Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth | Echoes of Tolkien and Robert E Howard? | From the Black Gate blog

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The Eagle of the Ninth lives in its atmosphere. Sutcliff powerfully catches both everyday Roman life and the beauty of ancient Britain. Her use of detail is effective, and her descriptive prose is powerful and suggestive. Reading the book, I was caught again and again by glinting moments of terrible beauty; by her ability to conjure up vistas of ruined fortresses and mist-covered landscapes. At different times, and for different reasons, I found myself thinking of first Tolkien, and then, oddly, Robert E. Howard.

Source: Black Gate | Blog Archive | Some Notes on The Eagle of the Ninth.

4 comments

  1. Interesting reaction and connections. I enjoy all three writers and I think Anne’s comment about “classic hero quests” hits the mark. They might share a small bit in terms of mood, so I can see how the reader quoted above was reminded of the different works while reading Eagle of the Ninth.

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  2. Because I can’t really see either Robert E. Howard or Tolkien (apart from incidental similarities like the one I’ve mentioned) in “Eagle of the Ninth”, I feel that what the reviewer is picking up on is the universal hero achetype which lies at the heart of Rosemary Sutcliff’s work. “Eagle of the Ninth” is a particularly clear example of a classic hero quest. The work of both Tolkien and Howard also draws strongly on this archetype.

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  3. Stylistically I definitely see Tolkien in Susan Cooper’s work, but not in Rosemary Sutcliff”s. Both Tolkien and Sutcliff use imagery of light and dark, though, and it has occurred to me in the past that the scene mentioned here, where Marcus calls on Mithras, to grant his light to the fading glim, thus holding back the dark, ancient powers present in the Place of Life, bears some resemblance to the scene in “Lord of the Rings” where Frodo uses the light of Eärendil contained in Galadriel’s Phial to fend off Shelob in her dark lair.

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  4. I thought that was a very interesting article – I know Tolkien’s writing very well too but am not sure I would have drawn the same comparisons.

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