Claire is tried as a witch in Outlander Book 1, Chapter 25
We’re onto the second-longest chapter of the first Outlander book, and this is an important one. It’s not just about Claire’s witch trial but about Claire making a huge choice about her future.
This chapter takes about two hours on Audible. I had to break this into chunks when I came to read it, as it is long. The good thing is there are clear breaks between the events of the witch trial.
This is certainly one of those chapters that was used heavily for the show, but there were some substantial changes. I have my suspicions about the changes, and I’m sure they were mostly due to budget and having to film outside. The feeling of the chapter didn’t change, nor did the outcome of the witch trial and Claire’s decision.
For much of the chapter, we’re clarifying things that Claire thinks she knows. We get to see a Scottish witch trial play out and various moments of previous chapters come to their climax. It’s all been building to Claire being accused as a witch all because of her friendship with Geillis.
At the same time, we learn a little more about Geillis. It isn’t until the end that we get the full truth—that she’s a time traveler—but we do get to find out that she’s a Jacobite. Everything she has done up to this point as been for Scotland.
Let’s delve into Outlander Book 1, Chapter 25 for our full breakdown.
Just the Outlander chapter
It all starts with Claire and Geillis being thrown into the thieves’ hole. This is where they’ll wait until the judges reach them for the witch trial to take place.
It’s soon clear that some of the things Claire things are wrong. It’s not Laoghaire who is pregnant with Dougal’s child but Geillis, and Arthur had found out. We also learn that Geillis had been slowly poisoning Arthur this whole time. He wasn’t meant to die the way he did, but she had to do something to prevent her being called out for her adultery.
This is also a chance for Geillis to share a little more honesty. The first is that the ill-wish was bought from her by Laoghaire. Geillis says she didn’t know that it was intended for Claire, but it’s clear she suspected it. After all, Geillis keeps pointing out that she warned Claire about the younger women at the castle.
Geillis also admits that everything she’s done up to this point has been for Scotland. She’s a Jacobite. She actually wanted Colum MacKenzie to work with her, but she realized that wasn’t possible when she saw him. Instead, she chose Dougal.
They also have a chance to talk about love. Claire admits that she does love Jamie. Geillis seems also shocked and upset to realize that love is possible.
Something that is clear throughout the witch trial is that Claire was never meant to be caught up in the matter. Colum had arranged for Geillis to be arrested as a witch as a way to deal with the baby. However, there is a little evidence aimed at Claire, including Peter the drover talking about Claire summoning the waterhorse. Nobody believes Peter, though.
Father Bain has the most condemning evidence against Claire. In a previous chapter he’d been bitten by dogs and Claire told him his wound would fester. Sure enough it has, and Father Bain thinks Claire put a curse on him. Of course, we know that’s not the case, but this is people of the 18th century. As Jamie pointed out in the previous chapter, the people haven’t traveled much and believe everything Father Bain tells them.
While there are some against Claire, there are many who speak highly of her. Sure, she knows how to heal, but she does it without charms and spells. The people who has seen her at the castle don’t think she’s a witch but a gifted healer.
Fortunately, Claire does have friends on her side. Ned Gowen shows up as her lawyer and tells her that he needs them to drag this out. Time is their friend in this matter. The longer it goes on, the less likely people are to kill Claire.
However, that’s not meant to be. The next morning, Claire and Geillis are taken to the loch for trial by water. If they drown, they were innocent. If they float, they are witches. Either way, they die.
Claire puts up a fight, but she gets a whipping for it. That’s when Jamie turns up and protects Claire. As all this happens, Geillis decides to take all the blame. She admits that she’s a witch and shows off the baby bump. Geillis is taken away, allowing Claire and Jamie a chance to escape.
Jamie managed to show up in the nick of time thanks to Old Alec and Donas. Alec had ridden to tell Jamie that Claire had been taken. He used Donas to ride back as quickly as possible. He even says that Murtagh was with him but left behind because Murtagh's horse was too slow.
And so, they’re on the run again. This time, Jamie wants to learn the truth. He needs Claire to be honest with him, and so she is. She tells him all about when she was born, that she time traveled, and that she is vaccinated against many diseases. She also tells him that she’s been trying to get back to Craigh na Dun to go home to Frank.
Jamie says he believes her, but it’s only when he takes her to the stones and sees her starting to disappear before his very eyes that he really does believe it all. There’s one thing to believe someone’s words, but seeing it really hits home.
With that, Jamie tells Claire that she can leave. He’ll hang around just to make sure she can safely pass but that’s it. Claire has to make a decision at the stones. Does he choose her time or will she stay?
She makes the decision to stay with Jamie. He is the one with her heart now. And so, it’s off to Lallybroch.
Any foreshadowing within the Outlander chapter?
Many chapters tend to have some foreshadowing. I’m not sure that there is a lot of foreshadowing within this chapter. Most of it is in the moment, focusing on things that we think we know but are corrected on the facts. It’s a chance to get to know Geillis more than anything else, finding out many of her secrets.
It's only at the end of the witch trials that Claire learns that Geillis is a time traveler, too. She also knows that Geillis was born sometime after 1920 because that’s when the public inoculation became common. Although there is a sense that we’ll get to know Geillis again.
Jamie says that Geillis will be executed for witchcraft but after the child is born. This offers a bit of foreshadowing that the child could come up later. After all, the child is Dougal’s as well as Geillis’s. I also get a sense that Geillis won’t necessarily be executed if Dougal does love the woman. He’s certainly been manipulated so far and he may think it’s due to love.
Geillis does have a great speech to the people when she’s admitting to witchcraft. She draws them in and makes them believe everything she’s saying. I get a sense of foreshadowing of Geillis in her own time, rallying for an independent Scotland.
Then the very end has some foreshadowing. At the stones, as Claire is considering going back to her own time, she tells Jamie not to go to France and not to be a part of the Jacobite rising. She wants him to head to America or Italy or Spain if he needs to go anywhere.
It's a reminder that the Jacobite rebellion is going to happen. There’s no stopping that or the outcome. It gives us that sense that even when we see Claire and Jamie try to stop things during Dragonfly in Amber, it’s just not going to be a success. And Jamie will be smack bang in the middle of it all.
Adapting the chapter for the Outlander TV series
This is a chapter that was heavily used for Outlander Season 1, Episode 11 but changed substantially. For the first part, Laoghaire decides to give testimony at the trial. This all links back to the love potion that she asked Claire to make for her. It’s a change that has always had people scratching their heads, especially with Claire telling Jamie the truth when they knew Jamie and Laoghaire would eventually marry.
I can’t say why the change happened, except to make it clear that Laoghaire was responsible. We get a sense that’s the case in the book, but it’s never fully confirmed. Not really.
The entire witch trial also took place inside with a few changes to the evidence against the two women. For example, Father Bain’s testimony was entirely different, as he pretended to have fallen for Claire’s charms and a loss of his faith. It all still brings the same result; Father Bain is giving the damning testimony against Claire.
I do think keeping it all inside was due to logistics more than anything else. Filming outside in Scotland wouldn’t have been easy. Some elements needed to be outside, but if things could be moved inside, that would have been easier. The crew could control the light, the sound, and the weather. It would have been cheaper and would have meant the timing could have remained on track.
There was also the change to Geillis’s decision to take all the blame. Instead of telling Claire they need time, Ned Gowen tells the two women that one of them needs to take the fall for the other. The best option is for Geillis to take the fall. It’s the most realistic option of the two.
Geillis doesn’t want to. Everything she has done is for nothing. But in the end, she chooses to take the blame. She shows off her smallpox scar and tells Claire “1968.” It’s clear that she’s from that time—that’s when she traveled—hinting that we’ll get to meet her again.
When it came to telling Jamie the truth, there is one change that confused the hell out of me when watching. We don’t see Claire and Jamie at the rocks. We don’t get to see the decision that Claire makes. Instead, she returns to Jamie and tells him to wake up. It’s never made clear if she made the choice or found out she couldn’t pass through the stones. It took me reading the book to learn that, which is a fault within the show.
What did you notice when reading Outlander Book 1, Chapter 25? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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