Outlander Series: 9 Key Differences from the Book

Bettina Dizon
Mar 11, 2021
04:48 A.M.

We love "Outlander" for its plot, actors, and unexpected plot twists! But many fans haven't read the book upon which the series is based. Sometimes, the two are very different.


Why are there fewer 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, some things upset the fans. And the first thing they notice is the appearance of the main characters.

The author of the "Outlander" novels, Diana Gabaldon, 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 is much older than his character Jamie. Many viewers also 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. It wasn’t until the last week before filming that the producer 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. In 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. .”

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 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 know that Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser died in the Battle of Culloden and 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 that Murtagh’s storyline was changed because of the great bond that instantly formed on-screen between the three main characters.


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.

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. 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. In the books, Jamie’s 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.”

The ring appeared to be very different in the series: 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. When Bonnet stole the silver ring, Jamie presented Claire with another one – with that very Highland interlace pattern!

5. Choosing Jamie over Frank

Fans of the TV series think it was devastatingly hard for Claire to choose 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 the novels, wherein 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.

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.

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. The showrunners later explained that it was one of those little details they kept thinking about all the time.


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.

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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Instead of Jenny, Brianna surprisingly meets Laoghaire – Jamie's ex-wife who's still bitter over Jamie leaving her for Claire twice.

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 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 significant 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.

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.

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Jamie gave Claire the pearl necklace on their wedding day after they exchanged vows. But in the books, Claire was given the necklace before she walks down the aisle.


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.

9. Less steam

Both the novels and the series are known for steamy scenes. But, to the 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 to show the bond between the fan-favorite couple in the first season.

In Seasons 1 and 2, the small screen adaptation did not stray too far from the books. However, since the fourth season, many new characters were introduced, and the whirlwind of events took a considerable amount of screen time.

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