Why is Jamie Fraser hard to kill?
Jumping in with both feet, and putting forth some speculation about Jamie the p’tit chat and Jamie the something else. Here we go…
In chapter 10 of A Breath of Snow and Ashes, Jamie recalls a fortune teller in Paris who told him that he’d die nine times, like a cat, before he’d rest in his grave. (This always makes me think of Miracle Max in The Princess Bride, declaring that Westley is only “mostly dead.”) A few chapters later, he and Claire count the times when Jamie almost died:
- At the abbey, after the events at Wentworth Prison
- After Culloden, when his leg wound festered
- After Laoghaire shot him and his wound became infected
- When Dougal hit him in the skull with an ax
- The rattlesnake bite
All these near-deaths have a few things in common: the wounds could easily have been fatal, they would certainly have been fatal without medical intervention, and they would almost certainly have killed most men (hold that thought…).
With that in mind, has this list been added to in subsequent books? Jamie’s life has certainly been in danger—actually, when is it not? A few instances to consider, all from An Echo in the Bone:
- In chapter 2, Mrs. Bug shoots at Jamie with the intent to kill him in defense of the hoard of gold. She grazes his thigh, but the injury isn’t serious. I’m going to give this incident a pass; while any wound in this period might be fatal due to infection, this one seems not to have troubled Jamie much.
- In chapter 31, Jamie receives a small wound near his collarbone thanks to Capt. Stebbings of the British naval ship Again, the injury seems minor, but Claire realizes almost immediately that it has nicked the subclavian artery. Jamie could easily have bled to death, and Claire fears that he still might. She intervenes, binding the wound and giving Jamie strict instructions to be verra, verra still. He doesn’t die. I’m inclined to add this close call to his list of nine lives.
- In chapter 62, Jamie is injured at the Battle of Saratoga. While the gruesome sword injury to his hand isn’t necessarily a fatal one (although Claire eventually decides to amputate a finger), Jamie comes quite close to death at the hands of a scavenger and her son while he’s lying, wounded, on the battlefield. Only Claire’s very determined intervention prevents their slitting his throat. Hesitantly, I’m going to add this event to the list, too.
The difference between these three incidents and the ones Jamie and Claire agree on is that in all the others, Jamie actually seemed to be dying—he was feverish, fading fast. So maybe these don’t count at all…what do you think?
Nothing much seems to threaten Jamie’s life in Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, if I recall–other than fighting in the Revolutionary War, riding spirited horses, breaking and entering, living on a mountain, hunting, building, eating sketchy food, drinking sketchy alcohol, hanging out with generally unhygienic people, being a traitor, and existing in the 18th century.
So. If my additions to the list match up with Diana Gabaldon’s (which isn’t at all a sure thing), Jamie has used up seven of his nine lives. That means (to no one’s surprise) that he’ll be at risk of dying twice more in the final two books. Poor Jamie—you’d think by this time he could just relax at Fraser’s Ridge and grow a slight middle-aged paunch!
As to my earlier assertion that these injuries would almost certainly have killed most men—
Well, Jamie’s not most men, is he? I’ve got a theory that I’ve been kicking around in my head ever since I started reading these books a few years ago, and I’m fully prepared for it to be shot down as totally ridiculous. But hear me out…
DG has never hesitated to bring the supernatural into her storylines: ghosts hang around quite frequently, along with zombies, time travelers, fortune tellers, seers, strange blue auras, and any number of other-worldly phenomena. One of these that’s brought to our attention now and then is Nayawenne’s assertion to Claire in chapter 20 of The Drums of Autumn that she’ll find her ‘full power’ when her hair is white. If you’ve read all the books (and The Space Between), you have a pretty good idea of what Claire’s full power will look like.
But what if Jamie is also just a wee bit supernatural? Granted, he’s not a time-traveler, but there are a few hints here and there that he’s attuned to the mysterious. He has very accurate dreams of the future. He has an encounter with ancient gods in chapter 37 of The Scottish Prisoner when he buries Quinn at Inchcleraun. DG frequently mentions things about Jamie that differentiate him from other men: he seems to be able to see in the dark…his hands are always warm, and he’s mostly impervious to weather…he can inspire others to follow him, sometimes with just a sentence or two. Any of those could just be characteristics of a noble romantic hero—but add to these exhibits the fact that he’s also notoriously difficult to kill, and (to me) the theory starts to make sense.
If I’m right, and Jamie is some sort of, I dunno, demigod (?), I’m not sure what that would imply for the ending of the series. I do have a theory about Jamie’s ghost from Outlander, but that’ll be for another post.
Those of you who’ve been in the Outlander universe longer than I have will undoubtedly be happy to set me straight on my theory and to suggest alterations to my ‘nine lives’ list. That’s fine. Be gentle.
Jan Ackerson is a retired teacher, a writer and editor, and an absolute cuckoo about all things Outlander. You can find her on a much-neglected Twitter account (she’s mostly there to follow the Outlander gang) @janackerson1, or on Facebook (Jan Worgul Ackerson). Her book of micro-fiction, Stolen Postcards, is available at Amazon or https://bofapress.com/collections/all.
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