Hello, fellow Outlander-ites! We’re going to get a bit old-school today and talk about some of the the myths and legends explored in the Outlander series. Diana Gabaldon is basically a genius and has tied together so many facts and folk stories that there have been entire books written about them. So, here are just a few of the things that went into Outlander.
CAUTION: unless you’ve read and finished the books, this WILL contain spoilers for season three, and beyond.
Changelings are a common theme in many areas of the world, but in Scotland they take the place of human children. Why? Many legends say many things, but most commonly, a beautiful newborn would be taken to be raised among the faeries, or wee folk, and “replaced” with a frail and irksome child. It was said that an elderly faery had taken their place to be nurtured in its old age until it died. This myth was perpetuated by “cradle death” and other common miladies that would often claim the lives of young children.
If a parent suspected their true child had been taken, there were several ways of getting their baby back. However, some weren’t exactly pleasant. In fact, watchers and readers may remember when Claire came upon a sickly newborn in the woods who died. Leaving suspected wee folk in the forest was thought to confuse them, as they would be back in their natural habitat, leaving the mother to watch for their real child’s return. Another way was holding the baby underwater or holding it over a fire. Claire would not approve.
The Loch Ness Monster
You’ve all probably heard the story of the Loch Ness Monster, but it goes deeper than just “big ass lizard in a lake”. While tales of water beasts have been around forever, this one begins in the year 565 when Saint Columba banishes a monster in the River Ness by making the sign of the cross. That was big news, and the sightings continued, until the monster apparently decided to frolic about in front of random people in 1933. There are several documented sightings that became massive news and, from those accounts, Nessie was born.
As readers might remember, Claire comes in contact with Nessie. She’s washing up on the shore of Loch Ness when she sees a “water horse” and can’t believe her eyes. But the creature is gone as swiftly as it comes. Later, she muses that she really saw a plesiosaur who had come, and gone, from the lake through a time portal, just as she had. That’s one theory that actually makes sense when you’re thinking about how a dinosaur has been paddling about for years.
These mythical French witches, or sometimes ghosts, are placed among the faerie folk and aren’t known for being all that nice. It’s said that they lurk in alleyways, ravines, and bridges, trying to trap travelers. They ask the humans to dance for them or answer riddles. If the traveler complies, they are allowed to pass. If not, they’re usually killed by being thrown off a cliff or by being tormented by the witch’s familiars. It’s also said that these women have the ability to sense impending death, and sometimes bring it.
As anyone familiar with the show or the books knows, Jamie starts the rumor that Claire is the dangerous La Dame Blanche in order to protect her and explain why he doesn’t take part in the shenanigans at the whore house. The fact that she’s privy to modern medicinal practices, and is quite the actress, the rumor saves her skin on more than one occasion.
Dun Bonnet of Foyers
Remember all those spoilers I warned you about? Well, here they are in all their glory. Diana Gabaldon has done it again, she’s spun true history into her book by bringing forth the history of a man named James Fraser, really, like an actual living man. So, this James Fraser, 9th of Foyers survives the Battle of Culloden and hides for seven years in a hidden cave that you can actually visit. Anyways, he is kept alive by the people of Foyers and is called “Dun Bonnet”, as to not give away that James Fraser survived. Many people helped Fraser those seven years, including a young boy who refused to tell where his master was hidden and lost his hands as a result.
Readers, do you have chills? I know I do. Those familiar with Voyager will recognize that story as the basis for our beloved Jamie Fraser’s tale. Long story short, in the series, Jamie escapes the Battle of Culloden, hides in a cave near Lallybroch for seven years, is called “Dun Bonnet”, gets bored of reading the same books over and over, and is served by a young boy (Fergus) who loses his hand in service to his lord. Let’s all have a moment of silence for Furgus’s hand.
Unfortunately, Craigh na Dun doesn’t exist, so there will be no time traveling Scottish adventures in our futures-or pasts. But, the Callanish Stones in Lewish, Scotland stand in for the TV version we all love. It’s not certain what these particular stones were for, although it’s been guessed that it was for lunar observing. In folklore, the stones are petrified giants who turned away from Christianity, or it is a gateway for a mythical being who often walks between the rocks. Nothing about time travel in regards any Scottish standing stones.
But, obviously, you know what’s up in Outlander; many of the standing stones have the capability to send certain people through time, under uncertain circumstances. In the books, and probably in the television series, there are other circles and portals all around the world and more than one traveler has gotten lost like Claire. There’s a tale in the book about time travelers that is more eloquently translated by Jamie on TV: “Now this one is about a man out late on a fairy hill on the Eve of Samhain who hears the sound of a woman singing sad and plaintive from the very rocks of the hill. ‘I am a woman of Balnain. The folk have stolen me over again, ‘the stones seemed to say. ‘I stood upon the hill, and wind did rise, and the sound of thunder rolled across the land. I placed my hands upon the tallest stone and traveled to a far, distant land where I lived for a time among strangers who became lovers and friends. But one day, I saw the moon came out and the wind rose once more. So I touched the stones and traveled back to my own land and took up again with the man I had left behind.” Sound familiar?
Tell us, whats your favorite legend?