Forget-me-not: Outlander’s Powerful Use of Flowers to Tell Stories
Written by: Anne Hawkinson
It’s summer, the heat index is unapologetic, and we’re in the very real throes of Droughtlander. What’s an Outlander-obsessed gal to do but hibernate indoors and commit to re-watching every episode. . . again? I just hope my DVDs don’t melt in the player from overuse.
On one of my many viewings, my mind began to focus on one of the small, easy-to-gloss-over story elements I’d missed earlier – flowers. Such small, but powerful vital story elements that deserve their time in the sun. What specifically caught my eye was the one that started it all – the forget-me-not. Claire noticed them in the very first episode, the first day she and Frank visited Craigh Na Dun, but wasn’t sure of their identity. She goes back to the stones to collect some and, well, we all know what happens next. Wow. What a powerful flower! But what of the forget-me-not itself? Does it have a story of its own to tell?
Legend has it that in medieval times, a knight and his lady were walking along the side of a river. The knight gathered some flowers for her, but lost his balance due to the weight of his armor and fell into the river. As he was drowning, he threw the flowers to her, saying, “Forget me not!”
Jamie is the love of Claire’s life, and here’s where the meaning of the forget-me-not truly shines. My informal research found phrases such as “true and undying love”, “a connection that lasts through time”, and “fidelity and loyalty in a relationship, despite separation or other challenges.” Wow. If that doesn’t describe Jamie and Claire’s story to a tee then I don’t know what does. One more – “remembrance during partings or after death” – played out in the finale of season two when Claire returned to Scotland after Frank’s death. She’s certain Jamie is dead, but can’t help visiting the places that connected them in life – Lallybroch, Culloden – and she finds herself immersed in research, trying to find out what happened to Jamie. Will we see the little blue flowers on Craigh Na Dun when Claire returns to find Jamie, now that she knows he survived the Battle at Culloden?
Claire and Jamie have a wonderful exchange, getting to know each other a bit, and Jamie tells Claire what he used to do when he would visit the Black Kirk as a young boy. Besides climbing the walls, pissing on the stones (in defiance of the devil), sometimes they’d find berries or wood garlic to eat. He says he didn’t care much for the taste and shows it to Claire, who recognizes it immediately as lily-of-the-valley.
Let’s take one last flower-fueled journey back to season two, in the heart-wrenching “Faith.” Claire lost the daughter she was carrying and Jamie is locked up in the Bastille for dueling with Black Jack Randall. After weeks in the hospital, Fergus visits and begs her to come home and we see them arrive at Jared’s apartment. The carriage door opens, and Fergus is the first to exit, holding a very powerful symbol in his hand – a bouquet of blue anemones.
They’re not a casual prop, just something nice for Fergus to hold in his hand as a gift to Claire. The word “anemone” comes from the Greek word meaning, “the wind’s daughter.” Baby Faith is gone from the earthly world, but does her memory float on the wind? Anemones symbolize the death of a loved one or the loss of them to someone else. The dual meaning is a poignant reminder to Claire – she’s lost her daughter, but she’s also lost Jamie – to the Bastille.