Outlander Sanctuaries: The Sacred Spaces of James Fraser

If you’re Jamie Fraser you occasionally need a respite from the rough and tumble world of Jacobite outlaws and sedition. Where does a highland warrior take refuge? These are my favorites; the sacred spaces of James Fraser.

When you think of a sanctuary, you might first think of a church. I do, but I also think of a place or a person that provides physical and/or spiritual shelter. It’s a place where your innermost thoughts and fears are safe from the gaze of an outside world that might not understand or tolerate them. A sanctuary is a place free of violence and fear of harm; a place where physical and spiritual wounds begin the process of healing. A sanctuary is home and, if you’re lucky, home is a sanctuary.

In Outlander, the Print Shop is different things to different people. It was the episode we had all been waiting for; the physical reunion of two spirits that had never actually been parted. It was, for me, the moment when Season 3 really began. The Print Shop also showcased, arguably, the most magnificent set to date; the Print Shop itself. I gasped when I saw it. As Jamie walked Claire through the space my first thought was that it looked like a church (Episode 6 Recap). The subsequent thought was “this is Jamie’s sanctuary.” Over the next few days, I began thinking about all of the sanctuaries that had provided safe haven for Jamie. These are my favorite.

Lallybroch Season 1

In Season 1 when Jamie and Claire are wed, among his first thoughts are to get her back to Lallybroch so that he can take his rightful place as laird. Jamie hasn’t been able to return because of the price on his head, but he is also tormented by what he thinks happened to Jenny. Can he return to the place where his sister was raped by and gave birth to the child of Black Jack Randall? He blames himself for what must be her miserable existence. Once Jamie rescues Claire from the witch trial, the only option is to return to Lallybroch and face whatever horror awaits him.

What Jamie finds is not horror, but (eventually) the love of a sister who has pined for him and prayed for his safe return, a brother-in-arms turned brother-in-law, a namesake, and a sanctuary. Jamie and Claire quickly fall into the rhythm of farm life. With Claire’s secret revealed, she is able to fully give herself to Jamie and concentrate on their life together rather than planning a return to the stones. The few minutes of screen time given to this life are among my favorite because they show us a relaxed and domesticated Jamie and Claire. They are warm, well-fed, and happy. They are home.

outlander sanctuaries
Photo courtesy of outlander-online.com

The Cave

Upon his post-Culloden recovery, Jamie takes up residence in a cave not far from Lallybroch. It allows him to be close enough to provide food for his family but stay far enough away to keep the British from harassing them. In his brief visits to Lallybroch, Jamie is brother, uncle, friend, and father figure to those who still depend on him, in part, for their survival. Family and family connections are such a huge part of Jamie’s life that these times must be bittersweet for him. As much as he enjoys seeing his sister and her children it would make the loss of Faith and Claire all the more painful; a reminder that likely settles on his shoulders each time he walks through the door.

In the cave though, Jamie is alone; alone with his fear, his misery, and his grief, but also alone with his thoughts. By night, he hunts for food for both himself and the residents of Lallybroch. By day, Jamie escapes “his damp immobility by a stubborn, disciplined retreat into the avenue of thought and meditation, seeking refuge in the pages of books.” Jamie’s visits to Lallybroch provide for his physical and emotional needs for touch and human companionship.

The cave, however, provides a place of nurture for Jamie’s heart and mind. He transports himself through books and his own contemplation to different places and times; better times, warmer times, and times when he held Claire in his arms. Perhaps it sounds tortuous to recall a lost love, but when you’ve lost everything, the remembering of someone who has loved you with all of her being can provide enough of a spark to sustain oneself through the dark times. The cave then, with all its cramped, dampness is a sanctuary. It is a sacred vessel holding the thoughts that Jamie whispers into the hollow space.

outlander sanctuaries
Photo courtesy of outlander-online.com

The Print Shop

The Print Shop is beautiful. I’ve already mentioned that it seemed church-like with the dark wood and candlelight. There is more to the Print Shop than aesthetics though. In the Season 3 episodes leading up to this one, we see Jamie begging to be killed, living feral in a cave, living nearly-feral in a prison, and then living as a servant to those who despise him. An air of tension, sadness, and misery shows on his face in every scene, until now.

For the first time, we get glimpses of the “old” Jamie. He walks with confidence through the streets. He deftly manages the buffoons who aid him in his treasonous pursuits. We see a Jamie who is recovering from the trauma of his past. The pain and sadness from previous years are replaced with acceptance and contentment. He seems to say to us that this is not the life I had planned, but it is life and I am choosing to live it. His is the survivor’s story. Where there was once forced service, forced labor, and loss of freedom there are now decisions to be made and he, A. Malcolm, Printer, will make them. This business, built by his own blood, sweat, and tears, and guided in the direction of his own choosing is Jamie’s sanctuary as much as the four walls that house it.

outlander sanctuaries
Photo courtesy of outlander-online.com

Lallybroch Season 3

In Season 3 when everything in Edinburgh goes sideways, Jamie and Claire head for Lallybroch. It is the only place where they can recover from the loss of the Print Shop. Once again, Jamie knows that an unspeakable horror (I think that’s a perfectly acceptable description of Laoghaire) awaits him. Jamie could have told Claire about Laoghaire in Edinburgh, he could have told her on the journey to Lallybroch but he waits until he is within the walls of his beloved home and only when confronted by a child yelling “Da.”

Perhaps Jamie thinks that being in the only place Claire has ever called “home” will protect her against the inevitable feelings of hurt and betrayal. Perhaps he seeks the feeling of sanctuary he always feels when he is there. If his heart and soul are sheltered, then, perhaps, he can withstand whatever terrible things will result from this truth-telling. With the confrontation and all of its fallout behind them, Jamie and Claire finally begin to close the emotional chasm created by their separation.

While Claire tends to Jamie’s gunshot wounds they find themselves once more. Their words come freely and are spoken quietly with gentleness and reverence for each other and their connection. They, perhaps silently, remind themselves that this is what they have both held in their hearts for 20 years. They rest easy for a bit in the comfort of their shared sanctuary.

outlander sanctuaries
Photo courtesy of outlander-online.com

Claire, Claire, Claire

I try hard not to complain about the differences between the book and the show. They must be separate entities and I understand the reasons for that. With that said, I believe that it’s impossible to fully comprehend Jamie’s devotion to, love and need for Claire without the support of passages from Diana Gabaldon’s amazing books. Some of these are captured in my Favorite Lines of Love post.

Near the end of Outlander, Jamie and Claire discuss their departure from the monastery where he is recovering from the savagery of Black Jack Randall. They must decide where to go and Jamie tells Claire that the decision is hers. “My life is yours. And it’s yours to decide what we shall do, were we go next.” “My heart has been yours since first I saw ye and you’ve held my soul and body between your two hands here, and kept them safe. We shall go as ye say.”

Jamie has been a soldier, an outlaw, and a prisoner every moment since his teenage years. Throughout his journeys, his desire is always to return to Lallybroch. I believe Jamie views a return as the fulfillment of his destiny, but it also signals a return to his sanctuary – a place where he can finally put a stop to the cat and mouse game that has become his life.

At the end of his convalescence, Jamie recognizes that Claire has been on a journey with him and that she is the only person who could have stepped into the darkness and led him back to the light. His offer to her, then, is more than a debt of gratitude. It is Jamie’s acknowledgement that Claire is where his heart and soul have taken up residence and, with that knowledge, the geographic location and type of roof over his head matter very little.

In “First Wife,” as Jamie heals from his bullet wounds (seriously, what is it with this man always needing to be patched up?) he recounts the events leading up to his marriage to Laoghaire. He says that when he returned from Ardsmuir, Lallybroch didn’t seem the same. It didn’t feel like “home” and that he thought having children to love and a wife to take care of would give him the same feeling he had when he was with Claire. Jamie found out quickly enough that there was no way to recapture those feelings. They come from sharing a love and a bond that have no explanation, no beginning, and no end. There simply is no substitute for Claire because she is the lover and protector of his heart and soul; Claire is Jamie’s ultimate sanctuary.

outlander sanctuaries
Photo courtesy of outlander-online.com

I am captivated by the idea of the sanctuaries that we visit, but also the ones that we create for ourselves; places where our hearts and minds are safe, places where we feel loved, places where smiles come easily.

Do you agree with this list of Jamie’s sanctuaries? Are there others that you would add?

This article was originally published at Outlandercast.com on May 22, 2018.

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