Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

Collection of Rosemary Sutcliff covers via Google Images March 2016

Collection of Rosemary Sutcliff covers via Google Images March 2016

According to The  Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) the “ability to create a realistic historical novel for children is in a sense one of the most testing challenges of the fantastist’s art”.

Rosemary Sutcliff’s “masterpieces of historical fiction are vivid re-creations rather than attempts to portray historical fact through story. While rarely straying beyond the boundaries of what could have happened in the later centuries of Roman rule in Britain and the succeeding Dark Ages, Rosemary Sutcliff, like her mentor Rudyard Kipling, set herself to describe history as part of a temporal tapestry.”

”Thus The Eagle of the Ninth (1954), while containing at least one darkly numinous and certainly trans-real scene when its hero Marcus discovers the lost legion’s missing standard in a British shrine, is told very much in the manner of a tale of the Imperial Northwest Frontier, with Marcus in the role of English subaltern and the Druid-inspired uprisings reminiscent of Indian struggles against the Raj. Suceeding novels, such as The Silver Branch (1957) and The Lantern Bearers (1959), portray Marcus’s descendants, with the Romans and British developing elements of each other’s culture and facing another wave of conquest and immigration from the Anglo-Saxons.”

”We see the beginning of the Matter of Britain in the latter novel and in the adult novel Sword at Sunset (1964) which depicts Artos, illegitimate nephew of Ambrosius the High King, as a warlord fighting the Saxon tribes to keep alight the memory of the Romano-British nation. In the events Rosemary Sutcliff describes – especially the ambiguity of Artos’s relationship with the incest-born Medraut and his use of the moon daisy, element of the White Goddess, to unite old faiths and new at the Battle of Badon – are both the Arthur of the later chroniclers and the seed of the later romances.”

Rosemary Sutcliff turned again and again to this period, revisiting the Romano-British ‘frontier’ in Mark of the Horse Lord (1965) – a fierce study of espionage and assumed identity – and Frontier Wolf (1980). She retold Saxon and Irish legends such as Beowulf (1961; retitled

Dragon Slayer 1966) and The Hound of Ulster (1963), and returned to the Dark Ages in The Shining Company (1990) – based on the Welsh poem The Gododdin – and in retellings of the Arthur-story in The Sword and the Circle (1981) and The Road to Camlann (1981). She also wrote about Greece in The Flowers of Adonis (1965), a study of the Athenian Alcibades which provides a multifaceted picture of a charming but hollow genius. Apart from the Marcus sequence, though, perhaps her finest novel – and certainly the most akin to fantasy – is Warrior Scarlet (1958), in which Drem, a boy of a Bronze Age tribe, overcomes the disability of a withered arm to become a warrior. Within the limits of a book for children, this is as powerful as possible a picture of a putative shamanistic society, with the sun-worshipping Golden People contrasted with the outcast Half People from whom they have wrested the Land.”

“Apart from occasional suggestions of paranormal powers, Rosemary Sutcliff remains a realistic writer, exploring the history of our here and now. But her imagination was powerful enough to create startling pictures of what could have been.

via Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) – Sutcliff, Rosemary.

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Covers of Books by Megan Wheeler Turner

Responding to the recently posted new ‘interview with Rosemary Sutcliff’, Helen writes:

1997 Newbery Honor Book children’s author Megan Whalen Turner (author of the historical fantasy series The Queen’s Thief) was a Rosemary Sutcliff fan.  She writes about this in the afterword of her first novel, The Thief:

“…writes historical fiction the way Rosemary Sutcliff used to.  If Sutcliff‘s name keeps appearing, it is because she [is] one of the authors who have influenced me the most.”

“If a writer has inspired me, I like to make a reference to their work inside my story …The Thief has an indirect quote from The Eagle of the Ninth.  If you read it you will find an object there whose description I have copied as closely as I can for The Thief.”

This item—the Aquila family Dolphin Ring—features in many of Rosemary Sutcliff‘s Roman Britain books. Turner goes on to list The Eagle of the Ninth, Warrior Scarlet, The Shield Ring and Knight’s Fee on her list of favourite ‘old ‘books.

More information

The Newbery Medal, named after the eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery, is awarded annually by the US Association for Library Service to Children to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. At the same time some runner-up books are called Newbery Honor Books.

This is the full list of ‘old’ children’s books that Megan Whalen Turner recommends—”This is just a quick list of some of my favourite old books”.

  • Around the World in 80 Days, Jules Verne
  • Puck of Pook’s Hill, Rudyard Kipling
  • The Enchanted Castle, E, Nesbit
  • The Treasure Seekers, E. Nesbit
  • Half Magic, Edward Eager
  • The Eagle of the Ninth, Rosemary Sutcliff
  • Warrior Scarlett, Rosemary Sutcliff
  • The Shield Ring, Rosemary Sutcliff
  • Knight’s Fee, Rosemary Sutcliff
  • The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken
  • Midnight is a Place, Joan Aiken
  • Go Saddle the Sea, Joan Aiken
  • Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
  • Charmed Life, Diana Wynne Jones
  • Drowned Ammet, Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Children of Green Knowe, L. M. Boston
  • The Secret of the Twelves, Pauline Clark
  • The Crime of Martin Coverly, Leonard Wibberly
  • Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Time, Jane Louise Curry
  • The Perilous Gard, Elizabeth Marie Pope
  • The Sherwood Ring, Elizabeth Marie Pope
  • The Dancing Bear, Peter Dickinson
  • The Weathermonger, Peter Dickinson
  • Heartsease, Peter Dickinson
  • Playing Beatie Bow, Ruth Park
  • The Princess and Curdie, MacDonald
  • The Princess and the Goblins, MacDonald
  • Mocassin Trail, Eloise Jarvis McGraw
  • Little Britches, Ralph Moody
  • Tom’s Midnight Garden, Phillipa Pearce
  • Minnow on the Say, Phillipa Pearce

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