Why would Outlander change the name of a book character?

Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room
Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room /

Outlander Season 4 will likely include an important book character with a different name. Why even bother with a name change?

At first look, it doesn’t seem like Tantoo Cardinal’s character is in the book “Drums of Autumn.” However, Diana Gabaldon has assured fans she is, but under a different name. Speculation of who Cardinal will play aside, there’s a more important question for Outlander. Why change the name of a character?

Some fans may have thought that an iconic and important character isn’t going to be in the story. While that is likely not the case (no confirmation on whether suspicions of who Cardinal’s character is going to be is right), it’s disappointing for fans of the novels to have to call a character another name.

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On the outset, it doesn’t look like there’s any need for this change. However, the decision was likely made to prevent spoilers. Matt B. Roberts has already shared his disappointment about spoilers, something that costume designer, Terry Dresbach, also mentioned. Changing the name of an important character is one of the best ways to avoid spoilers.

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Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room /

Right now, there’s just speculation that Cardinal is playing a character in the novels called Nayawenne. It’s easy to do a quick Google search to find out who this character is and how she’s involved in the story. By changing her name and not confirming the role she’ll play in the overall story, Outlander is able to keep some of this story spoiler-free for the non-book fans.

The only other reason I could suspect is that there’s some sort of legal issue with the name now that wasn’t around almost 20 years ago. It’s plausible, but the spoiler reason is the one I believe is most likely right.

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What do you think of the character name change? Why do you think the show would do something like this? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Outlander Season 4, Episode 1 airs on Nov. 4 at 8/7c on STARZ