I’m watching Starz’ The Outlander, based on a series of books by Diana Gabaldon1, that I have not yet read. The show takes place in Scotland in the 18th century, and I must admit that I don’t know much – neither about the place nor the time.
Since I liked the show’s theme song, I tried to look it up, and the first results brought me to a song with the same melody, but different lyrics. Turns out this song is a small adjustments of lyrics to a poem by Robert Lewis Stevenson, renowned author of Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, among many others. These lyrics were built on the tune of a Scottish folk song named “The Skye Boat Song“. While Stevenson’s lyrics are somewhat romantic and nostalgic, the original Boat Song is a ballad about the escape of Prince Charles Edward Stewart (“Bonny Prince Charlie”) from British forces following the defeat at the Battle of Culloden and the end of the Jacobite Rising of 1745, and it is a song about death and destruction.
The historical story about the Jacobites, Bonny Prince Charlie, and the Battle of Culloden are worthy of a post of their own. What caught my ears in the theme song were words I didn’t recognize, such as Skye, Mull, Rum, and Eigg. A quick online search showed me these were the names of islands in the Inner Hebrides – part of the western archipelago of Scotland.
Scotland’s geography and its history seem fascinating to me, and with the show concentrating on the time before the Battle of Culloden, I expect to read and learn more about the time and area.
1 Dr. Diana Gabaldon holds three degrees in science: Zoology, Marine Biology, and a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology. She spent a dozen years as a university professor with an expertise in scientific computation, and sounds like an awesome woman.
For further reading:
- Discussion about The Skye Boat Song and Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, including differences and the story behind the songs.