Creator: Rosemary Sutcliff
Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-1992) was a British writer of historical fiction
, mainly for children
, who published some fifty books between 1950 and 1997. She was best-known for her novels set in Roman Britain, particularly The Eagle of the Ninth
. She was awarded the Order of the British Empire (later Commander of the British Empire) for her services to children's literature.
Sutcliff was the daughter of a Royal Navy commander, and much of her work focuses on military officers and the life of the service. At two years old, she developed juvenile arthritis which partially crippled her; she spent much of her childhood in and out of hospital and used a wheelchair in later life. Medicine and disabled characters also play a prominent role in her fiction. She was educated largely at home by her mother, who introduced her to mythology and literature; she also became a great admirer of Rudyard Kipling
, who strongly influences her prose, settings, and themes. As a young adult, she trained as an artist, working as a painter of miniatures; the vivid evocation of visual detail later translated to her writing.
She published her first books for children, The Chronicles of Robin Hood
and The Queen Elizabeth Story
, with Oxford University Press in 1950. They were followed by three more novels before her breakout bestseller The Eagle of the Ninth
, which became a set text in schools, and has spawned numerous radio, television, and film adaptations. It was eventually followed by seven loosely linked sequels sometimes known as "The Eagle of the Ninth Chronicles" or "the Dolphin Ring sequence", after the signet ring passed down through the generations of a Roman British family. It's also a contender for the modern Trope Codifier
of the Lost Roman Legion
. Other major Young Adult
novels of the fifties and sixties include Knight's Fee
(1960) and The Mark of the Horse Lord
- The Dolphin Ring novels in chronological order:
- The Eagle of the Ninth (1954)
- The Silver Branch (1957)
- Frontier Wolf (1980)
- The Lantern Bearers (1959)
- Sword at Sunset (1963), adult
- Dawn Wind (1961)
- Sword Song (1997)
- The Shield Ring (1956)
Sutcliff's first novels for adults were published soon thereafter: Lady in Waiting
(1957) and The Rider of the White Horse
(1959) fictionalised the lives of Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Thomas Fairfax partly from the perspectives of their wives. They were followed in 1963 by her best-known adult work Sword at Sunset
, one of the first King Arthur Demythtification
novels, and The Flowers of Adonis
(1965), a life of Alcibiades, also from the perspectives of his many followers. Her final adult novel was 1989's Blood and Sand
, again based on the real life of a Scottish soldier in Ottoman Egypt.
During the late sixties and seventies her output consisted mainly of shorter novels and short stories, notably the award-winning Song for a Dark Queen
(1977) and Tristan and Iseult
(1978). In the eighties and early nineties she produced several longer novels, such as Bonnie Dundee
(1982) and The Shining Company
(1992), a handful of picture books, and a partial autobiography, Blue Remembered Hills
(1983). She died in 1992, and her Trojan Cycle retellings Black Ships Before Troy
and The Wanderings of Odysseus
(1993) and her last, unfinished novel, Sword Song
(1997), were published posthumously.
A Oxford University Press fiftieth-anniversary cash-in edition of The Eagle of the Ninth
in 2004 and the 2011 feature film adaptation The Eagle
have sparked a minor revival of her works in more recent years. The official blog of her literary estate is http://rosemarysutcliff.com/
Rosemary Sutcliff's work typically includes examples of:
- Author Catchphrase
- Based on a True Story: Most of her Historical Fiction is set in the context of true events. Though her protagonists are usually fictional characters on the ground, they often cross paths with a Historical-Domain Character.
- Bittersweet Ending: Victory is fleeting, but Heroic Sacrifice is forever. They'll Earn Their Happy Ending at the least; at worst The Hero Dies. And the dog dies. And the horse.
- Bury Your Disabled: Is constantly averted. This is Reality Subtext - Rosemary Sutcliff used a wheelchair for most of her life, and strongly disliked this trope. Her soldier protagonists are prone to Career-Ending Injury.
- Warrior Scarlet: Drem was born with an undeveloped right arm.
- A Circlet of Oak Leaves: Aracos has a heart murmur that disqualifies him from the Roman cavalry.
- The Fugitives: Lucian's legs were crippled by a childhood epidemic, probably polio.
- Dawn Wind: Clubfooted Vadir Cedricson is perhaps her only disabled antagonist.
- The Shining Company: Conn walks with a limp.
- Sword Song: The warrior Onund Treefoot is named for his wooden leg.
- The Witch's Brat: Lovel is born with a crooked back and foot, becomes an infirmarian monk, and more or less invents physiotherapy to help a man who crippled his leg in a fall.
- The Queen Elizabeth Story
- Lady in Waiting: Bess's friend and Historical-Domain Character Robin Cecil is hunchbacked.
- The Capricorn Bracelet
- Sword at Sunset: Artos's Companion Gwalchmai is clubfooted, but it doesn't stop him from being a cavalryman and a surgeon.
- Career-Ending Injury
- The Eagle of the Ninth: Marcus is discharged from the army for a maimed leg.
- The Mark of the Horse Lord: Midir was blinded to make him ritually unfit for kingship.
- Blood Feud: Jestyn's leg is maimed; he becomes a physician.
- Simon: Simon's dad loses a leg in battle.
- Bonnie Dundee: Hugh loses an arm; becomes a one-armed painter.
- Canine Companion: Sutcliff Heroes Love Dogs, as she did. Besides most of her protagonists having one, several human characters are explicitly identified with dogs, and many Celtic characters have names including the word for dog, cu.
- The Queen Elizabeth Story: Perdita and her friends rescue a puppy.
- Brother Dusty-Feet: Big Friendly Dog Argos, whom Hugh runs away from home with to protect. Roland and Oliver are apparently each other's.
- The Eagle of the Ninth: Cub, the tame wolf pup caught by Esca.
- Outcast: Canog, a mistreated mongrel like her owner Beric; his childhood dog Gelert.
- The Lantern Bearers: Artos's dog(s) Cabal, original to King Arthur mythos.
- Warrior Scarlet: Whitethroat, for whose sake Drem fights a duel; Fand the Beautiful; various sheepdogs.
- The Bridge-Builders: Math the Hibernian wolfhound
- Knight's Fee: Joyeuse, named for a sword, to Bevis.
- Dawn Wind: Dog the Post-Apocalyptic Dog, the other Sole Survivor of Owain's Last Stand.
- Swallows in the Spring: Dexius's dim-witted hound, who crossed a warzone to find him.
- Blood Feud: Brindle the cattle dog, whose death Jestyn tries to avenge on Vikings who then capture him.
- Bonnie Dundee: Caspar the rescue dog is instrumental in reuniting the hero with his love interest.
- The Shining Company: Gelert the loyal but dim
- Sword Song: Astrid, whom Bjarni murders a man for kicking, and Hugin, who follows him home from Dublin.
- Animal Motif:
- The Eagle of the Ninth: Esca Mac Cunoval – "I am the Centurion's hound, to lie at the Centurion's feet."
- The Silver Branch: Cullen, the hound of Curoi, who sleeps on the floor and wears a dog's tail.
- Warrior Scarlet: Drem fights a metaphorical dog fight to keep his dog out of an actual one.
- Knight's Fee: Randal, erstwhile kennel boy, who calls himself Herluin's and Sir Everard's dog
- The Hound of Ulster: Nobody uses Cú Chulainn's real name after he becomes the smith's watchdog, per the legends.
- Blood Feud: Jestyn, a "lone wolf" – "he had whistled me to heel like a hound; and like a hound I had followed."
- Frontier Wolf: The Frontier Scouts, who wear wolfskins, call themselves a pack and wolves their "four-footed brothers".
- Saxons are invariably "the Sea Wolves"
- Capital Letters Are Magic
- Celtic Mythology: Most of Sutcliff's fiction is set in the British Isles and Ireland, in a period when most of the population is Celtic. She wrote two volumes of Celtic legends, and referenced elements of Celtic mythology in many of her novels.
- The Hound of Ulster: retells the life of Cú Chulainn, including the Táin Bó Cúailnge.
- The High Deeds of Finn Mac Cool: retells the life of Fionn Mac Cumhail, including the Exile of the Sons of Uisnech.
- The Shining Company is based on the semi-historical Welsh epic Y Gododdin.
- In The Queen Elizabeth Story, an Irish great-aunt retells "The Children of Lir".
- The Washer at the Ford, a forerunner of death, appears (or is thought to appear) in Frontier Wolf and Bonnie Dundee.
- The Roman and Viking heroes of Frontier Wolf and Sword Song are familiar with Cuchulainn, and the Viking also hears about Fionoula and Iseult.
- Childhood Friend Romance: Romance is not a prominent element in most of Sutcliff's stories, so if anyone does get together, it's probably two longtime platonic friends, and it's probably via Last Minute Hookup.
- The Queen Elizabeth Story: Perdita and her brother's best friend
- The Armourer's House: Tamsyn and her cousin Piers make a Childhood Marriage Promise to be merchant adventurers together.
- Simon: Simon and Susanna; Amias and Simon's sister Mouse
- The Eagle of the Ninth: Marcus and Cottia, who is All Grown Up.
- The Shield Ring: Frytha and Bjorn, Platonic Life Partners since age six.
- Warrior Scarlet: Drem and Blai, his not-quite adopted sister.
- Knight's Fee: Randall and Gisella
- Dawn Wind: Owain and Regina
- Sword at Sunset: Gault and Levin, previously Heterosexual Life-Partners
- Bonnie Dundee: Hugh and Darklis
- Flame-Coloured Taffeta: Damaris and Peter
- The Shining Company: Conn and Luned
- Conflicting Loyalties
- Culture Clash: Individuals connecting across cultural barriers is Sutcliff's bread and butter.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The colonization of Roman Britain (or Norman England) and the crumbling of the Roman Empire evoke The British Empire, particularly The Raj, to the point of anachronism. Most of these novels were written during the dismantling of the British Empire and following in the footsteps of Rudyard Kipling.
- The looming threat of the Saxon invasions and the imminent Dark Ages also evokes the Battle of Britain, which Sutcliff lived through in her early twenties.
- End of an Age: The decline and fall of the Roman Empire in Britain, with the Dark Ages in the role of After the End.
- Failure Is the Only Option: For the Celts against the Romans; the Britons against the Saxons; and the Saxons against the Normans. Versus history, basically.
- Gray and Grey Morality: Despite frequently using light versus dark as shorthand for Order Versus Chaos, most stories acknowledge that the protagonists and antagonists are just people with opposing goals or incompatible worldviews, and the cultural perspective shifts from Roman to Celt to Saxon to Viking to Norman from book to book.
- Heroic Sacrifice
- Human Sacrifice: A common thematic and plot point in pagan settings (e.g. Warrior Scarlet, The Changeling, The Flowers of Adonis, The Mark of the Horse Lord, Dawn Wind), often as a form of Heroic Sacrifice (The Chief's Daughter) frequently associated with kingship ( Sun Horse, Moon Horse; The Mark of the Horse Lord; Frontier Wolf; Knight's Fee).
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: If it's not the central relationship of the book, the protagonist probably has one in the background. (Inevitably leads to Ho Yay - deliberate in Sword At Sunset; presumably conscious in YA novels like The Mark of the Horse Lord.)
- Simon: Simon and Amias are are symbolised by a pair of sabres and compared to David and Jonathan.
- The Eagle of the Ninth: Marcus and Esca, whose eyes met across a crowded gladiatorial arena.
- The Silver Branch: Justin and Flavius, long-lost cousins.
- Warrior Scarlet: Drem and Vortrix
- The Bridge-Builders: Androphon and Cador
- Knight's Fee: Randal and Bevis, a squire and knight.
- Sword at Sunset: Artos and Bedwyr
- Blood Feud: Jestyn and Thormod, blood-brothers, compared to Achilles and Patroclus.
- Sun Horse, Moon Horse: Lubrin and Dara
- Blood and Sand: Thomas and Tussun
- The Shining Company: Prosper and Conn
- We Lived in Drumfyvie: Eckie Brock and Donal Dhu
- Historical Domain Characters: Usually limited to cameos, but several novels are based on the lives of real (or allegedly real) people.
- Lady in Waiting: Sir Walter Raleigh
- The Rider of the White Horse: Sir Thomas Fairfax
- Sword At Sunset: Artos
- The Flowers of Adonis: Alcibiades
- Song for a Dark Queen: Boudicca
- Bonnie Dundee: John Graham of Claverhouse
- Blood and Sand: Thomas Keith
- History Marches On: Not all of her research has held up against later discoveries and interpretations - most egregiously, the Ninth Legion might or might not have been lost.
- King Arthur: Sutcliff wrote four volumes of Arthurian legends, as well as making him a real person in her historical continuity, who is nostalgically invoked by characters of later ages.
- Tristan and Iseult
- The Sword and the Circle: Excalibur and the Round Table
- The Light Beyond the Forest: the quest for the Holy Grail
- The Road to Camlann
- The Lantern Bearers: the young Artos appears as a secondary character.
- Sword At Sunset: the adult Artos unites Britain against the Saxons.
- The Shining Company: Artos's unified Britain has broken into smaller kingdoms.
- Dawn Wind: Artos's last successors are defeated by the Saxons.
- Made a Slave: Happens with some regularity to her protagonists or their sidekicks.
- The Eagle of the Ninth: Esca
- Outcast: Beric, Jason
- The Mark of the Horse Lord: Midir
- Blood Feud: Jestyn
- The Shining Company: Conn
- The Flowers of Adonis: Timandra; the entire (surviving) Sicilian expedition
- Sun Horse, Moon Horse: the entire (surviving) Epidi tribe
- The Lantern Bearers: Aquila, in Jutland.
- Dawn Wind: Both Owain and Regina in separate Saxon households.
- Sword Song: Muirgoed and her son Erp Mac Meldin were royalty, enslaved by Jarl Sigurd.
- Mixed Ancestry: As Britain is made of intermingled peoples, so too are Sutcliff's protagonists. (Alternatively, they might be adopted, giving them a mixed cultural heritage.) Rarely does anyone let them forget it.
- Outcast: Beric is of indeterminate Roman and British ancestry, raised by Britons and then by Romans; each side considers him to be the other.
- The Shield Ring: Bjorn is a Norseman with a Romano-Welsh ancestress.
- The Silver Branch: Carausius is Romano-Hibernian; his Irish name is Curoi. The Flavius family are naturalised Romano-British.
- Warrior Scarlet: Blai's mother was Irish, and there are people of mixed parentage among the Half People.
- The Lantern Bearers: Flavia's son Mull is a Saxon who looks Roman like her, while Aquila's son Minnow is half-Welsh.
- Sword at Sunset: Artos is half-Romano-British, half-Celtic, which is one of the reasons he's able to unite the two peoples.
- Knight's Fee: Randal is the son of a Saxon soldier and a Norman lady.
- The Mark of the Horse Lord: Phaedrus is the son of a Greek merchant and his British slavewoman, while Liathan is the daughter of a Dalriad king and a Caledone princess.
- The Changeling: The title character is an indigenous Little Dark Person raised in a Celtic tribe.
- Blood Feud: Jestyn Englishman is the son of a Celtic father and an Anglo-Saxon mother.
- Bonnie Dundee: Darklis Ruthven is the descendant of a Scottish noblewoman and a Romani king.
- Narrative Filigree
- Order Versus Chaos: Romans and Roman Britons representing order and the Celts and Saxons representing chaos. Since the Sympathetic P.O.V. is usually on the Romans, order is generally seen as a good thing, but they're also shown to be at fault for inflexibility in dealing with their Celtic subjects.
- Officer and a Gentleman: Most of Sutcliff's heroes are their culture's equivalent, be it Roman army officers, chieftains' sons, or English knights. This is unsurprising, as Sutcliff's father was an officer and she grew up on Royal Navy bases (what is perhaps surprising is that she never wrote about Wooden Ships and Iron Men).
- The Queen's Latin: There are no accents in text, but Roman characters clearly speak British English... in contrast to British characters.
- Rudyard Kipling: Sutcliff reused several of the settings visited in Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill and its sequel Rewards and Fairies (in which two children are told stories of England's past by various ghosts) in her novels, and directly lifted several of his turns of phrase. She also wrote a monograph about his writing for children (condensed version here.)
- Marcus Flavius Aquila of The Eagle of the Ninth was directly inspired by Parnesius, the similarly bushy-browed young Romano-British officer of auxiliaries from Puck of Pook's Hill.
- The Dacian Cavalry, who appear in The Eagle of the Ninth, The Capricorn Bracelet, A Circlet of Oak Leaves and Swallows in the Spring, was not a historical unit. It's the outfit Parnesius wanted to join in "A Centurion of the Thirtieth".
- The name "Red Crests" for Roman soldiers is likewise taken from the Parnesius stories.
- Parnesius and Pertinax's participation in the cult of Mithras, which Kipling treats like his beloved Freemasonry, is probably the reason why Marcus, Flavius, Alexios, and Ambrosius are Mithrans.
- "The Men's Side" and "the Women's Side", which appear in all Sutcliff's British tribes, are inspired by "The Knife and the Naked Chalk"'s accompanying verse, "Song of the Men's Side".
- "Seisin", a ritual dedication that appears in Brother Dusty-Feet and Knight's Fee, is performed by the children in Puck.
- The phrase "a singing magic", used by Flavia and Aquila in The Lantern Bearers, is taken from "The Cat Who Walked By Himself" in the Just So Stories.
- Jestyn's rowing song ("A long pull for Miklagard!") in Blood Feud is inspired by "Thorkild's Song" ("A long pull for Stavanger!") in Puck.
- Sutcliff's The Bridge-Builders, in which no literal bridges are built, is presumably named in tribute to Kipling's The Bridge-Builders, in which one is.
- Scenery Porn: Prone to Description Porn of all kinds, especially in her most Slice of Life stories, but Scenery Porn is most abundant. Usually involves British Weather. Consider a typical description of Scotland in late winter:
"They mounted the waiting ponies, and with hounds loping on in front, headed down the steep slope to the river crossing, where the black stone that the troops called the Lady stood in the sere winter grass beside the ford. They splashed across it and headed on up the estuary, past the faint track that Alexios had ridden with the old Commander on their courtesy visit to the Lord of Six Hundred Spears, and still on towards the ruins of Credigone and the eastern end of the old Northern Wall. Presently they turned inland, with no track to follow this time, leaving the narrowing estuary with its gulls and its crying and calling shore-birds behind them, and heading up a side glen where alder and hazel crowded the banks of a small fast burn. The burn was coming down in spate, running green with melting snow-water from the high moors, so that they must follow the bank a good way before they could come to a good crossing-place; but between the darkly sodden wreck of last year's bracken and the soft grey drift of the sky, the catkins were lengthening on the hazel bushes, making a kind of faint sunlight of their own, and in one especially sheltered place, as the two young men brushed past, the first pollen scattered from the whippy sprays so that they rode through a sudden golden mist. Even here at the world's end, spring was remembering the way back, and for a moment a sense of quickening caught almost painfully at Alexios somewhere below the breastbone." – Frontier Wolf, ch. 5
- Shown Their Work: Most of her stories are situated quite precisely in time and geography, though this is usually indicated via Cryptic Background Reference.
- Supporting Protagonists: Heterosexual Life Partnerships are often seen from the perspective of the less dynamic (and/or socially inferior) of the pair. Historical Domain Characters are almost invariably presented through a Supporting Protagonist.
- The Verse: Despite a dearth of direct sequels, Word Of God has it that "it is all part of the same series, really", as borne out by consistent world-building and a few recurring details.
- The Flavius family's signet ring, a dolphin on a flawed emerald, is passed down through The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch, Frontier Wolf, The Lantern Bearers, Sword At Sunset, Dawn Wind, Sword Song, and The Shield Ring.
- A song called "The Girl I Kissed At Clusium" is referenced in The Eagle of the Ninth, A Circlet of Oak Leaves, and Eagle's Egg.
- Randall in Knight's Fee handles an ax implied to have belonged to Drem, the Bronze Age protagonist of Warrior Scarlet.
List of Works
In approximate chronological order:
Shifting Sands (short story)
Orkney, 2000-1000 BCE. A twelve-year-old girl is promised to the tyrannical chief
of her prehistoric village, who proposes to sacrifice
the boy she prefers
to the gods who protect the great sand dune on which the village sits
- A Storm Is Coming: It's a foregone conclusion to the reader, but Moon Eye warns Long Axe about the rising winds. Unfortunately, Long Axe practices Head-in-the-Sand Management.
- Rescue Romance: Blue Feather and Singing Dog get together when she hurts her foot on the beach.
- Full Boar Action: Singing Dog attracts Long Axe's notice when he disputes the credit for killing a ferocious sow. Unfortunately for his survival prospects, this is regarded as tantamount to Challenging the Chief.
- Chekhov's Gift: The hairpin Long Axe gives to Moon Eye is the only weapon allowed into the sacrificial gathering.
Britain, 900 BCE. Drem
must pass a warrior initiation ceremony
with an atrophied right arm
, or be cast out
of his tribe to live among the people they conquered
- Sorry Billy, But You Just Don't Have Legs: Drem was born with his undeveloped right arm (and boundless self-confidence), and doesn't realise that other people consider him handicapped until he overhears his grandfather complaining that he'll never wear the Warrior Scarlet.
- Handicapped Badass: Talore the Hunter, who lost his hand but still manages to hunt and fight like the rest of the Men's Side. He advises Drem on what he can and can't do as a one-armed warrior. And Drem himself, obviously.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Drem and Drustic's grandfather, the Grandfather.
- Disappeared Dad: Blai's travelling blacksmith dad, who left her behind in Drem's village after her mother died. Blai constantly tells the other children that he'll come back for her someday and is mocked for it. After he makes his disappointing return, she denies that he is her real father.
The Flowers of Adonis (adult novel)Greece, 415-404 BCE
. The rise and fall (and rise and fall and rise and fall) of Alkibiades, the notorious Athenian politician - and of Athens - through the eyes of his companions as he sets out on the Sicilian Expedition, reignites The Peloponnesian War
, seduces the queen of Sparta, escapes to the Persians, is welcomed back with open arms by the Athenians, and then loses it all again.
- Historical-Domain Character: Alkibiades; Antiochus; Timandra (loosely); Timea; Agis; Endius; Pharnobazus; Socrates; many others.
- Supporting Protagonist: At least eleven, including one from beyond the grave: the Citizen, the Soldier, the Seaman, the Dead, the Priest, the Queen, the King, the Spartan, the Rower, the Whore, the Satrap.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Sympathetic character = forgives Alkibiades anything.
- But Not Too Gay: Alkibiades is said by Antiochus to be strictly a ladies' man, though he was noted for his beauty in a society where bisexuality was normal. The Soldier falls in love with a comrade who dies before they can do anything about it, and then is never interested in another man.
The Truce of the Games / A Crown of Wild Olive (short story)
Greece, 412 BCE. A young Athenian runner befriends
his Spartan competitor
at the Olympic Games
in the middle of The Peloponnesian War
- To Be Lawful or Good: Amyntas is torn between his duty to represent his city and honour the gods, and his feeling that No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction after Leon is injured.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: It's The Spartan Way. Leon refuses to acknowledge to Amyntas that his injury might affect his performance. Leon is trying to validate the race for Amyntas, as Amyntas did for him by competing in earnest.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: After the Olympic truce expires, Athens and Sparta will resume their war and Amyntas and Leon will return home and enter opposing armies. There is no third option, and they have no realistic hope of meeting again without bitterness.
The Changeling (short story)
Prehistoric Argyll. Tethra, a changeling child adopted by the chief of the Epidi, is driven out to rejoin the Little Dark People. When his father is mortally wounded, he must choose between his two tribes.
The Chief's Daughter (short story)
Bronze Age Wales. Nessan frees
a prisoner intended for human sacrifice
to take his place.
- The Chief's Daughter: Averted; the protagonist is the chief's daughter. And she's ten.
- Cargo Cult: Nessan's people worship a standing stone called the Black Mother. The negotiation of sacred debt that causes the characters so much mental agony is all done in the name of a rock.
- Equivalent Exchange: Nessan initially saved Dara from Human Sacrifice by offering a glass bracelet to the Black Mother. When the stream dries up and the priest decides they need to sacrifice him after all, she engineers his escape knowing that someone will have to take his place. His guard knows he'll have to take the fall, until Nessan volunteers in his place. When Dara comes upon the Black Mother and finds a spear left as an offering, he takes it in exchange for all his food, inadvertently undamming the stream. When the water returns, the priest concludes that Nessan's willingness to die was an acceptable sacrifice.
Sun Horse, Moon Horse
100 BCE. Lubrin Dhu, the Iceni chief's Black Sheep
artist son, finds himself the spokesman of his clan when they are conquered by the Atribates. He ransoms his Slave Race
with the design and construction of a great boundary marker and his own Heroic Sacrifice
- Historical-Domain Character: The Iceni's building project is the famous prehistoric chalk drawing the White Horse of Uffington.
- Solar and Lunar: The Iceni worship a moon goddess and the Atribates a sun god; the White Horse secretly symbolises both.
- Matriarchy: The patriarchal Atribates assume Lubrin is the chief of the matrilineal Iceni; the rightful leaders are his sister Teleri and her husband Dara.
- Human Sacrifice: The White Horse must be dedicated with a death, and a chieftain must die for the good of his people.
Song For a Dark Queen
20s-61 CE. Boudicca, young queen of the Iceni, eventually makes her peace with her bitterly-resented requirement of a male chieftain and a political marriage
to Prasutagus, prince of the Parisi. But when the Roman authorities threaten to confiscate her entire kingdom, she leads the British tribes in a bloody uprising
The Capricorn Bracelet
Six short stories of a Romano-British family, linked by an heirloom military decoration, from the Boudiccan Rebellion to the end of the Roman occupation.
- "Death of a City" 61 AD
- "Rome Builds a Wall" 123 AD
- "Outpost Fortress" 150 AD
- "Traprain Law" 196 AD
- "Frontier Scout" 280 AD
- "The Eagles Fly South" 383 AD
Eagle's Egg (short story)
80-83 CE. Quintus, a standard-bearer, can't marry Cordaella without a promotion to Centurion, but it will take Agricola's three-year Caledonian campaign, a mutiny, and the battle of Mons Graupius to get it.
The Bridge-Builders (short story)
Androphon, the son of a fort commander on the western border of Roman Britain, is held hostage by Britons during a territorial dispute.
Has its own tropes page.
- I Have Your Son: Kyndylan the Chief plans to use Androphon as leverage for persuading the Commander to abandon the construction of the signal tower.
- She Will Come for Me: Androphon threatens Kyndylan with his father's Disproportionate Retribution, but he's bluffing, as the Romans don't know where Kyndylan's village is, and Kyndylan is planning to move him somewhere better hidden anyway.
- Shame If Something Happened: The story is bookended by two indirectly threatening conversations. Kyndylan claims that his hotheaded young warriors will be upset by the building of a signal tower in the tribe's lands, leading the Commander to predict a series of fatal accidents during the construction. Then Androphon pointedly doesn't accuse his "host" of kidnapping him, so that the Commander can spare the British village and Kyndylan can cooperate in return.
126-9 CE. Marcus
and Esca search Caledonia for the eagle standard of the lost Ninth Legion
"Swallows in the Spring" (short story)
Circa 130 CE. A survivor of the Ninth Legion returns to Eburacum.
- Lost Roman Legion: The vanished Ninth Legion casts a long shadow over their replacements the Sixth Victrix, even a dozen years after their disappearance. No one knows whether they were really destroyed, or worse, deserted.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Fulvius, who was left behind by the Ninth and then kept in the same fort as part of the Sixth; Stripey; and to some extent the narrator, Dexius, who claims that a lifetime in the frontier garrisons would drive anyone mad.
- Stranger in a Familiar Land: Stripey was one of Fulvius's men from the Ninth Legion, but he's so covered in Pict tattoos he's unrecognisable, and so traumatised that he can't tell anyone.
150s CE. Beric, a Roman foundling
, is cast out of his adoptive British tribe and enslaved
- Hostile Weather: The novel is bookended by two great storms: the one that orphans Beric, and the one that threatens to destroy his adoptive father's engineering project, the dyke that protects Romney Marsh from the sea.
- Galley Slave: Beric spends two years in the army's Rhenus fleet, chained to a rowing bench alongside his oarmate Jason.
A Circlet of Oak Leaves (short story)
150s CE. Aracos, a medical orderly, turns a battle against British tribesmen while disguised as a standard bearer.
- Emergency Impersonation: Aracos takes the place of nearly-Identical Stranger Felix, a Shell-Shocked Veteran, so Felix won't be charged with desertion.
- Battle Amongst the Flames: The valour of the auxiliary cavalry is at issue in the tavern because they stampeded when the Picts fired the heather. Only the Dacian cavalry, which Aracos led, rode through the flames because they train their mounts to charge through fire in a trick riding display. Aracos collapses afterward from smoke inhalation.
- Scrap Heap Hero: Aracos, two or three times over – rejected from the cavalry for a heart defect, left to join the medical corps; invalided out of the army, ending up an obscure horse-breaker in Britain; and by the end of the story, believed to have lied about winning the Corona Civica by everyone in his local pub.
The Mark of the Horse Lord
180s CE. Phaedrus, a freed gladiator, plays the role of lost heir
to the patriarchal Dalriads in their war of succession against the matriarchal Caledones.
- Identical Stranger: Phaedrus, who is half-Greek, happens to look enough like the lost king of the Dalriads to fool everyone but The Lancer and (possibly) his wife.
- Becoming the Mask: Phaedrus, a born slave, takes to British tribal kingship Like a Fish Takes to Water. The "mark" of the title is not only a ritual tattoo, but the willingness to die for his people.
- Sadistic Choice: Book Ends. In the beginning, Phaedrus is forced to fight his best friend to the death in the arena. In the end, he's forced to let his tribe be crushed or levied by the Roman army (or Take a Third Option).
- Solar and Lunar: The Dalriads worship a male sun god and inherit through the male line, while the Caledones worship an earth and moon goddess and inherit through the female line. (They're even fair and dark respectively.) Which makes it awkward that the king of the Dalriads married a Caledone queen and had a son and a daughter.
- Gladiator Games: Aside from the whole "kill your only friend" thing, Phaedrus's years in the arena give him the sword skill and sense of showmanship that stand him in good stead as the Horse Lord, and nothing better to do with his freedom.
- Battle Couple: Phaedrus and Murna, who's handy with a knife, spear, or chariot, after they warm up to each other.
- Agent Peacock: Conory, leader of the young Dalriad warriors and The Lancer, wears cosmetics, effeminate jewellery, and a Right-Hand Cat. Even the Guys Want Him.
- The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Phaedrus's wife Murna is a Defrosting Ice Queen, in contrast to Phaedrus Becoming the Mask. Phaedrus compares her to a gladiator looking out from the eyeholes of his helmet, and one reason she disliked him was that she knew he would get past her defenses. (She also literally misdirects Phaedrus and Conory during the coup by putting on her mother Liadhan's headdress.)
- Back-to-Back Badasses: Phaedrus and Conory during the coup, before Phaedrus knows whether they're going to be Heterosexual Life-Partners or mortal enemies. Phaedrus and Murna do it later, while fighting the Caledones.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: Liadhan, the Caledone queen of the Dalriads, is a Black Widow My Beloved Smother Evil Matriarch infanticidal leader of a Scary Amoral Religion. And Phaedrus's mother-in-law.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: It involves standing on the Rock of the Footprint at the break of dawn after ritually slaughtering a white stallion.
- Arranged Marriage: Unusually, it's presented as a threat from the male perspective as well as the female. Conory has been selected by Liadhan, his aunt, as her next consort; then Phaedrus is forced to marry her daughter Murna, who's even less enthused than he is.
"The Fugitives" (short story)
Lucian, an army officer's paralysed son, hides a deserter from the men sent to recapture him.
The Silver Branch
290s CE. Justin
and Flavian stumble upon a conspiracy to assassinate
the emperor Carausius and join La Résistance
against the Saxon-allied usurper of Britain.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Carausius did make himself the emperor of Britain and was betrayed by Allectus. History is silent on whether he was warned by a couple of junior officers who later led a resistance with the help of a Proud Warrior Race Guy and a guy who thought he was a dog.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Justin and Flavius are Kicked Upstairs to Hadrian's Wall after accusing Allectus of conspiracy. They realise later that Carausius put them out of Allectus's reach.
- Happiness in Slavery: The curious case of Cullen the Fool, who likes to think of himself as a hound, to the point of sleeping on the floor, wearing a dog's tail and wagging it, and Undying Loyalty to his master. He eventually points out to Justin and Flavius that he was Born Into Slavery and to him, being ownerless is like being unemployed.
- La Résistance: A somewhat ironic version, given that they're Carausius's followers supporting Constantius as a liberator from Allectus, who overthrew Carausius, who rebelled against Constantius in the first place.
- The Spymaster: Paulinus, the George Smiley of Portus Adurni. A small – ahem – plump, timid tax collector with an – ahem – Verbal Tic, who enjoys Euripides.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Flavius's "Lost Legion", including two deserted centurions and a surgeon, a freed gladiator, and a jester, who use a battered and wingless legionary eagle as their standard.
- Five-Man Band: Flavius is The Hero, Justin is The Lancer, Anthonius is The Smart Guy, Pandarus is The Big Guy, Cullen is Team Pet, Honoria is The Team Benefactor, Myron is the Tagalong Kid, and Evicatos is The Sixth Ranger.
- Legend Fades to Myth: Flavius knows there's a vague family story about their ancestor Marcus having some adventure in the North; he suspects it may have had something to do with the Ninth Legion. Justin thinks this is far-fetched.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Huge blond Teutonic barbarians marching through the streets of Britain were a fairly recent concern when the book was written.
- Just Before the End: Saxon invasions and the breakup of of the Roman empire, which overshadow all the later Roman novels, are first invoked here.
340s CE. Alexios, a disgraced centurion
, is Reassigned to Antarctica
to command the irregular Frontier Scouts
in a precarious border outpost.
- A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Relations between the Frontier Wolves and the Votadini collapse and dozens of people die, because Connla couldn't resist stealing a horse.
- Cycle of Revenge: Connla borrows the Praepositus's horse because the Praepositus insulted his brother; the Praepositus has Connla executed for theft because the horse is killed; and Cunorix the chief of the Votadini attacks the Frontier Wolves because they killed his brother; Alexios can end the feud by volunteering for a Duel to the Death because he's the man who killed Connla.
- Going Native: Despite being an Army of Thieves and Whores who have been Reassigned to Antarctica, Frontier Wolves are expected to put aside family and tribal loyalties and form a Band of Brothers. Each one has to kill a wolf and wear its skin, and the outgoing commander tells Alexios he'll be superstitiously touching their good-luck rock before he knows it.
- Five-Man Band: Alexios's officers form one: Alexios the commander is The Hero; sardonic second-in-command Hilarion is The Lancer; bookish third-in-command Lucius is The Smart Guy; older quartermaster Kaeso is The Big Guy; Christian doctor Anthonius is The Medic; and Druim of the Arcani is the Sixth Ranger Traitor. Cloe is Team Pet for the whole fort.
- A Boy and His X: Rufus the junior trumpeter and his vicious kitten Typhon.
- Finger in the Mail: The couriers sent to Bring Help Back to Abusina have their heads thrown back over the wall of the fort.
- We Used to Be Friends: Cunorix and Alexios, before Alexios has to stab his little brother to death.
- The Natives Are Restless: Unluckily for the Frontier Wolves, their falling-out with the friendly Votadini coincides with an uprising of the Picts, the Attacotti, and the Damnonii.
- Chased by Angry Natives: First when Alexios abandons his first fort in Germany, then again when he withdraws the Frontier Wolves from Castellum and the Votadini hunt them back to the frontier.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The "retreat with unreliable troops across hostile country in the face of a native uprising" scenario was apparently inspired by an incident in the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919.
- Equivalent Exchange: The Frontier Wolves are convinced that crossing through the Chieftains' Death Place will require a death as payment for the others' safe passage.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: The Dwindling Party makes it to their fallback position at Bremenium. . . where Everybody's Dead, Dave.
- Sole Survivor: Two: the woman at the Rath of Skolawn, and the wounded artilleryman at Bremenium.
- Chekhov's Hobby: Alexios's skill with a sword is fairly irrelevant until he has to fight a duel.
- Snow Means Death: The snow begins to fall on the second day of the retreat and is falling when Lucius is killed at the bridge, when they reach the garrison at Bremenium, and when Alexios kills Cunorix.
- Anyone Can Die: And they mostly do!
The Lantern Bearers
5th century CE. Aquila deserts from the departing legions and devotes his life to holding off the Saxons from Roman Britain.
- Anti-Hero: Aquila is a bitter, angry Jerkass with no friends, an Arranged Marriage, and a distant son, who enjoys nothing but killing as many Saxons as he can reach.
- Cynicism Catalyst: Aquila is a friendly, generous, optimistic soul until Saxon raiders murder his entire household, abduct his beloved little sister, and enslave him. And then he finds out that the king of Britain sent the raiders, because his father's co-conspirator betrayed him. And then his sister chooses her kidnapper over him.
- Darker and Edgier: The Lantern Bearers is markedly grimmer and more adult than its predecessors in the Dolphin Ring series.
- End of an Age: The book begins with the final withdrawal of Roman soldiers from Britain around 450 CE. The usual cutoff date for Roman Britain is 410, but Sutcliff fudges it by making them Auxiliaries in order to fit her theme of civilization vs. barbarian into a timeframe that fits with traditional dates for King Arthur.
- A Fate Worse Than Dead Little Sister: Flavia, the sister to whom Aquila is extremely close, is abducted by the Saxon raiders who kill the rest of their household and leave him for dead, and he spends the next three years hoping that she's dead. Not only is she not dead, she married her captor and declines to run away from him, and Aquila's character arc for the rest of the book is about coming to terms with this perceived betrayal.
- Marital Rape License: It's left unclear whether this trope is present in Flavia's and Aquila's marriages. Flavia is married to the Saxon who abducted her (and helped kill her entire family), but from whom she is not afraid of mistreatment. Aquila and Ness marry totally unwillingly and don't get along, but conceive Flavian within a few months.
- There Are No Therapists: It's the fifth century. There are priests, but Aquila loses his faith along with his family.
Sword At Sunset (adult novel)
5th century CE. King Arthur
struggles to unite Romano-Britons, Celtic tribes, and the elusive Little Dark People against the Saxon invasions a generation after the withdrawal of Roman forces from Britain, culminating in the battle of Badon Hill.
- Changing of the Guard: Almost the only direct sequel Sutcliff ever wrote, Sword at Sunset takes up where The Lantern Bearers leaves off, with Artos as the point of view character. Aquila, Minnow, and various others remain secondary chracters in Sword.
- Celibate Hero: Artos's long-lost half-sister Ygerna tricks him into sleeping with her, and he's so traumatised he loses interest in sex. Their difficulty in conceiving strains his marriage with Guenhumara.
- Triang Relations: Artos and Guenhumara enter into an Arranged Marriage, to his close friend Bedwyr's dismay. Artos and Guenhumara eventually fall in love, but Artos's sexual dysfunction damages their marriage. Guenhumara and Bedwyr fall in love while Bedwyr is injured, and Artos is forced to repudiate them both. They marry, but separate years later, and Bedwyr tells Artos that they could not be happy without him. It's implied that they each loved the other two, but that such a relationship was unthinkable in their culture.
- Bastard Bastard: Artos's son by his insane sister, herself a Bastard Bastard, has been raised to hate and undermine him, and engineers Guenhumara's downfall as well as giving Artos his mortal wound. He can pose as a loyal follower, however, because illegitimacy per se isn't the issue - Artos himself is a Heroic Bastard.
- Battle Couple: Gault and Levin, two of Artos's warband who tried out Situational Sexuality and never looked back. They become a captain and second of a squadron and the subject of a heroic subplot.
- Self-Sacrifice Scheme: Ambrosius, who is dying of cancer, arranges a Hunting Accident to make himself a Human Sacrifice.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The Battle of Badon is associated with King Arthur and Ambrosius, a Historical-Domain Character, but no one knows the true details.
6th century CE. Owain, a Briton, becomes a Saxon thrall
and is drawn into the affairs of a Saxon family.
- Death of the Old Gods: Three-fold. British Christianity is thought by Rome to have been wiped out by the pagan Saxon conquest, and the reader knows that St. Augustine "the Dawn Wind" is going to show up any day now to convert the Saxons. However the Saxon religion, though civilizing (no more Human Sacrifice unless it's really, really important) is still going strong, and everyone knows that the Saxon king tolerates Augustine with an eye to political expediency. Meanwhile, the trope is played straight with the mostly-forgotten Roman pagan gods like Pan Sylvanus.
- Arc Words: "What else could I do?" Owain says it to Einon Hen while explaining how he surrendered to the Saxons to save Regina, then postponed his freedom to protect his ex-owner's children. Little though he wishes to live in the Saxon world, his sense of common humanity totally outstrips Honor Before Reason.
- Ghost Town: Viroconium and the other Roman cities that the British abandon.
- Ironic Name: Regina the thieving, whining, louse-ridden beggar girl, whose name means 'queen' in Latin.
- Full Boar Action: Owain's hotheaded charge Bryni throws himself into a boar hunt to get the attention of the king, his dead father's foster-brother.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: Owain is freed after eight years, then almost immediately has to promise he'll stick around for another four to look after his ex-master's family. Then he has to promise his widow another year.
- Human Sacrifice: On the night Teitri the foal is born, Vadir Cedricson explains to Owain that Saxon kings used to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their people, and though the Saxons no longer sacrifice men, they do sacrifice the "king" of their horse herds, a white stallion like Teitri.
- End of an Age: Opens on the defeat of Kyndylan and British resistance to the Saxon conquest.
- After the End: Britons turn on each other; Owain and Regina forage to survive in the abandoned city of Viroconium.
- Dawn of an Era: The alliance of Saxons and Britons and the arrival of St. Augustine "the Dawn Wind" of Canterbury.
The Shining Company
600 CE. Prosper, a Welsh shieldbearer, recounts the mustering and destruction of the Gododdin host against the Saxons of Catraeth.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The novel is based on Y Gododdin, an epic poem allegedly written by an eyewitness of the battle, but since the major drama of the poem is that all the heroes die, the novel focuses on their unnamed supporters, the squires like Prosper.
- The Marvelous Deer: Prosper, Conn, and Luned are the first to sight the white stag they decide to protect from the prince's hunting.
8th century CE. Bjarni Sigurdson, a Norwegian Viking, is exiled from his British settlement for killing the man who kicked his dog and sells his sword as a mercenary, embroiling himself in the feuds of Viking earls from Dublin to the Orkneys.
- Plot Triggering Death: Bjarni's accidentally drowning the missionary gets him exiled from his settlement to walk the earth, because his chief guaranteed safety to Christians in his lands. Bjarni eventually runs into the chief's Christian foster-brother and conveys his forgiveness back to the chief.
- The Berserker: Everything tends to disappear behind a red mist for Bjarni whenever someone threatens either his dog or his employer. Strategically not killing someone is the apex of his character arc.
- Welcome to the Big City: In one day in Dublin Bjarni gets laughed out of a job, robbed of his purse, and loses the rest of his possessions. He claims to have traded them for a stray dog.
- Guile Hero: Onund Treefoot is a Handicapped Badass who commands a Viking fleet. He lures his old enemies into battle where their numerical superiority is nullified and kills their commander while wearing a milking stool as a wooden leg. He later forces Jarl Sigurd to water his ships by foisting his infant only son on him as a foster-child.
- Pinball Protagonist: Bjarni is merely the employee of the characters who actually drive the story, like Onund, Thorstein, Groa, and Aud. It's justified in that the plot is based on incidents of their real lives. And when he takes up with the fictional Angharad, the crux of his character growth requires him to be restrained and passive.
- Break His Heart to Save Him: Bjarni's beloved captain Onund chops off two of Hugin's toes to disqualify him as a sacrifice and throws Bjarni off his island to save him from a knife in the back. Bjarni does not immediately put this together.
- Cycle of Revenge: Three separate blood feuds in the course of the novel: Onund Treefoot ambushes Vestnor and Vigibjord for killing his younger brother; Onund kills the man who was given his land, then kills the man who killed his grandfather in retaliation, then defeats the man sent to avenge that man; Melbrigda's son tries to kill Guthorm for his father's improper burial, gets killed by Thorstein, and then his brother kills Thorstein and Bjarni kills him.
- Arranged Marriage: The noblewomen in the story all have political marriages: Onund marries the daughter of one of his fellow sea lords, and Groa marries a Pict chief to ensure the safety of Thorstein's Caithness settlements. None of the women are overjoyed at the prospect, but they expect to be reasonably happy when they've settled in their new lives.
- Burn the Witch!: Angharad's neighbours suspect she's a witch, because she uses Latin prayers in her doctoring, and because her hired sword Bjarni is clearly a white-haired, left-handed sea demon. They burn down her farm at the behest of her cousin who wants to steal her land.
- Cool Boat: Several, as you expect from island-dwelling Vikings: Onund's vixen-headed longship Sea Witch and the rest of the Barra fleet; Lady Aud's galleys Fionoula and Seal Maiden; and the merchantman Sea Cow, while not precisely cool, does Bjarni several solids.
- Coming of Age Story: Bjarni is exiled at sixteen and has the next five years to debate whether he ever wants to go back. There is running commentary on the progress of his beard.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Bjarni is a fictional character, but his bosses Onund Treefoot, Thorstein the Red and Cool Old Lady Aud the Deep-Minded are Historical Domain Characters who turn up in The Icelandic Sagas, such as Orkneyinga and Heimskringla.
985-990 CE. Jestyn, an English Christian, joins his Viking blood brother
on a pagan feud that takes them to the Byzantine Empire
- Cycle of Revenge: Thormod and Jestyn return home to find that Thormod's father has accidentally killed a neighbour and his sons, Thormod's best friends, have duly killed him, and expect Thormod to hunt them down in Miklagard for a Duel to the Death. Jestyn's blood brotherhood with Thormod obligates him to carry on the feud, and the conflict with his beliefs as a Christian and a doctor is the ethical crux of the novel.
- Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards: Jestyn, Thormod, Anders, and the rest of their crews are part of the founding of the Byzantine emperor's Varangian Guard.
- Historical-Domain Character: Khan Vladimir of Kiev, Basil II
The Shield Ring
1090s-1100s CE. Tomboy
Frytha and Warrior Poet
Bjorn defend the last hidden Norse stronghold against the Normans.
- Face Your Fears: Bjorn, who has a vivid imagination, develops a fear of torture, but volunteers to spy on the Normans. Sure enough. . .
- Just Before the End: Of Norse independence in the face of the Norman conquest.
1090s-1106 CE. Randall, a half-Saxon dog-boy, is raised as a squire by the Norman lords of a feudal manor.
The Witch's Brat
12th century CE. Lovel, an orphan with a crooked back and foot, becomes an infirmarian monk and helps found St. Bartholomew's hospital.
16th century CE. A runaway headed for Oxford joins a troupe of travelling entertainers.
The Armourer's House
1634 CE. Tamsyn Caunter, who desperately wishes she could be a merchant venturer, must instead go to live with her uncle in London. She settles into the colourful life of the household and city while sharing the secret of their mutual seafaring ambition with her quiet cousin Piers.
The Queen Elizabeth Story
16th century CE. Perdita Pettle, who can see "Pharisees
", is granted her wish to see the Queen's Grace in a year and a day. The year passes through the adventures of Elizabethan country childhood.
Lady In Waiting (adult novel)
1566-1618 CE. Sir Walter Ralegh
spends his life courting royal support for his expeditions to the New World, and his wife Bess spends hers supporting her husband's all-consuming dream.
- Happily Married: Despite the fact that their whole family life revolves around Ralegh's dangerous, time-consuming career, they love each other and she doesn't resent it.
- Historical-Domain Character: Elizabeth Throckmorton, Sir Walter Raleigh, their family; Elizabeth I; Sir Robert Cecil; Henry Stuart; many others.
The Rider of the White Horse (adult novel)English Civil War
. Sir Thomas Fairfax, followed by his wife Anne, commands Parliamentarian forces in the northern campaign of the war, culminating in the battle of Marston Moor.
1640s. Heterosexual Life Partners
Simon Carey and Amias Hannaford join up on opposite sides of the English Civil War
. Simon's estrangement from Amias, and his corporal Zeal-for-the-Lord Relf
's vendetta against a treacherous friend, are ultimately tested in the battle of Torrington.
- Fighting The Lancer: Simon is The Lancer to Amias, and their years-long estrangement forces Simon to become independent of him and weighs their personal against their political loyalties.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The novel's major subplot. Zeal-for-the-Lord Relf, though a fanatical believer in the Puritan cause, goes AWOL from the the Parliamentarian army to avenge himself on a former friend and neighbour who has stolen from him, deserts again after being recaptured and given A Taste of the Lash, and then joins the Royalist army in order to get close enough to the traitor to kill him. He genuinely doesn't understand why he isn't allowed to do any of this.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The church really did blow up, and no one knows who did it.
- Contrived Coincidence: Much of the plot depends on improbable reunions and Infallible Babble, though admittedly it all takes place in Devon.
- Historical-Domain Character: Sir Thomas Fairfax, Col. Ireton, Maj. Disbrow, Sir Philip "Daddy" Skippon, Oliver Cromwell, Dr. David Morrison, Chaplain Joshua Sprigg, and other Parliamentarian officers and pastors; Royalist commanders
1680s Scotland. Hugh Herriot becomes galloper to Claverhouse, leader of government forces against the Scottish Covenanters. When William of Orange takes the English throne, Claverhouse's men become rebels in turn.
18th century. Damaris and Peter shelter a wounded Jacobite smuggler.
- Hero of Another Story: The events of the novel are an episode in passing among Tom Wildgoose's adventures.
Blood and Sand (adult novel)Napoleonic Wars
. Thomas Keith, a Scottish prisoner of war, is befriended by Tussun, son of the governor of Egypt, and serves them through a deadly power struggle in their court and a war in Arabia, rising to become governor of Medina.
Myths and Legends
- Black Ships Before Troy: The Trojan War.
- The Wanderings of Odysseus: The Odyssey.
- The Hound of Ulster: the exploits of Cuchulainn.
- The High Deeds of Finn Mac Cool
- Beowulf: Dragonslayer
- Tristan and Iseult
- The Sword and the Circle: King Arthur
- The Light Beyond the Forest: King Arthur
- The Road to Camlann: King Arthur
- The Chronicles of Robin Hood
- People of the Past: A Saxon Settler
- The Roundabout Horse
- A Little Dog Like You
- Little Hound Found
- The Minstrel and the Dragon Pup
- Chess-dream in a Garden
- Blue Remembered Hills: Autobiography of her life up to the beginning of her writing career.
- Rudyard Kipling: A monograph on Kipling's works for children.
- Houses and History
- Heroes and History