Are Rosemary Sutcliff’s books a conscious series? No it just happened

Interesting post today from Anne at the ‘You Write!’ tab (uo at the top) on this site, about the connectedness and origins of Rosemary Sutcliff‘s stories and books of historical fiction.

Readers have often wondered if Rosemary Sutcliff had the whole Aquila family sequence already mapped out when she wrote Eagle of the Ninth, so I thought it might be of interest to note her emphatic reply when asked about this:

JW: “Sword at Sunset is one of a series in which you use a leitmotif, that of the flawed emerald signet ring, to trace the history of a family from Roman Britain right through to Norman times. The first novel in which you used this was Eagle of the Ninth in 1954, but it appears later in Frontier of the Wolf in 1980. Was it your intention to construct a magnum opus, an epic from start to finish, in which Arthur appeared in the middle?”

RS: “No, it just happened. It did that of its own accord.”

Intriguingly, in this interview Sutcliff indicates more than once that she feels her novels to a certain extent shape themselves or are shaped by their characters – for example a question about The Shining Company elicits the response: “That’s, as I say, because of them, not me”.

Author: Anthony Lawton

Chair, Sussex Dolphin, family company which looks after the work of eminent children’s & historical fiction author Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-92). Formerly CEO, chair & trustee of various charity, cultural & educational enterprises in UK.

2 thoughts on “Are Rosemary Sutcliff’s books a conscious series? No it just happened”

  1. I meant to add that the archytype Rosemary Sutcliff refers to and drew upon is “the one story”, the universal hero myth, what Joseph Campbell called “The Hero With a Thousand Faces”.

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  2. I don’t know if I’ve seen Rosemary Sutcliff mention elsewhere as clearly as she does in this interview the feeling of working from archetype, of functioning at a more basic or “deeper” level of the unconscious when she was writing, of acting as a conduit for the story rather than consciously crafting it. However she did also comment when speaking to Raymond H. Thompson in another interview about her experience of writing “Sword at Sunset”: “It was almost like having the story fed through to me, at times.”

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