROBBED WE TELL YOU!!
The TV series show Murtagh and Jocasta’s steamy affair
In the books: Well, Murtagh dies at the Battle of Culloden, so it's difficult to see him get together with Jamie’s aunt Jocasta in America. On the show: Since Murtagh has survived and is now living in America, working as a blacksmith and leader to a group of rebels, he ends up meeting Jocasta at Riverrun and the two of them soon end up in an intimate affair.
As per the books, Stephen stole a different ring
In the books: According to Gabaldon, Stephen Bonnet (that creepy villain from season four) steals Claire’s wedding band - the one given to her by Frank. On the show: As per the TV series, Stephen steals Claire’s wedding ring from Jamie, the one he makes out of the key to Lallybroch. The creators of the show made this change as they thought Brianna would easily spot this ring.
The show depicts Jamie’s reaction to seeing Brianna as an internal struggle
In the books: In the third book of the series, Voyager, Jamie finally gets to see the pictures of his bonnie daughter Brianna for the first time and he completely breaks down into tears. On the show: In season three, Jamie sees a photograph of Brianna and unlike the books, has an internal struggle, from being jealous about Frank getting to raise his daughter to showing a portrait of his own son to Claire
The show had more developed versions of Native Americans
In the books: The books are from Claire’s perspective and only have a few interactions with the Native Americans. On the show: The show gave the viewers more diversity and showed Claire and Jamie interact with them and respect their ways and traditions. It also accurately depicted the indigenous people while sensitizing the viewers to the realities of the past.
The second book never even mentions Laoghaire
In the books: Claire’s arch-nemesis Laoghaire is completely missing from the second book of the series Dragonfly in Amber, and honestly, we’re glad! On the show: Laoghaire makes an appearance in season two, episode The Fox’s Lair when Claire and Jamie travel to meet the Old Fox (Jamie’s grandfather). And the interactions between Laoghaire and Claire will literally make you cringe!
Not to mention, Murtagh straight-up dies in the books
In the books: The Battle of Culloden was devastating, it not only caused Claire to go back to her time but also killed off a bunch of characters, Murtagh being one of them. However, the readers didn’t quite feel his loss because he was a secondary character in the books. On the show: Murtagh is more important in the show than the books. He’s more compassionate, more loveable and not to mention totally relatable. And of course, Murtagh survives. Oh, yeahhhhh! Season four shows Jamie reuniting with his godfather.
On the show, Claire makes her own clothes
In the books: In the third book, when Claire decides to go back in time, we see her buy a dress that is time-appropriate for 1766. On the show: The show has Claire make her own clothes. This was actually the designer’s idea and we get to see Claire put her intelligence to use as she sews her own clothes out of raincoats, thus making a more practical outfit.
As per the show, Jamie marries Laoghaire after she tries to get Claire killed
In the books: According to the books, Jamie never knows the full extent of what Laoghaire does when she gets Claire arrested and charged for witchcraft. On the show: Jamie finds out about Laoghaire in season one itself and yet chooses to marry her when Claire goes back to the 20th century. We have only one question - WHY?
The show cut out a super important love scene from season one
In the books: In the books, Claire and Jamie share a moment in a hot spring right after she rescues him. This makes sense in the books as Jamie just laughs the whole thing off and only gets low when he has a fever. On the show: In the last episode of season one, we see Jamie get assaulted by Randall and TBH, it was quite devastating! On the show, Claire rescues him and takes him directly to an abbey for healing his scars. The love scene was cut out and it makes perfect sense for Jamie’s character, especially after all that he had been through, both mentally and physically.
As per the books, the abbey they visited in the last episode of season one is actually in France
In the books: After Jamie is assaulted by Black Jack Randall, Claire takes him to an abbey in France where he recovers. It also shows him taking a lot of time to come to terms with what had happened to him. On the show: On the other hand, the TV series shows Claire rescuing Jamie and taking him to a Scottish abbey to help him heal his mental and physical scars. The series did this to fast track the storyline while also keeping the narrative in mind.
In the books, Claire and Jamie carve each other’s initials into their hands
In the books: In the books, Claire and Jamie literally have each other’s initials carved into their hands before she travels back to her time. This obviously helps the readers gain a profound understanding of their love for each other. On the show: The whole etching thing is a bit too much for TV, and TBH, the creators of the show have struggled to find a way to incorporate this scene into the show.
The second book begins in the future
In the books: The second book Dragonfly in Amber begins with Claire and her full-grown daughter Brianna and then slowly unveils how she traveled to her time, lived her life with Frank, decided to become a doctor, and so on. On the show: Season two of the show does not follow this format. To avoid confusion, the creators decided it would be best if the story followed a linear pattern as Claire travels back to 1948 to create a better understanding of the decisions she makes.
In the books, Jamie proves that Claire is not a witch
In the books: Things are a tad bit different in the books. Jamie does save Claire, but instead of fighting an entire courtroom of people, he just rides in on a horse, throws a crucifix around her neck, and proves that she’s not a witch because the crucifix did not harm her. On the show: In The Devil's Mark episode in season one, Claire and Gellis find themselves charged with witchcraft, and of course, Jamie comes to the rescue as he draws his sword and saves his wife.
The books clearly explain why Claire chooses Jamie
In the books: The texts depict Frank as a hard man and his accounts are anything but pleasing. His character is mean, chauvinistic, insensitive, and not to mention, a womanizer. So, it’s a whole lot easier for readers to sympathize with Claire when she chooses to stay with Jamie. On the show: Frank Randall on the show is quite different from what’s shown in the books. He’s sweet, he dearly loves Claire, and looks for her for almost two years after she goes missing. Frank also has only one mistress in season three. The “good guy” Frank makes it difficult for viewers to see Claire leave him behind. But, the show also proves that Claire and Jamie’s love is super true.
In the books, Claire helps birth a foul and not Jenny’s child
In the books: When Jamie and Claire go to Castle Leoch, The Watch follows them trying to capture the red-headed bandit Jamie. During this time, (at least as per the books) Claire helps birth a foul. On the show: The writers wanted to show the relationship between Claire and Jenny grow into a newfound sisterhood. The setting of the scene is intimate as Claire helps Jenny deliver her child. To keep things authentic to the primitive lifestyle, Jenny is shown crawling on the floor rather than just lying on the bed and pushing out the baby.
In the books, Claire is a GD b@d@$$
In the books: After Claire is sent away from the prison where Randall has kept Jamie, she fights a wolf, all by herself. This is an important moment for her character as it shows that she no longer needs Jamie or anyone else to come save her damsel self. On the show: The TV series skipped this scene because it was difficult to shoot and rather showed Claire grow in different ways.
The show gave us a simplified version of Claire’s wedding ring
In the books: Readers can testify to the fact that in the book, Jamie melts the key to make the wedding ring, but it also describes the ring as “A Highland interlace pattern, the links engraved with tiny, stylized thistle blooms.” A fancy ring fit for a fancy bride. On the show: In season one, episode The Wedding, Jamie makes a ring for Claire. Symbolic of her newly achieved status as the Lady of Lallybroch, the red-headed Scot fashions her a ring out of the key to their home. (OMG, literal tears!) But, the ring is rather simple; the creators of the show only changed it in season four, when it gets stolen by a thief, Stephen Bonnet.
The show didn’t give us enough on Jamie’s family heirloom – the pearl necklace
In the books: Jamie gives Claire the pearl necklace before she walks down the aisle. In fact, the books go further to explain the origins of the necklace and what it meant as he clasps the pearls around Claire’s neck. On the show: The show moved away from the books by showing that Claire receives the family heirloom that belonged to Jamie’s mother as a special gift from him on their wedding night.
The show also has more POVs than the books
In the books: Any reader would know that the entirety of the Outlander book series is narrated by Claire and only Claire. On the show: While the show begins with Claire’s narration, we get a POV from Jamie in the second volume of season one, beginning with the episode The Reckoning. We think the change in POV is a great idea as we get to see the narrative from a completely different perspective.
The books rightly portray how difficult and complex love can be
In the books: Gabaldon sure knows how to write love, for she depicts it exactly how it is - complex and beyond the understanding of us mere mortals. Each character in print deals with this complexity of emotion. On the show: The show portrays the characters and their love as linear and easy as pie, which from our own experiences, we know, is not true!
The books give a better understanding of the clans and their traditions
In the books: Gabaldon’s texts give us a thorough background of the Scottish clans and their prejudices against each other. The books’ in-depth narrative helps appreciate their attitude and pride much better. On the show: We see the clans with their swords at each other’s throats on the show but rarely is it explained why it is so.
The show pretends that Claire ever had a chance to leave Castle Leoch
In the books: The books waste no time pretending that Claire ever had a chance to leave Castle Leoch behind and go back to her supposed family in France. They straight away put her to work as a healer at the castle. On the show: In season one’s episode Castle Leoch, we see Claire pack her bags and get ready to ride out. Alas! She is stopped and kept at the castle as a healer against her will. This isn’t just because the clan required a healer but mainly since Colum, Laird of Castle Leoch suspected her to be an English spy.
Jamie is rumored to be Hamish’s father in the books
In the books: Readers, for a long time believed that it was actually Jamie who fathered Hamish (the son of Colum MacKenzie) but only at the very end was it revealed that Colum’s brother Dougal was Hamish’s actual father. On the show: In the ninth episode of season one, Jamie, Dougal, and the rest of the pack head back to Castle Leoch. Upon their arrival, it is revealed that Colum has been aware of Dougal’s collections for the Jacobite army. As the conversation turns heated, Dougal finally spills the beans that Hamish is actually his son and not Colum’s.
Jamie is left-handed, at least as per the books
In the books: When Sam Heugen who plays Jamie Fraser emailed Gabaldon asking her about why Jamie was left-handed, she first explained the mythological aspects of the decision i.e. left-handedness was seen as a sign that demons had been at your cradle. She also mentioned how red hair was considered synonymous with the devil. So, a red-headed, left-handed person would make for a suspicious character. She also added that Jamie trained with Dougal (who himself is left-handed), thus picking up his moves. On the show: Well, on the show, Jamie is right-handed. We’re guessing casting a red-headed Scot who is also left-handed would be sort of difficult.
The books show more of time travel and explains it better
In the books: The historically accurate series is not only for history buffs but also appeals to sci-fi lovers as it focuses on Claire traveling through time. The entire concept of time travel is deeply inserted into the story, and the books also show how some of Claire’s friends and enemies are time travelers as well. On the show: The show’s explanation of time travel is rather unclear and fans do not get to experience the depths of Gabaldon’s texts.
The books bring history to life
In the books: The Outlander books are a great nod to the history of Scotland. The entire premise of the story is sewn into historical facts, which bring the past to life and make the books so much more interesting to read. On the show: While the show does a great job of portraying life in 18th century Scotland, it misses out on the nuances that are depicted in the book.
The show does not compare to the books when it comes to the intimate scenes
In the books: Reading the novels will make you sweaty, because my word, it is hot! Any reader can testify to the number of intimate moments Claire and Jamie share throughout the books. All of which are epic in nature! On the show: The show has its moments, actually, it has a lot of moments (which we all secretly love) but it’s way “less” intimate than the books. The scenes are toned down by a whole lot.