|“||The only one who had seemed to accept the notion wholeheartedly was Malva Christie, and in her case, I thought the acceptance was due simply to her faith in me. If I told her something, she believed me; very refreshing, after years of assorted Scots looking at me with varying degrees of squiggle-eyed suspicion.||”|
— Claire Fraser, A Breath of Snow and Ashes
Malva Christie was the daughter of Thomas Christie and sister of Allan Christie. Although she was raised as Tom Christie's daughter, she was in fact his niece; Tom's wife had an affair with his brother, Edgar, while Tom was in prison after the Rising.
While Tom Christie was in prison, her mother gave birth to a her while she and Allan lived with Tom's brother Edgar and his wife Darla. Given timeline it was obvious she could not be Tom's actual daughter, but as Mona and Tom were still married Tom became her putative father. Edgar was actually her father. After her mother murdered Edgar, she was sentenced to hang, leaving Allan and Malva in the care of their aunt. After Ardsmuir ceased its function as a prison, Tom was transported to America as an indentured servant. Once there, Tom's indenture was bought by a wealthy plantation owner in South Carolina named Mr. Everett, who recognized Tom as a man of learning, and had Tom act as schoolmaster to his children. Mr. Everett also arranged for Allan and Malva to be sent from Edinburgh to the colonies to join him. Tom married again, but she as well as Mr. Everett died during a yellow fever epidemic, and so they moved to North Carolina to find Jamie Fraser, whose standing offer to help former Ardsmuir men settle in the backcountry was well-known.
Events of the Novels
A Breath of Snow and Ashes
Malva becomes an apprentice for Claire through her natural curiosity of how things work. Through much of the novel she is an adept student, proving her worth and talent when Claire begins to use ether for anesthesia; their first operation saves the life of young Aidan McCallum by removing his ruptured appendix. In addition to teaching her about the healing arts, Claire takes on an almost surrogate mother role to Malva. On one occasion Claire offers advice about sex, suggesting that people do it for pleasure, which runs contrary to Malva's understanding that sex is a necessary chore for wives. Meanwhile, finger bones are discovered at the favorite fishing hole on the Ridge as a sort of love spell.
An epidemic of dysentery spreads across the Ridge and Malva assists with ministrating to the victims. Claire and Tom Christie appear to fall victim to it as well, and it nearly kills the two of them. However, Claire feels that something is distinctly odd about their affliction because it is not what has been going around the Ridge, killing many. She escapes her sick bed to examine Tom and discover what she may about their illness.
Later, Tom discovers that Malva is pregnant, and in a dramatic revelation, she accuses Jamie of being the father. Upon this claim, Claire knocks her across the room and runs from the house. Ian Murray confesses that the child may be either his or Bobby Higgins'. A few days later, Claire finds Malva's body in the lettuce patch with her throat slit and one of the bee hives knocked over in the garden. Claire, while obviously distraught, attempts to save the unborn child's life by removing it from her womb, but the baby dies almost immediately, being too premature. Both are buried.
Claire is charged with the murder when Richard Brown rides with his Committee of Safety onto the Ridge with the intention of executing Claire for his brother Lionel's death. He is thwarted, however, by Tom Christie who insists on coming along to ensure Claire's safety unto trial.
Tom later confesses to Malva's murder, although he did not do it; he tells Claire privately that he knew the girl was like her mother, a witch and a siren, luring men. He also tells her he found the remainder of Ephraim's bones in Malva's work basket, beating her for the truth. She confessed that when the love charm failed she became desperate. On a chance occasion, searching for plants, she had gone to help the sin-eater with illness and was present when the man died. Inspired by her training about germs, she collected blood and mucus from the dead sin-eater, let the mixture grow in a bottle placed in her dress, and contrived a way to get it into both his and Claire's food. She hoped that their deaths would be viewed as casualties of the existing epidemic, and with Claire out of the way, she could manipulate Jamie into providing shelter and money for her child. Tom believed that even though she had gotten away with the attempted murder, that there would be more attempts whereby she would eventually kill someone. Because of this and his love for Claire, he takes Claire's place as Malva's murderer.
Later, after Claire has returned to the Ridge, she is confessor to Allan Christie, who explains that he was the one that fathered Malva's child, and then murdered her. He admits that Malva wished to come clean to Claire about the deception. Although Claire tries to convince Allan not to kill himself, to just leave and never come back, Young Ian takes the decision out of either of their hands by shooting Allan in the back with an arrow, killing him.
Malva is a strong willed young woman. She is quite intrigued by the art of healing and is enthusiastic about learning as much as she can from from Claire.
Described as a tallish girl, soft black curls, almond-shaped luminous light gray eyes, an oval shaped face, and pale complexion.
Allan Christie was her half-brother/cousin. It is unclear when it started, but Allan had an incestuous relationship with her and fathered her child. To avoid them both getting into trouble with their father Thomas Christie, Allan told her to place blame on Jamie Fraser, figuring that Jamie would have to pay to take care of her and the baby. However, when Malva wanted to confess the truth to Claire Fraser, Allan killed her.
Thomas Christie was her putative father/biological uncle. Despite knowing for certain she was not his daughter Tom still cared for her. When she started showing some of the signs that he considered 'witch-like' that he'd seen in her mother Tom worried she'd be just like her. To try and keep control over her wickedness he kept her close and was not against using physical forms of discipline. He hadn't wanted her to apprentice with Claire Fraser. And justifiably so as she'd taken what she'd learned about germs and tried to kill him and kill Claire. He hadn't believed her story that Jamie Fraser fathered her child. After her murder to prevent Claire from taking the blame he confessed to the murder, though he didn't do it either.
Claire Fraser became something of a mother figure to Malva. Malva became Claire's assistant, eager to learn all that Claire was willing to teach. There was the "forbidden" factor that her father Thomas Christie did not want her to assist Claire that made her even more willing to help Claire. Despite considering Claire as a respected mentor and something of a mother figure, at Allan's direction she accused Jamie of being the father of her child. Prior to making the accusation she used the knowledge of germs that Claire had taught her to poison her father and Claire in hopes of getting them out of the way for her and Allan's plan. After Allan killed her Claire was the one to discover her. And in spite of all she'd done to hurt the Frasers Claire tried to at the least save Malva's unborn baby. The baby did not survive. As a result many on the Ridge and the area accused Claire of murdering her and the baby, resulting in Claire's arrest by Richard Brown.
Malva had developed an attraction for Bobby Higgins during his visits to Fraser's Ridge. This attraction grew into an intimate relationship. It's unclear if the physical relationship was strictly based on Malva's attachment to him or that she'd realized she was pregnant and needed to sleep with various men in an attempt to have someone that wasn't Allan to blame. Bobby, via Lord John Grey, had wanted to speak with Thomas Christie in regards to marriage, but the subject was never brought to Tom as Jamie was very certain the answer would be no. When word got out that Malva was with child, supposedly by Jamie, a fight broke out between Bobby and Ian, both of whom knew the other had slept with Malva. In the end, nothing came of this relationship before she was killed by her brother Allan Christie.
Malva developed a sexual relationship with Ian Murray during the time frame that she was trying to find someone to place blame upon for her pregnancy. Ian knew that he was not the only man she was sleeping with, after he showed late for one of their meetings he found her having sex with Bobby Higgins instead. When word got out that Malva was with child, supposedly by Jamie, a fight broke out between Bobby and Ian. Ian confessed to Claire that he'd been intimate with Malva during the span that she would have gotten pregnant. He offered to marry her if the child was his, given his ex wife Wakyo'teyehsnonhsa had difficulties with pregnancies, and if it would get people to stop saying the horrid things about Jamie. Claire advised that now it wouldn't change anything and when asked why he hadn't thought of that before the act he admitted after a few times he'd considered it be decided against as he felt Malva was not a woman he'd feel safe falling asleep next to.
Jamie Fraser for the most part had rather limited contact with Malva after her family moved to Fraser's Ridge. While Claire was ill Malva did make attempts to offer 'comfort' to Jamie but it was refused. At Allan's prodding Malva made the dramatic claim in front of her father and Claire that Jamie was the father of her baby. She even went so far as to claim the affair started while Claire was ill and carried on beyond that. This accusation damaged Jamie's reputation with the people on the ridge, thought his family stood by him certain it was all a lie.
- Malva is a Latin word which refers to the mallow plant.
- Malva as a given name is possibly related to Malvina, a name invented by James Macpherson and which derives from the Gaelic mala mhinn, which means 'smooth brow'.
- Christie derives from the personal names Christian (from Greek χριω (chrio) "to anoint") or Christopher (from the Late Greek name Χριστοφορος (Christophoros) meaning "bearing Christ").