Archive for the ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’ Category

L’Aigle de la Neuvième Légion is the French film version of The Eagle film derived from Rosemary Sutcliff’s best-selling historical fiction book L’Aigle de la Neuvième Légion (The Eagle of the Ninth). Posts about the film on this blog here.
L'Aigle de la Neuvième Légion on TV en France aujourd’hui!

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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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Manda Scott is the author of the Boudica: Dreaming novels and the Rome series. The third book in that series, The Eagle of the Twelfth, was published recently. The History Girls (she is one such) are ‘a group of best-selling, award-winning writers of historical fiction’ with an intriguing blog of the same name. Today they post an interview with Manda Scott, who was questioned first about a title which “inevitably recalls Rosemary Sutcliff’s seminal The Eagle of the Ninth”. “What”, she was asked,”would you say was so unique and inspiring about it – and do you think the current literary love affair with Rome is to some extent part of her legacy?” She replied:
The Roman era, particularly the early empire, is one of those historical time periods, rather like the Tudors, that seems to be perennial in its attraction and I’ve never worked out why. Other periods have strong characters, and surviving dynasties. Other periods had empires that attempted to conquer the world. Other periods have the dichotomy between order (the Empire) and wildness (the unconquered natives of the provinces) and the constant friction between them, but the first century is one of the most deeply and extensively mined periods in fictional history and I have to think that Rosemary Sutcliff has played an overwhelming role in that. Every time I stand on a stage at a book festival or a reading and say that I was inspired by her work, heads nod throughout the audience. When I say the same about Mary Renault or Dorothy Dunnett (the Alexander trilogy and ‘King Hereafter’ respectively) there’s a buzz, but not the same wave of memory and affection.

I’m not sure if it’s simply people of our age, who grew up with The Eagle of the Ninth as our introduction to historical fiction, or whether she genuinely spans the generations, but there’s no doubt that she’s had a huge impact.

Defining exactly why she’s had that impact, is harder than knowing that it exists. Partly, she was the only one: nobody else brought the legions to life as she did, nobody else asked the questions of our identity before the Roman occupation. (She never answered them, at least not for me: trying to find out what the Seal People were doing when the Romans weren’t looking has occupied a large part of my spiritual and writing life and the Boudica series is a direct result of that). She had the capacity to engage men and women, girls and boys across the genders, which was one part of her charm: nobody has ever suggested to me that she lost readers because they knew she was a woman: her writing was too strong for that. And she was an imperialist at heart, a girl brought up in the dying days of the Empire by a father who was a Naval Officer, her writing fuses that same effortless superiority and innate sexism that propelled Enid Blyton to such massive success: there’s a level at which it resonates with the part of us that wants security; now as much as then. Her world was ordered. Her Romans were benevolent, if strict. Her natives were noble savages, but they respected their Roman over-lords.

I don’t think that was how it was, but it’s a very safe kind of fiction (and just because I think it’s factually inaccurate doesn’t stop me from regarding her as a master of her art and the progenitor of everything I’ve done.)So either Sutcliff made Rome the attraction that it is, or it’s a hangover from our Imperial past, when the Victorians rediscovered Rome and used it as a fictitious model for their own dreams of empire: the entire ‘white man’s burden and the Pax Britannia’ are modelled on Augustus’ concepts of the Roman Empire – Either way, there’s nowhere near the same kind of interest in the US, for instance, or other European nations. Our love of Rome is uniquely British and, in the same way that it’s possible to divide all those around us into natural Roundheads or natural Cavaliers, so are we all natural Romans or natural Britons. It’s part of our native psyche.

Actually, although I agree with some of her analysis, I am not sure I concur entirely  with this take on Rosemary Sutcliff. I would certainly have wished to hear Rosemary’s own response. For example: she would, I believe, have resisted being labelled and (pace, Marshall McLuhan) libelled “innately sexist” whilst being determinedly not a feminist.  She would have rejected the assertion that what “propelled her to success” was what she had in common with Enid Blyton (whose work she was not a fan of!). She did not consider the “natives” of Britain “nobel savages”.

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When the BBC series of Rosemary Sutcliff‘s historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth was broadcast on TV, the BBC’s Radio Times wrote about her approach to children, books, the Romans and her hero Marcus – ‘part of me was in love with him’, she said.

Her passion for the Romans stemmed from her own childhood, when her mother read aloud to her from books like Rudyard Kipling‘s Puck Of Pook’s Hill.  The three Roman tales entranced her.   (more…)

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Fugitive Ink blog by Barendina Smedley  tackles issues of politics, art and literature “from an unapologetically idiosyncratic, vaguely High Tory perspective.”

Amongst the lesser pleasures of parenthood should be numbered the opportunity, not only to re-visit the favourite books of one’s own early childhood  … but also … the opportunity to encounter as an adult the children’s books one missed in childhood. Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth very much a case in point.

She goes on to write a long, fascinating piece about her reading of the novel – but I would have called this one of the greater pleasures of parenthood!

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