Young Ian returns in the Outlander novels at the end of The Fiery Cross. It’s not until A Breath of Snow and Ashes that we learn what happened to him when he was with the Mohawks.
Young Ian is back on Outlander Season 5. While it’s earlier than in the books, the story has remained faithful to Young Ian’s reasons for his return. At least, so far. There’s far more to the story than he’s already told Roger (and us by extension).
Those who want to know the reason for Young Ian’s return and the hidden heartbreak will need to turn to “A Breath of Snow and Ashes.” To make it easier for you, we’re breaking down the return. So, if you don’t want to know the spoilers, this is your time to look away. Otherwise, let’s get into the details.
It is to do with his lost wife
During Outlander Season 5, Episode 8, Young Ian tells Roger that he had a wife. His wife isn’t dead, but she is lost to him.
What does that mean? Well, basically, Young Ian has left his wife. It’s clearly not by choice. He’s been asked to leave the Mohawk tribe that became his family. He loves his wife dearly, but he’s had to leave her behind for her and the tribe’s happiness and future.
In “A Breath and Snow and Ashes,” Young Ian eventually tells Marsali and Brianna the story of what happened. He and his wife, Emily, tried to start a family. However, the two couldn’t have children together. Every child they had was either stillborn or Emily miscarried.
It’s a heartbreaking loss. Any parent will know the fear of losing a child. Those who have suffered miscarriages and stillbirths will also understand the dark feelings that Young Ian has. I’ve always found it interesting how spouses who lose their love are known as widows/widowers and children who lose their parents are orphans but there isn’t a term for parents who lose a child. It’s something that should never have to happen but sadly, it does.
Because of the losses, the tribe believes that Emily and Young Ian’s spirits don’t work together. The loss of the children is a sign that they’re not meant to be together. So, Young Ian is asked to leave. Both are allowed to remarry.
Claire believes she knows why
When Claire finds out why Young Ian has been asked to leave, she has her theories. She believes that Young Ian and Emily can’t have children due to one of them being Rhesus negative. I won’t go into the details of this, but you can learn more about it from Mayo Clinic.
It is something that still affects births now. Mother’s blood types are tested. Those who are negative need certain shots during and possibly after pregnancy, depending on the baby’s blood type. Those shots wouldn’t have been available during the 18th century, so there wasn’t the medical help to allow Young Ian and Emily to have children together.
This is a story that is still to come. I doubt the series would change the nature of the story from the novels. However, I don’t think it’s a story we’ll learn right away.
Outlander Season 5 airs on Sundays at 8/7c on STARZ.