… one day quite suddenly I knew that I was ready (to find and reconstruct Arthur), that the time had come when I really could cope with it. Most of the actual research I did for the book, apart from knowing the Arthurian story from the romance versions, was into Dark Age life and history as far as they were known. Then I worked into this setting the Arthur who seemed to me to carry weight, to be the most likely kind of person. It was very strange because I have never written a book which was so possessive. It was extraordinary–almost frightening.
It took me about eighteen months to write, and it absolutely rode me throughout the entire time. I would take the book to bed with me at night, and work there until I dropped off to sleep about two o’clock in the morning, too tired to see any more. Then I would wake up about six o’clock, still thinking about it. It was addictive. It was almost like having the story fed through to me, at times. I do my writing usually in three drafts, and I would go from the first to the second draft, from the second to the third, and find bits of the book that I had no recollection of having written at all. It was interesting, almost scary, but much of the material had this effect of being almost fed through to me, rather than being the result of my own research.
Source: University of Rochester
Posts Tagged ‘Arthurian’
Posted in Autobiography & Biography, Sword at Sunset, The Light Beyond the Forest, The Road to Camlann, The Sword and the Circle, Tristan and Iseult, tagged Arthurian on 06/02/2012 | Leave a Comment »
Rosemary Sutcliff was interviewed by Raymond H Thompson (in 1986) for a series of interviews with Arthurian authors. She spoke of her research, and the influences which led her to her own version of the Arthurian legend in the best-selling Sword at Sunset, first published in 1963.
… I did not discover the historical side of Arthurian legend until I was eighteen or nineteen, when I read two intriguing books by some absolute crackpot called Dayrel Reid: inspired crackpots are very special when you find them. One was called The Battle for Britain in the Fifth Century; the other was called The Rise of Wessex. They dealt with the Dark Ages, but particularly with the Arthurian legend and with the possibilities of an historical Arthur. I was fascinated by this idea, and I set off looking for all the other clues that I could find. (more…)
Some two decades ago, Rosemary Sutcliff, author of best-selling historical novel Sword at Sunset, suggested that :
“The Arthurian legend contains an essential truth, and I think at present we’re awfully uncertain of our future.Therefore we feel a kind of kinship for the Dark Ages; and I think for this reason we feel in a way the need for something to back us up, in the same way as Arthur ‘lights up’ the Dark Ages. We have a need for an archetype of some sort to pull us together, to get us through this, to spread light into the darkness until we can get through to a better world.”
Perhaps true of our times now as much as twenty years ago? (more…)
Historical and children’s fiction author Rosemary Sutcliff wrote a book for adults (as opposed to children) about King Arthur – Sword at Sunset – a best seller in the UK in 1963. She said twenty years later:
I had determined from the time that I was very young that there was a real person there, and that I would love to find and reconstruct that person. [...] Most of the actual research I did for the book (Sword at Sunset), apart from knowing the Arthurian story from the romance versions, was into Dark Age life and history as far as they were known. Then I worked into this setting the Arthur who seemed to me to carry weight, to be the most likely kind of person. It was very strange because I have never written a book which was so possessive. It was extraordinary–almost frightening. [...] I would take the book to bed with me at night, and work there until I dropped off to sleep about two o’clock in the morning, too tired to see any more. Then I would wake up about six o’clock, still thinking about it. It was addictive. It was almost like having the story fed through to me, at times. I do my writing usually in three drafts, and I would go from the first to the second draft, from the second to the third, and find bits of the book that I had no recollection of having written at all.
Eric Eller described himself as a ‘recovering chemical engineer’. Of Sword at Sunset he wrote:
… Rosemary Sutcliff‘s Sword at Sunset stands out for its raw emotion and storyline stripped down to the essentials … This novel makes other versions, no matter how much fantasy and magic are injected, pallid by comparison. Other authors have recreated a gritty, ‘realistic’ Arthur since Sutcliff introduced the idea more than forty years ago, but this first attempt at that take on the Arthurian legend still stands out as the best.
(A post from four years ago)
Posted in Criticism, Research, and Reviews, history, Sword at Sunset, The Lantern Bearers, tagged Arthurian, children's literature, historical fiction, young adult fiction on 31/03/2011 | 3 Comments »
I discovered Rosemary Sutcliff in my early teens, and she quickly became one of my favorite authors. I can still vividly recapture the magic of reading her books. It was a real pleasure to return to The Lantern Bearers, which I first read when I was about thirteen, and find the magic still intact…
The Lantern Bearers is a wonderful book. Sutcliff possesses a unique gift for character and description, evoking a sense of place and person so intense that the reader can almost see her characters and the world in which they move. She has a matchless ability to establish historical context without a surfeit of the “let’s learn a history lesson now” exposition that mars many historical novels for young people. Her books are never less than meticulously researched, but her recreation of the past is so effortless that one has no sense of academic exercise, but rather of a world as close and immediate as everyday.
… The Arthurian theme was one of Sutcliff’s favorites: she produced several young adult books on the subject, as well as a beautiful adult novel, Sword at Sunset, to my mind one of the best ever written in this genre. But the Sutcliff‘s Arthur is rooted as much in history as in myth–not just the tragic king of Le Morte d’Arthur or the heroic/magical figure of traditional Arthurian fantasy, but a man who might actually have existed, heir both to the memory of Rome and to the last great flowering of Celtic power in Britain.
… her enduring popularity … is richly merited: she is, quite simply, one of the best.
Copyright © 1997 Victoria Strauss
- For the story of The Lantern Bearers see here
- For more posts about Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Lantern Bearers on this website click here
The knight Bedevere, played by James Traherne in the RSC production of Morte D’Arthur, returns Arthur’s sword Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake after his final battle. He carries Arthur onto the barge that sails to Avalon after he is mortally wounded by Mordred. The RSC note that Bedevere appears in Rosemary Sutcliff’s 1963 best-selling Arthurian novel Sword at Sunset as Guenever’s lover, rather than Launcelot.
Posted in Arthurian, Reviews, Sutcliff Review of the Week, Sword at Sunset, The Eagle of the Ninth, The Lantern Bearers, The Silver Branch, tagged Arthurian, children's literature, historical fiction, Romans on 08/06/2010 | 1 Comment »
Rosemary Sutcliff, children’s writer and historical novelist, is “unforgettable” to Keith Taylor, himself a writer, in a web article which reader of this blog Anne McFadgen has alerted me to (Thank you!). Her work, he writes, is “memorable’” because “decades after he has read her books scenes “from all of them come to my mind’s eye as vividly as if I’d seen them happen”. (more…)