I love love. There I said it. When I was younger, I was in love with the fairy tale kind of love; the kind where the prince swoops in at the last second to save the day, kiss the princess, and carry her away to their happily ever after. What my naive self did not realize at the time is that we never got to see the “happily ever after” and if we had, it probably wouldn’t have been quite so happy. Would the sequel to Cinderella have included a scene where Cindy throws a plate at Charming’s head? I’d like to think so because, let’s be honest, even Prince Charmings can be total jerk-faces sometimes.
With some age and a great deal of life experience I find that my love of love has moved beyond princes and fairy tales to well, everything. I love music for the way it makes me feel. I love places for the inspiration that they stir in my soul. I love people for the varied experiences that they have brought to my life. I love books for their ability to transport me to different places and times. And yes, I still love love but it’s a different kind of story that I seek out now. I love to read about hearts that are covered in scars, yet still beat furiously. I love to read about lovers who survived the storm because they held fast to each other. You know where I’m headed with this right?
Outlander, at first blush, seems like a fairy tale with a handsome young warrior saving his fair maiden but it’s so much more. It’s about love of place, love of a moment, love with battered and bruised hearts, selfless love, selfish love, and everything in between. For those of you who have only watched the show, you’ve seen many of these things on screen. However, there are a few moments from the books that made big impressions on my soft heart. Here are some of my favorites.
Whatever you want to call the scene (spanking or beating), it was controversial. We saw the Jamie that we had all fallen in love with do something that did not square with our modern idea of a loving man. How could he have done this? I can’t and won’t defend violence against a woman. What I will say is that the book gives us a much clearer picture of the act and its aftermath and we see that, in Jamie’s eyes, and the eyes of the clan, this was justice. It’s the same brand of justice that we see in season 2 when Jamie asks Murtagh to give him six lashes along with Kincaid and Ross for permitting Dougal into the camp with his men unchallenged. It’s the justice that Jamie knew at the hands of his father. It’s the justice that formed him. In the book, Claire and Jamie find themselves on a long ride after the “incident” and Jamie attempts to to describe his point of view to Claire. What follows is Claire’s internal dialogue following Jamie’s explanation.
“As we walked, considering the stories he had told me, I couldn’t help but admire the job he had done. Without one word of direct explanation or apology, he had given me the message he intended. I gave you justice, it said, as I was taught it. And I gave you mercy, too, so far as I could. While I could not spare you pain and humiliation, I make you a gift of my own pains and humiliations, that yours might be easier to bear.”
“I’ve not told anyone about it,” he said abruptly. “But I thought that now ye should know—about Randall, I mean. You’ve a right to know what it is that lies between him and me.” What it is that lies between him and me. The life of a good man, the honor of a girl, and an indecent lust that found its vent in blood and fear. And, I supposed, with a lurch of the stomach, that there was now one more item weighting the scales. Me. For the first time, I began to realize what Jamie had felt, crouching in the window of Randall’s room, with an empty gun in his hand. And I began to forgive him for what he had done to me.
We’ll file this one under battered and bruised hearts. Physical punishment is a difficult idea to swallow today because it’s not part of our culture. Your boss doesn’t prescribe ten lashes when you miss the deadline on a report. In Jamie’s time, however, it was part of the culture and it was what maintained order between and among the clans. This knowledge, along with Jamie’s remembrances of beatings past, made the whole thing a bit easier for me to accept. And let’s not forget that Claire did make a compelling argument about having no more of that nonsense.
Jamie Returning Claire to the Stones
When Jamie learned the truth about Claire, he took her back to the stones so that she could return to her own time. In the show we see Jamie leave Claire and walk down the hill. We see Claire struggle and hear her thoughts as she wrestles with the decision set before her. What we don’t get to see is Jamie’s torment. The following quote is Jamie’s heart-rending confession to Claire the next day.
“I prayed all the way up that hill yesterday,” he said softly. “Not for you to stay; I didna think that would be right. I prayed I’d be strong enough to send ye away.” He shook his head, still gazing up the hill, a faraway look in his eyes. “I said ‘Lord, if I’ve never had courage in my life before, let me have it now. Let me be brave enough not to fall on my knees and beg her to stay.’ ” He pulled his eyes away from the cottage and smiled briefly at me. “Hardest thing I ever did, Sassenach.” He turned in the saddle, and reined the horse’s head toward the east. It was a rare bright morning, and the early sun gilded everything, drawing a thin line of fire along the edge of the reins, the curve of the horse’s neck, and the broad planes of Jamie’s face and shoulders.
Even if you’ve read the books, your heart just melted a little bit. Right? It gets me every single time! I don’t know why this line was omitted from the show. Maybe it was to make room for the incredibly beautiful montage showing the ride to Lallybroch. Whatever the reasoning, it seems wrong to have deprived the audience of a scene that so perfectly summarizes our hero. In those few words he was noble, brave, vulnerable, heartbroken, and scared. He was Everyman.
Jamie’s References to Claire’s Hair
In the show, we see Claire struggle a few times with her hair, but in the books Claire’s hair is like a separate character. Jamie is fascinated with and amused by it. These are my favorite references.
“You’ve the loveliest hair,” said Jamie, watching me.
“What? This?” I raised a hand self-consciously to my locks, which as usual, could be politely described as higgledy-piggledy.
You’re a fuzzy wee thing when ye wake, to be sure.” He rolled over toward me, reaching out a hand. “Come here, my wee milkweed. We’ll not leave before sunset. If we’re not going to sleep …” In the end, we did sleep a bit more, peacefully entangled on the floor, atop a hard but bugless bed composed of my cloak and Jamie’s kilt.
“God, you are so beautiful,” he said softly. “Unkempt and unlsept, wi’ the waves of your hair all about your face. Bonny love. Have ye sat here all night long, then?”
The hair that vexes Claire, sets her apart from other women, and, quite possibly, is intended to be a visual representation of her feisty independence that both intrigues Jamie and endears Claire to him. It’s another element in Jamie’s connection to Claire.
I wore my hair long and straight for many years, but a few years ago decided to cut it all off and embrace my natural curls (funny what turning 40 will do for a woman’s mindset). I love being free of the straight iron but I also love my partner’s fascination with the curls. When I stumbled upon Outlander last year, I loved that there was a heroine who didn’t fit the traditional standards of beauty. Claire was, indeed, a rare woman, and Jamie loved her for it. #relationshipgoals
After rescuing Jamie from Wentworth, the clan took him to a monastery to heal. While there, Claire befriends a monk named Father Anselm. Their conversations are the basis for some moving passages.
Early in her stay at the monastery, Claire discusses the perpetual adoration with Father Anselm. She questions how he can stay awake for an hour in the middle of the night. Father Anselm replies,
“For me, in that moment…” He paused. “It’s as though time has stopped. All the humors of the body, all the blood and bile and vapors that make a man; it’s as though just at once all of them are working in perfect harmony.”…”But just then, for that fraction of time, it seems as though all things are possible. You can look across the limitations of your own life, and see that they are really nothing. In that moment when time stops, it is as though you know you could undertake any venture, complete it and come back to yourself, to find the world unchanged, and everything just as you left it a moment before. And it’s as though…knowing that everything is possible, suddenly nothing is necessary.”
Later as Claire sits in the chapel by herself she realizes that “For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough”.
While these were not romantic scenes, I loved them nonetheless. The deep spirituality of the text reminded me of those moments in my own life where the physical world seemed to fall away and I found myself moved in ways that I have never been able to articulate. Jamie’s onscreen healing was intense. It was difficult to watch because it was concentrated into one episode. In the book, Jamie’s healing was much more gradual and his interactions with Claire were interspersed with those beautiful moments between Claire, Father Anselm, and the spiritual world around them.
Your Face is My Heart
In the show, Annalise de Marillac finds Jamie at the ball and their brief encounter leads to one of my favorite Claire looks. In the book, Jamie spots Annalise across the room and he tells Claire that he once fought a duel to win her affections. He says that she was “graceful as the wind, and so small that ye wanted to tuck her inside your shirt and carry her like a kitten”.
As the two sat beside a fountain, Jamie recounted the duel and his life in the weeks after being spurned by Annalise (he briefly considered being a monk) and Claire grew quiet.
“What is it, Sassenach?” he asked, laying a hand on my arm.
“Oh, nothing,” I said with a sigh. “Only thinking that I rather doubt anyone will ever describe me as ‘graceful as the wind.’”
“Ah.” His head was half-turned, the long, straight nose and firm chin lighted from behind by the flow of the nearest lantern. I could see the half-smile on his lips as he turned back toward me.
“Well, I’ll tell ye, Sassenach, ‘graceful’ is possibly not the first word that springs to mind at the thought of you.” He slipped an arm behind me, one hand large and warm around my silk-clad shoulder.
“But I talk to you as I talk to my own soul,” he said, turning me to face him. He reached up and cupped my cheek, fingers light on my temple.
“And Sassenach,” he whispered, “your face is my heart.”
Sigh. I’ve always felt a little a lot like Claire; too tall, too uncoordinated, too awkward to ever be graceful. And then someone appears in your life who focuses not on the superficial traits that are prone to fade with time and age, but the love and connection shared between you. I don’t know about you, but I have no need to feel graceful if my love talks to me as he talks to his own soul.
Return to the Stones and a Final Goodbye
In the season 2 finale, Jamie returns Claire to the stones before the Battle of Culloden. In the show, they go directly to the stones and give us, arguably, the most heartbreaking scenes from either season. In the book, their last goodbye extends through an evening that Jamie and Claire spend in a cabin at the base of Craigh na Dun.
Claire attempts to make a case for returning to the battlefield with Jamie.
“Jamie,” I said, into the folds of his plaid. “I’m going back with you.”
He started back, staring down at me
“The hell you are!” he said.
“I am.” I felt very calm, with no trace of doubt. “I can make a kilt of my arisaid; there are enough young boys with the army that I can pass for one. You’ve said yourself it will all be confusion. No one will notice.”
“If you’re not afraid, I’m not either,” I said, firming my own jaw. “It will… be over quickly. You said so.” My chin was beginning to quiver, despite my determination. “Jamie – I won’t… I can’t… I bloody won’t live without you, and that’s all!”
“D’ye think I don’t know?” he asked softly. “It’s me that has the easy part now. For if you feel for me as I do for you – then I am asking you to tear out your heart and live without it.”
“But ye must do it, mo duinne. My brave lioness. Ye must.”
Jamie then reveals to Claire that he knows she is pregnant and he begs her to return so that she may save their child.
“Claire,” he said quietly. “Tomorrow I will die. This child… is all that will be left of me – ever. I ask ye, Claire – I beg you – see it safe.”
“I stood still, vision blurring, and in that moment, I heard my heart break. It was a small clean sound, like the snapping of a flower’s stem.”
There is so much emotion in these exchanges that it’s a bit difficult to unpack it all. Jamie and Claire are left suspended in this moment with their emotions laid bare. Claire wants only to die with Jamie and Jamie wants only to give their unborn child the opportunity to live. Jamie calls her his “brave lioness” because he believes that Claire would, indeed, follow him back to the battlefield and die at his side.
The love, devotion, and bravery would easily stand on their own, but Diana gave us just a bit more with the visual of Claire’s breaking heart. While we don’t hear those words in the show we do see an anguished Claire in the middle of the road after returning through the stones. She’s on her knees, clutching her stomach, and screaming… a primal sort of scream… the kind of scream that could only come from one who has just lost everything. Each time I watch that scene I have a deep appreciation for the show writers who didn’t give us the words, but gave us the feelings, nonetheless.
It reminds me of events in my own life when I can sift through the chaos of everything that was and pinpoint a single moment of heartbreak. And sometimes, even years beyond the event, I can still feel the tiniest pang in my heart at its remembrance.
In preparation for this post, I reviewed all of the highlighted notes (and there were many) in my Kindle to decide what I should and shouldn’t include. It might not surprise you to know that many of the highlights were steamy sex scenes. A blog post with only sex scenes might actually be erotica and I’ve been told that’s not what we do here. So, I was left with lots of little moments from both Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber that spoke to me in different kinds of ways. All of them can be distilled into one theme – love. Brave love, true love, hard-fought love, and undying love are the loves that move me in my everyday life and they are the loves that keep me coming back to this book time and time again.