Rosemary 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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Rosemary 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.
- Frontier Fort (4 September 1977)
- Esca (11 September 1977)
- Across the Frontier (18 September 1977)
- The Lost Legion (25 September 1977)
- The Wild Hunt (2 October 1977)
- Valedictory (9 October 1977)
Very tiny excerpts here.
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Posted in Arthurian, Books and Stories, Criticism, Research, and Reviews, The Eagle of the Ninth Book, The Lantern Bearers, The Light Beyond the Forest, The Road to Camlann, The Shining Company, The Sword and the Circle, Tristan and Iseult, tagged Arthurian on December 23, 2013 |
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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:
- The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
- His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
- Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
- A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
- The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
- The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
- The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
- Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson
- The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer
- Just William by Richmal Crompton
- Matilda by Roald Dahl
- The Midnight Folk by John Masefield
- The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
- Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
- Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
- Stories for Children by Oscar Wilde
- Hellbent by Anthony McGowan
- The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban
- Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
- The Magicians of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones
- The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
- The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White
- The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
- The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
- The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
- The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss
- How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
- The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
- One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson
- The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
- The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate by Margaret Mahy
- Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
- How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
- Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin
- The Borrowers by Mary Norton
- The Snow-walker’s Son by Catherine Fisher
- Holes by Louis Sachar
- Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
- Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond
- Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
- Vice Versa by F. Anstey
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- 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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