We all know Diana writes characters that are so fleshed out they could walk off the page. The people in her series have depth and dimension, but they aren’t the only ones. Her animals are characters in their own right. They have personalities and play an important role in the telling of her tales. Tell the truth… how many of you cried ugly tears when Rollo died? Raising my hand right along with you! (While I wipe away some fresh tears) Even the animals can make me cry…good grief, I’m a goner.
Let’s start with Donas: It seems that Jamie is always coupled with a spirited horse. Donas’ role in this story is to add to Jamie’s character development. Jamie has the touch. He is able to control a high-spirited horse without breaking its spirit. In a sense, Jamie’s patience and tolerance allows Donas to be the horse he was meant to be. (Seeing any correlation?) With the wrong handler things could have gone a much different way. Jamie’s fear for little Hamish getting near Donas is very real, Donas bites! This animal could have remained a beast that everyone feared and his potential would have been lost. But, instead, Jamie admires Donas for his strength and heart. Jamie’s efforts with Donas pay dividends when The horse makes it possible for him to rescue Claire. “Lord that’s a good horse”, exclaims Jamie.
Gideon: The other spirited horse. I love this horse because it takes all that Jamie has to control him. Jamie’s reaction to this horse is quite funny. He’d put him down, but his own sense of waste is affronted! So….the struggle continues! And it is a delight to read.
Rollo: Wolf brother. Boon companion. Best friend. These names come to mind when I think of Rollo. Leave it to Diana to create a dog that is out of the ordinary. Rollo is a wolf/dog half-breed who catches fish. Lean and lanky and fiercely loyal, (Remind you of anyone?) Rollo makes Ian his master and friend. I say make because given the reaction most people have to this fierce looking animal, I can’t picture this alpha dog letting anyone tell him what to do. He’s his own man. I mean dog <g>. From the moment they meet, young Ian and Rollo are by each other’s side. Like Ian who is always at Jamie’s weak side, Rollo protects young Ian. I believe they truly are brothers in spirit. They commune without saying a word.
Clarence the mule: I love this guy! A non-stubborn friendly mule! He’s the stand-in alarm system and welcome wagon to The Ridge. Claire describes Clarence’s hee-haw as a joyous sound! Or, at least, SHE hears Clarence’s joy. Not sure what visitors hear! Sweet spirited Clarence and his dependability become a part of Jamie and Clair’s life and therefore, part of their family. And he’s happy to be there. I can feel Claire’s excitement when Clarence lets everyone know they are close to home and I want to hug his neck.
The White Sow: We probably have family members just like the white sow! You know… people you can’t live with, but you can’t live without? She’s bossy, cantankerous and down right mean, but she keeps the family in an embarrassing amount of pork! Year after year! (Although Jamie can’t imagine what pig would have the balls to mate with her) Nobody likes her, but everybody respects her. She just pushes her way into whatever and wherever she wants including Claire’s pantry. And….I’m thinking the Indians might be right; she might be a demon. I can just picture her walking out from under the house covered in ashes giving herself a good shake and moving on as if nothing had happened! Gotta be a possum out there somewhere that she can put in her maw.
Adso the cat: Jamie found him in the woods under a bush, a fierce and proud little fur ball. But, Jamie’s magic touch soon has him purring. (Once again…sound like anyone we know?) I’ve heard Jamie say he’d like to treat Claire like a little kitten he can pet and keep in his shirt. Cats in general are aloof and Adso, like Claire, is a pretty good judge of character. He doesn’t just give his love to anyone. He’s also one tough tiny kitten who doesn’t seem to know how small he is. Which is both amusing and admirable. Adso keeps our Claire company. He shadows her moves and always seems available for a one-sided chat. Adso also has a few comic incidents with Major MacDonald and his wig!
Buton: This beloved dog is quite the character! Buton is constantly described as an odd looking dog who might have gotten more than his share of the Heinz 57 variety. We’ve all heard the stories of dogs with cancer sniffing skills. Well, apparently this dog was waaaaay ahead of the curve in the use of his nose for diagnostic purposes. I chuckled everytime Buton jumped on to a patient’s bed and began to sniff. Shocked and baffled are what must have been the two most frequent reactions! What a wonderful quirky interesting animal!
And…Ping the peaceful one: We were treated to a pelican training. Who wasn’t just amazed by Mr. Willoughby and his fishing bird. Once again, wonderful, quirky, interesting. And! He saves Claire’s life! A pelican!
I’m not sure this story would be as rich, amusing or as heartwarming if it wasn’t for Jamie and Claire’s animal friends. I know Ms Gabaldon has a couple of dachshunds she cuddles. She hasn’t forgotten all the other details that make life interesting and she sure hasn’t left out the companionship, comfort and frustration that animals bring to our lives. Just another reason to admire and appreciate her skill at telling a story we can see and feel. Sigh….she even writes animals well…