Outlander Series: 9 Key Differences from the Book

We love Outlander for its plot, actors, and unexpected turnout of events! However, not all of us have also read Outlander novels that created the original story. What should Claire and Jamie really look like? Why are there less steamy scenes in the series than in Diana Gabaldon’s novels? And how did Duncan Lacroix save his character? In this article, you’ll get to know how (and why!) the Outlander series is sometimes very different from the novels.

1. Jamie didn’t match the books' description

No matter how accurate the adaptation is, there are things that upset the fans. And the first thing they notice is the appearance of the main characters. Today it seems crazy to imagine that somebody else could have played Jamie instead of Sam Heughan! 

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But the fact is that the author of the Outlander novels, Diana Gabaldon, at first doubted him as an option. She wanted to see Liam Neeson or Sean Connery portraying the role of the caring and very charismatic Jamie Fraser.

In the novels, the 23-year-old Highlander is described as a hulking fighter with fair skin, "dark blue eyes," and "thick, red-gold hair." Jamie has a strong, good-humored face with broad cheekbones and a "long, straight, knife-edged nose."

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Although being much younger than Neeson or Connery, Sam Heughan was still older than Jamie was at the beginning of the series. Also, many viewers complained that his hair isn't red enough, and his eyes are more blue-green than deep blue. Moreover, Gabaldon herself couldn’t see Jamie's internal strength! But when she watched the recording of Sam’s audition, she changed her mind.

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2.Claire should have looked different

Finding an ideal Claire took a really long time, with hundreds of candidates being auditioned. 

"She had to be smart, she had to have a strength of character, and really, she had to be someone that you could watch think on camera,” – the show’s creator Ron D. Moore explained.

But it wasn’t until the last week before filming should have begun when he suddenly saw Caitriona Balfe's audition tape – and it was a very “light-bulb moment”.

However, at first, not everyone agreed that Caitriona suited the role perfectly. The actress was seven years older than her character in the first season of the show, and her hair wasn’t all ‘knots and furious tangles’. But the fans were irritated the most by the color of Caitriona’s eyes:

Throughout the novels, Claire’s eyes are described as golden, like that of a leopard, which is definitely not the case for Caitriona Balfe, whose eyes are blue. Yet, what does Diana Gabaldon think of this casting choice?

"Actors embody the character". – the writer said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. - "It doesn’t actually matter what they look like."

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3. Murtagh’s storyline was improved

Jamie’s godfather was described as a short man, “slightly built but sinewy as a gibbon”. Moreover, he was "weasel-faced" and “stringy”. Luckily, the actor behind the character doesn’t look like this at all! Except for the dark eyes, Duncan Lacroix looks nothing like the book version of Murtagh.

He is taller, more muscular, and definitely much more likable! In fact, his performance turned a relatively minor character from the novels into a fan-favorite – and even saved his life! The die-hard fans of the Outlander novels surely know that Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser died in the Battle of Culloden along with most of the Highlanders.

But in the TV series, he survived, landed in America, and became the leader of Regulators. The show’s executive producer Maril Davis revealed in an interview with Glamour, Murtagh’s storyline was changed because of the great bond that instantly formed on-screen between the three main characters.

And it wasn’t the only plotline that was modified. Of course, Murtagh and Jocasta’s love story never happened in the books! Instead, Jocasta’s had a long-lasting relationship with a man called Duncan Innes. By the way, he might appear in the series, as his name was mentioned by Jocasta in the opening episode of Season 5.

4. Claire’s rings have their own storyline

The Season 4 premiere was different from the beginning of Diana Gabaldon’s fourth book, ‘Drums of Autumn’. In the novel, the villainous pirate Stephen Bonnet showed his true nature and attacked Jamie and Claire. But on screen, it was way worse, as Bonnet stole Claire’s wedding ring from Jamie.

As you definitely remember, Claire had two wedding rings – a golden one from Frank, and a silver one from Jamie. In the novels, Bonnet took the golden ring, but in the series, the showrunners made a really smart move. The fact is that in the books, Jamie’s silver ring was described as a “wide silver band decorated in the Highland interlace style with a small thistle bloom at the center of each link”.

However, in the series, the ring appeared to be very different: quite simple and crafted from a key to Jamie’s family estate. The fans were very upset about this change! So the showrunners made a nod to the fandom, changing the story a little bit, again: When the silver ring was stolen by Bonnet, Jamie presented Claire with another one – with that very Highland interlace pattern!

5. Choosing Jamie over Frank

Fans of the TV series think that it was devastatingly hard for Claire to make a choice between the two men she loved. But those who have read the books, know that the TV version of Frank is much more likable, in comparison with that of the novels. In the sourcebook, Frank lacks feelings and is quite chauvinistic.

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Moreover, he had many affairs with different women during his marriage to Claire. Yet, on screen we see Frank Randall heartbroken, desperately looking for his missing wife. And when Claire finally reappears after several years, pregnant with another man’s child and telling crazy time-traveling stories, Frank becomes a loving father to her daughter Brianna. All of this makes him almost a hero!

So why did the showrunners make this change? According to Maril Davis, making Frank a full character allowed for the creation of a true love triangle between Claire and her two husbands, although they were never present in her life at the same time. Moreover, the choice that Claire finally made showed how powerful her love for Jamie actually was.

6. Hidden signs of true love left out in the series

Jamie and Claire are engraved in each other’s hearts. And only those who read the books know that they literally have each other’s initials engraved into their hands. It happened in the second book, ‘Dragonfly In Amber’, right before Claire went back through the stones.

But why wasn’t it included in the series? The showrunners later explained that it was one of those little details they kept thinking about all the time. So they eventually shot a version of that scene in the third season. Unfortunately, they weren’t really satisfied with it, so they cut the scene.

Sam Heughan dished to Entertainment Today that in his opinion the scene didn’t quite work in the story, and deleting it was a good decision. However, these deleted scenes were included in the Outlander DVD and Blu-Ray editions, and sharp-eyed viewers might spot a tiny letter “J” carved on Claire's palm and “C” etched onto Jamie’s hand.

7. Supporting characters whose fates were different

Although Murtagh’s storyline has been considerably expanded in the series, other characters weren’t that fortunate. A good many of them were cut from the show entirely, like Johannes Gerstmann, an Austrian musician who was Claire’s friend and adviser while the Frasers were in France.

And even Jenny Murray’s presence in the series was less than it should have been. Jamie’s older sister was notably absent from Season 4 and didn’t have a chance to meet her niece, Brianna, as she did in the novels.

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This time, there were no smart moves of the showrunners behind this decision: the actress Laura Donnelly was busy acting in a Broadway play “The Ferryman”. Instead of Jenny, Brianna surprisingly meets Laoghaire – Jamie's ex-wife who's still bitter over Jamie leaving her for Claire (twice!)

Because of Jenny’s absence, extra scenes were written in for this character we all love to hate. By the way, Laoghaire’s daughter’s storyline shows quite a different dynamic in the series than in the books. In the novels, Marsali and Claire’s bond is not that obvious, but on the show, she gets enough screen time to have their mother-daughter relationship established and evolved.

In fact, Marsali took the place of a very important character from the novels, who was also written off the series – Malva Christie – who lived in Fraser’s Ridge and was Claire’s surgery apprentice. In the same fashion, Marsali and Brianna were not friends in the books.

The showrunners wanted to create a new storyline about women who supported each other despite the centuries they’ve been born into. The two young women connected when Brianna feared that the wicked Stephen Bonnet had kidnapped her son, Jemmy, and Marsali comforted her. We’ll have a chance to see how their storyline will develop in the new season.

8. Not that minor details

Each of Diana Gabaldon’s novels is quite long, ranging up to a thousand (!) pages. So it’s no wonder that some details, events, or even plotlines had to be excluded from the TV adaptation. But for the true fans, every one of these missing pieces is important. Let’s have a closer look at several of them.

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Remember the pearl necklace Jamie gave Claire on their wedding day? He gave it to his wife after the couple exchanged their vows. But in the books, Claire was given the necklace before she walks down the aisle. Readers have more background on the necklace, which originally belonged to Jamie’s mother, and therefore better understand the significance of that present.

In season one, dedicated fans were also eager to see how Claire fights off a wolf – all by herself (!) – after being sent away from the prison Jamie was being kept in. It was one of Claire's biggest moments of the first novel, which showed her growth as a strong character. Unfortunately, this scene appeared to be very difficult to shoot and never appeared on the screen.

Yet another of Claire’s heroic scenes that are missing from the series should have been included in Outlander’s Season 4. It was disappointing because throughout the season she showed her softer, domestic side, so it would have been great to also see how brave Claire can be. Especially when she braved a literal blizzard to find Jamie and save his life on Christmas Eve. And, of course, fans are never satisfied with the number of steamy scenes between Jamie and Claire.

9. Less steam

Both the novels and the series are known for those scenes. But, to the great despair of the fans, the moments of intimacy between Claire and Jamie were considerably subdued after the first two seasons – especially in Season 4. The showrunners explained that the intimate scenes were needed in the first season to show the bond between the fan-favorite couple.

So they became less necessary later when nobody doubted their love anymore. In Seasons 1 and 2, the small screen adaptation did not stray too far from the books. However, since the fourth season, a lot of new characters were introduced, and the whirlwind of events took a considerable amount of screen time.

And in general, viewers understand that the laws of television demand those changes. But still, when one particularly highly-anticipated scene between Jamie and Claire was not included in Season 5, fans were frustrated, to say the least. In the fifth book, Jamie becomes jealous when he learns that another man has taken a liking to Claire, which leads to an intimate moment between Jamie and Claire in the barn.

But in the TV show, Jamie showed no real jealousy at all! And that wasn’t the only way Season 5 was different from the book ‘The Fiery Cross’. Caitriona Balfe revealed that this season a totally original ‘lovely’ and ‘challenging’ storyline was created for her character.

"That's been one of the great gifts of this show,” – she added. – “The writers continue to push the boundaries.”

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