Episode 4 of Outlander saw Young Ian’s (John Bell) tragic backstory revealed. Previously, he had lived with the Mohawk Indians and a few small hints about his time there had been slipped prior to Sunday night’s episode.
Already, viewers knew that Young Ian had been married and that a child had been born. Considering how forlorn Young Ian was when he returned to Fraser’s Ridge, fans could only assume that something tragic had happened.
Then, in Episode 4, all was revealed.
Young Ian’s tragic backstory revealed
On Sunday night, fans of Outlander learned that Young Ian had married a Mohawk woman named Wahionhaweh (Morgan Holmstrom) in the TV series. Young Ian referred to Wahionhaweh as Emily.
The pair seemed completely happy together and were ecstatic when Emily became pregnant. However, a stillborn daughter resulted.
Later, Emily became pregnant again but also lost that baby.
It was then that Young Ian was told to leave the tribe as Emily would never be able to bear a child with him. This stemmed from the belief that his spirit was not strong enough to overcome Emily’s, and this was due to the fact that he was not truly a Mohawk.
But let’s take a look at the real reason, according to the books.
Here’s what happens in the Outlander books
SPOILER ALERT: The rest of this article contains information from the Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon. Please proceed with caution if you wish to avoid spoilers.
In the book series, Young Ian does still marry a Mohawk woman who he refers to as Emily. However, her name is actually Wakyo’teyehsnonhsa.
Some of what was shown in Episode 4 of Outlander also plays out in the books series by Diana Gabaldon. And, the end result is the same as Emily continues to miscarry and Young Ian leaves.
As pointed out by Fansided, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) believes the reason that Emily continued to suffer miscarriages was because of a medical problem that still exists today.
When one person in a marriage is Rhesus negative, it becomes very hard for a pregnancy to last until full term. Rhesus negative refers to a person’s blood type and because you are born with it, it is impossible to change.
Today, once it has been discovered there is a Rhesus negative issue, injections can be given to make sure the baby survives. However, back in the 1770s, this is certainly not an option.
Because of this, it seems very unlikely that Young Ian and Emily would have ever been able to become parents together. Although, there has been some debate on the Outlander subreddit regarding this.
In the book series, Emily and Young Ian do meet up again. Emily has had three children at this point and asks Young Ian to name her youngest one. Ian refuses but then names her son Swiftest of Lizards.
There has been some discussion by readers over whether or not Swiftest of Lizards is actually Young Ian’s biological son. While it doesn’t seem likely with the Rhesus negative factor, Redditors have mixed thoughts on the matter.
“I’m thinking it’s not entirely impossible since Claire implied that that was the issue between her and Jamie. Brianna was born after faith so I do think it’s possible. Then again, Claire was in the modern world and maybe they were able to treat it,” said jacquiep. “I just looked at a genetics chart: if Emily is (–) and Ian is (+-) the child has a 50/50 chance of being (–) or (+-) so I’m guessing it’s possible for swiftest of lizards to be rh negative.”
Some Redditors still stuck to the theory that Swiftest of Lizards could not possibly be Young Ian’s son but others also agreed that it is possible.
Season 6 of Outlander currently airs every Sunday night on Starz.