Around 1715, Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser, second cousin to Brian Fraser, attended the Gathering at Castle Leoch to try to woo the hand of Ellen MacKenzie, daughter of the Laird Jacob MacKenzie. During a Tynchal, he killed a wounded boar single-handed with a dagger and Colum MacKenzie allowed him the tusks, which were nearly a perfect double circle. He had them turned into a set of bracelets that he gave to Ellen, even though she had already chosen to marry Brian Fraser.
When Jamie Fraser was a wee bairn, just a week old, Murtagh kneeled before Ellen and swore an oath to her that he would follow Jamie always, to do his bidding, and guard his back when he became a man and needed service. This role he dutifully fulfilled.
When Jamie returned to Scotland from France, just prior to the opening events of Outlander, Murtagh joined Dougal MacKenzie’s party as a way to keep Jamie safe. Importantly he is also the one who rescues Claire from Captain Jonathon Wolverton Randall, better known as Black Jack Randall.
He is nearly always at Jamie’s side and he backs Jamie to the end.
These things might be the facts of who Murtagh is but these only serve to describe his history and relationships. I’m no psychologist but I have thought about this for a while and believe there is more to our deep seated love for Murtagh. On the surface, Murtagh is a bit dour and grumpy, very rough around the edges, unswervingly loyal and honest. As admirable as he is it still does not fully explain to me the deep feelings book readers and TV show viewers have for Murtagh, particularly his character in TV #Outlander, being more fleshed out into a fuller study of his character. Actor Duncan Lacroix elevates the character of Murtagh and provides us with a portrayal far beyond the words on the page. One twitch of those famous eyebrows and we understand.
Like a bolt from the blue I think I have figured out why we relate so strongly to Murtagh, he is us. We want to be at Jamie’s side, protecting him always. We want to guard Jamie’s back. Murtagh performs that role for us (in our place), making our attachment to him strong, unbreakable in fact. Murtagh’s loyalty is our loyalty, our love for Jamie is Murtagh’s love for him too.
It is probably no secret that Murtagh loyally follows Jamie into the Battle of Culloden. Jamie almost welcomes his own death – he means to die there rather than suffer the loss of Claire, their unborn baby and the Highland culture he could not save.
Regrettably, despite a campaign to #SaveMurtagh I sadly think it’s impossible, as having Murtagh survive Culloden isna in line with the future books.
Vale Murtagh… We all need a Murtagh in our lives. May you find yours…