What is a Highlander?

So my parents and I are getting ready to go to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games later this week, and my mom, who knows nothing about Scotland, is getting very curious about the whole thing.

She asked me yesterday, "What exactly is a Highlander?"

Loooonnng pause, while dozens and dozens of images, scenes, quotes from the OUTLANDER books flashed through my mind. :-) We have no Scots ancestry at all, and although I did try to get my mom to read OUTLANDER once, about three years ago, her reaction was rather tepid and I don't think she remembers much. (Oh, well. Maybe I'll try again, after we get back from this trip.) How best to explain, succinctly?

Finally I said, "They're from the northern part of Scotland. In the mountains, you know? And traditionally they were the ones that wore the kilts and such."

How would YOU answer that question, if you were talking to someone who knew nothing whatever about Scotland, or Diana Gabaldon's books? Are there particular scenes or quotes that come to mind when you think of the word "Highlander"?

My favorite, of course, is this one:
"A Highlander in full regalia is an impressive sight--any Highlander, no matter how old, ill-favored, or crabbed in appearance. A tall, straight-bodied, and by no means ill-favored young Highlander at close range is breath-taking.

The thick red-gold hair had been brushed to a smooth gleam that swept the collar of a fine lawn shirt with tucked front, belled sleeves, and lace-trimmed wrist frills that matched the cascade of the starched jabot at the throat, decorated with a ruby stickpin.

His tartan was a brilliant crimson and black that blazed among the more sedate MacKenzies in their green and white. The flaming wool, fastened by a circular silver brooch, fell from his right shoulder in a graceful drape, caught by a silver-studded sword belt before continuing its sweep past neat calves clothed in woolen hose and stopping just short of the silver-buckled black leather boots. Sword, dirk, and badger-skin sporran completed the ensemble."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 14 ("A Marriage Takes Place"). Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

That was the point where, on my first reading of OUTLANDER, I fell in love with the series forever. <vbg>

What about the rest of you? What images, quotes, scenes, etc. from the books best describe what a Highlander is?


Anonymous said...

I sheepishly admit that my first thought of the word 'highlander' is the Christopher Lambert movies. :-p

But I enjoyed your description in your post. A very romantic view...

Lolly S said...

I agree with your comment. "Outlander" grabbed me at about the same placr. Oh by the way - the reminder about the Highlander games. My husband and I are headed to Valle Crucis this weekend and now will attend the games - which we have never seen even though we have vacationed in that area for years. Enjoyed your blog!

Nelson-n-Pam said...

I love this scene, too, Karen. We see Jamie through Claire's admiring eyes when she's not tending his wounds or thinking about how to get home. This is the first time Claire thinks, hmmm, he might be pretty good on the wedding night! What made me fall in love with this series is Claire - a no-nonsense woman who can fend for herself (even in 1945). But here, she seems to have met her match and I thought as I read it, ah, this is about to get interesting. Hee Hee!

Anonymous said...

When I think highlander, I think of the traditional kilt and all that meant in the Jamie and Claire era, but also, I think of Jamie's wonderful character traits: stoic loyalty, protective and possessive, proud, faithful through thick and thin, compassionate, and incredibly passionate. Although people are all different, as I imagine all highlanders are too, still men from the north do possess these qualities as part of their Scotland heritage.
Well,....this is what I've discovered so far....from the Scots in my family. Cynthia

Anonymous said...

As someone who was born and raised in Scotland, your definition of a Highlander is very close. We normally include the residents of the Western and Northern Isles as Highlanders. While I was growing up in Scotland, I spent as much time as I could up in the Highlands. I lived in a city on the Southern edge of the Highlands and being able to spend a weekend up there to view that unforgettable scenery and experience the Highlander attitude to life got me through the next week. I think Diana caught the attitude with one instance she wrote of in one of the books. Ian (senior) and Jamie were returning to Lallybroch when Ian stumbled and broke his peg leg. Since night was coming on, they knocked on a crofter's door, were welcomed in and given food and shelter for the night. That was an example of "the unwritten law of Highland hospitality", which was, and still is, prevalent throughout all of the Highlands!

Alba Gu Brath!

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