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Archive for the ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’ Category

In 2009, Lindsey Davis—writer of classical thrillers, creator of private investigator and poet Falco—listed in The Guardian newspaper her top ten books from her “shelves and shelves” of Roman material. She included Rosemary Sutcliff in “ten that are scholarly but user-friendly …  all books I have enjoyed, all influenced my love of ancient Rome and most of them are in regular use for my work”.

Of The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff, she wrote:

Somewhere about the year 117 AD, the Ninth Legion, which was stationed at Eboracum, where York now stands, marched north to deal with a rising among the Caledonian tribes, and was never heard of again. Hooked? If not, there’s no hope for you. A wonderful novel, for children of all ages.

With excerpts from her remarks, her other nine choices were:  (more…)

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Cover to Rosemary Sutcliff's The Eagle of the Ninth Original UK edition 1954Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth is rooted in  the history of a real Roman legion. A couple of years back I noted some references about the history from a website that has now disappeared – by one Ross Cowan. He had written that

… to learn more, especially about the evidence for the legion in the period c. AD 118-161, see :

Birley, A. R. The Roman Government of Britain. Oxford: 2005, 228-229.

Birley, E. B. ‘The Fate of the Ninth Legion’ in R. M. Butler (ed.) Soldier and Civilian in Roman Yorkshire. Leicester: 1971, 71-80.

Campbell, D. B. Roman Legionary Fortresses, 27 BC – AD 378. Oxford: 2006, 27-29.

Cowan, R. For the Glory of Rome: A History of Warriors and Warfare. London: 2007, 220-234 and 271-273.  (more…)

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TV ProgrammeRosemary Sutcliff‘s historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth, which by 2011 had sold more than a million copies since its appearance in 1954 (according to publisher OUP), was made into a BBC TV series shot in Aberdeenshire in the 1970s.

Rosemary  Sutcliff adored the portrayal of Marcus, the hero. As I have posted before, I thought ” I probably had” old old video tapes of hers in the attic. I do not, I find now on moving house.

Some readers here and ‘likers’ of the Facebook page have lobbied for a re-release or at least DVD.  I have tried.  Meanwhile John has been doing sterling work respondng to requests for DvDs (see below). And now there is some action about downloading  with torrents (and I have managed to dowlaod the whole series and am loving it – I last watched it I think with Rosemary).

The TV series was broadcast in six episodes.

  1. Frontier Fort (4 September 1977)
  2. Esca (11 September 1977)
  3. Across the Frontier (18 September 1977)
  4. The Lost Legion (25 September 1977)
  5. The Wild Hunt (2 October 1977)
  6. Valedictory (9 October 1977)

Very tiny excerpts here.

(Revised 3/2/14)

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Top 50 books including Rosemary SutcliffAt the Skunk & Burning Tires blog, author Ju-osh M. is – by his own admission – “far too old to be seeking the attention and approval of strangers”. Yet – to adapt a phrase of his – there he was, there I was and here you are. He thought “it would be fun” to revisit animated film-maker Hayao Miyazaki’s “fifty favourite children’s books”. (I am not sure of his source; nor do I know if this is in order of preference). As mentioned before on this site, books by Rosemary Sutcliff were amongst the stories Miyazaki loved.

1. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

2. Il Romanzo di Cipollino (The Adventures of the Little Onion)  by Gianni Rodari

3. The Rose and the Ring by William Makepeace Thackeray

4. The Little Bookroom  by Eleanor Farjeon

5. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

6. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

7. Die Nibelungensage (The Treasure of the Nibelungs) by Gustav Schalk

8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll

9. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

10. A Norwegian Farm  by Marie Hamsun

11. The Humpbacked Horse by Pyotr Pavlovich Yershov

12. Fabre’s Book of Insects by Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre

13. Toui Mukashi no Fushigina Hanashi-Nihon Reiiki by Tsutomu Minakami

14. Ivan the Fool by Leo Tolstoy

15. The Eagle of the Ninth Chronicles (Three books)  by Rosemary Sutcliff

16. Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne  (more…)

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Raymond H. Thompson (Author)  interviewed Rosemary Sutcliff for the periodical Avalon to Camelot in 1986. In the introduction he wrote:

Though perhaps best known for historical novels set in Roman Britain, such as The Eagle of the Ninth (1954), Rosemary Sutcliff has written some of the finest contemporary recreations of the Arthurian story. She introduces us to Arthur in The Lantern Bearers (1959), a book for younger readers that won the Carnegie Medal, and in Sword at Sunset (1963) she continues his tale in his own words. She has also retold the Arthurian legend with clarity and elegance in Tristan and Iseult (1971), The Light Beyond the Forest (1979), The Sword and the Circle (1981), and The Road to Camlann (1981). Her later novels were set in the more recent past, but she returned to Dark Age Britain for her … novel The Shining Company (London: Bodley Head), which is based upon the Gododdin. This poem, composed about 600 A.D. in North Britain by the bard Aneirin to commemorate a band of British warriors who fell in battle against the Angles, is of special interest in that it provides us with the earliest mention of Arthur’s name and Sutcliff’s novel preserves the Arthurian echoes.

Source:  Interview with Rosemary Sutcliff | Robbins Library Digital Projects.

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The Times newspaper published in mid-2013 a list of the top 50 ‘books that all children should read’, which included Rosemary Sutcliff’sThe Eagle of the Ninth (at number 27). Of course all such lists reflect the preferred reading of the selection panel and it is good, indeed essential, to know who was on the panel. In this case it was: Amanda Craig (then Times children’s books critic), Lucy Coats (author), Wendy Cooling (founder of Bookstart), Tom Gatti (Times Saturday Review editor), Katherine Langrish (blogger and author), Anthony McGowan (author), and  Nicholas Tucker (children’s literature specialist). Their list:

  1. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
  2. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  3. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  4. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  5. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
  6. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
  7. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
  8. The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
  9. The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
  10. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner
  11. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  12. Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson
  13. The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer
  14. Just William by Richmal Crompton
  15. Matilda by Roald Dahl
  16. The Midnight Folk by John Masefield
  17. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  18. Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
  19. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
  20. Stories for Children by Oscar Wilde
  21. Hellbent by Anthony McGowan
  22. The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban
  23. Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
  24. The Magicians of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones
  25.  The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
  26. The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White
  27. The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
  28. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
  29. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
  30. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  31. The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss
  32. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
  33. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
  34.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  35. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  36. One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson
  37. The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
  38. The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate by Margaret Mahy
  39. Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
  40. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
  41. Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin
  42. The Borrowers by Mary Norton
  43. The Snow-walker’s Son by Catherine Fisher
  44. Holes by Louis Sachar
  45. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
  46. Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond
  47. Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
  48. Vice Versa by F. Anstey
  49. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  50. Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd

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Robin Rowland used to write a blog about his writing life (he was a TV journalist) called The Garret Tree. Some eight years ago he posted When I waited for Rosemary Sutcliff

When I was a kid, Rosemary Sutcliff was my J. K. Rowling. In the early 1960s, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next Sutcliff. I lived in northern British Columbia and the waiting involved finding out when the book would arrive in the public library. In Kitimat, British Columbia, a town carved out of the bush, there were no bookstores. The local variety store and the stationary store both carried popular paperbacks delivered at the same time as magazines. 

For me, Rosemary Sutcliff created a world just as magic as Rowling’s. Somewhat like Hogwarts and Harry it was an alternative British universe. Many of her books followed one scattered family for a millennium or more, through the history of Britain from the ancient Celts through the Roman conquest and occupation, the collapse of the empire, the Saxon invasion and into the Middle Ages. It was both familiar (especially since my parents were British) and   (more…)

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Historian, writer and journalist  Christina Hardyment reflected on Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff in response to the anniversary edition of  Sutcliff’s Arthurian adult novel – an ‘odd one out’.

Rosemary Sutcliff is most famed for The Eagle of the Ninth, but there was much more to her than that. In the 1950s, historically-minded children found her books a magic carpet into the past. I began with Brother Dusty-feet (1952) and The Armourer’s House (1951), and never looked back an insatiable interest in history has remained the backbone of my life.

In 1954, The Eagle of the Ninth introduced Marcus Flavius Aquila, a young Roman who chooses to stay in Britain after the legions leave. Seven subsequent books follow his family’s fate, usually directly. The odd book out is the fifth, Sword at Sunset, now published in a new edition to celebrate its 50th birthday. In 1963, it was firmly announced to be for adults, and given the (for their time) graphic and violent scenes of sex and slaughter, it deserved to be.

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Three years ago Rosemary Sutcliff’s classic historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth inspired one blogger to go exploring!

The Roman History Reading Group’s first read for 2010 is Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth, part of which is set in Calleva Atrebatum. As it’s quite near where my parents live, I set out one cold and frosty morning to have a look at what remains of Calleva Atrebatum today. The remains are near the village of Silchester, not far from Reading.

Calleva Atrebatum means something like “the Atrebates’ town in the woods” (not that different from Silchester!). The Atrebates were a Celtic tribe living in this area, with links to a tribe of the same name living in Gaul. Although the town itself has disappeared, its walls are still standing. It took me about 2 hours to walk the circuit of 2.8 km, but that was with lots of stops for photographs. The shape is roughly speaking a diamond with the top point at the North.

North east wall

Find the whole article and all the photographs on his blog here.

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Over at the Facebook page for Rosemary Sutcliff  readers have been robust about  the error of The Booktrust’s ways in excluding Rosemary Sutcliff from their attempt to list the 100 best children’s books of the last 100 years. I asked for help in compiling a broadside.

I’m not sure this will help, but the books I enjoyed when I was 11 still engage me at 63! I’ve never felt that Rosemary Sutcliff writes for children alone. There’s probably no more poignant tale than The Lantern Bearers. Also, she has a talent for dialogue in an historical context which is unsurpassed. Most children’s authors have nothing remotely like it. (Roy Marshall)

Rosemary Sutcliff’s books last in the mind and heart. I am 63 now and they stand out as Beacons from my childhood. I have reread many in mid and later life and they are even better. I am with Roy, The Lantern Bearers is my favourite – so evocative and of our own end times too. (Rob Patterson)

Rosemary Sutcliff’s Roman books, starting with the Eagle of the Ninth (but I read all the others – The Mark of the Horse Lord was probably the one that really inspired me), were one of the influences that led me to study archaeology.

(more…)

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