‘Kalegarth’ in Frontier Wolf by Rosemary Sutcliff

From a blog, now dis-continued, about historical novel for children Frontier Wolf by Rosemary Sutcliff:

It’s curious that this was marketed as a young adult novel – yes, the protagonist is young and the book is short (196 pages), but it’s a regular novel that some teens would enjoy if they are advanced readers. It even has a brief mention of sex (that was Robert Heinlein’s definition of his juvenile novels: short adult novels with no sex).  Read More »

Rosemary Sutcliff book Frontier Wolf 5-star review by reader on Goodreads

Rosemary Sutcliff's Frontier Wolf coverInto this simple tale, Sutcliff pours in everything that makes her great as an author: Careful attention to detail when describing Roman military society, British native society, and the world of nature. The ability to sum up a character’s personality through a few well-chosen words. A gift for understatement that heightens rather than diminishes drama. A lyrical tongue. She caps all this off with an ending that is surprising, yet wholly satisfying.
Source: Dusk Peterson writing at Goodreads

Rosemary Sutcliff children’s book Frontier Wolf inspires models | Sutcliff Discovery of the Day

Rosemary Sutcliff’s books, such as Frontier Wolf, inspire not just children aged ‘8 to 88’ (her phrase), readers, teachers, archaeologists,  historians and film makers, but also makers of small model armies and soldiers. I found these models of German Auxiliary cavalry inspired by Rosemary Sutcliff children’s book Frontier Wolf.

Rosemary Sutcliff Historical Novels and the North-East of England

One Alan Myers once compiled an ‘A to Z of the many writers of the past who had a significant connection’ with the North-East of England. It seems now to have disappeared from the web . He writes of Rosemary Sutcliff:

“One of the most distinguished children’s writers of our times, Rosemary Sutcliff wrote over thirty books , some of them now considered classics. She sets several of her best-known works in Roman and Dark Age Britain, giving her the opportunity to write about divided loyalties, a recurring theme. The Capricorn Bracelet comprises six linked short stories spanning the years AD 61 to AD 383, and Hadrian’s Wall features in the narrative.

The Eagle of the Ninth (1954) is perhaps her finest work and exemplifies the psychological dilemmas that Rosemary Sutcliff brought to her novels. It is a quest story involving a journey north to the land of the Picts to recover the lost standard of the Roman Ninth Legion. A good part of the book is set in the North East around Hadrian’s Wall (a powerful symbol) and a map is provided. The book has been televised, and its sequels are The Silver Branch (1957) and The Lantern Bearers (1959), which won the Carnegie medal. Sutcliff returned to the Romano-British frontier in The Mark of the Horse Lord (1965) and Frontier Wolf (1980).

Northern Britain in the sixth century AD is the setting of The Shining Company (1990), a retelling of The Goddodin (v. Aneirin) a tragedy of epic proportions. The story, however, is seen from the point of view of the shield-bearers, not the lords eulogised in The Goddodin, and treats themes of loyalty, courage and indeed political fantasy.”

A Dolphin Ring belonging to the Aquila family provides a thread through several of the historical fiction novels of Rosemary Sutcliff


“Marcus took it from him and bent to examine it. It was a heavy signet-ring; and on the flawed emerald which formed the bezel was engraved the dolphin badge of his own family …” (The Eagle of the Ninth)

The Eagle of the Ninth was first published in 1954. Various books are linked by this Dolphin ring of the Aquila family. In TThe Silver Branch from 1957  Flavius, a descendent of Marcus, and his kinsman Justin lead a resistance movement to the Saxon attacks on Britain.Then in Frontier Wolfpublished in 1980,  Alexios (“a scion of Marcus’ blood”) leads the Frontier Wolves who manned an outpost in the far north of Roman Britain. The much earlier (1959) The Lantern Bearers was also set in Roman Britain, during the coming of Anglo-Saxon invaders. The nineteen-year-old Aquila (again, a descendant of Marcus) sees his home and family destroyed by Anglo-Saxon invaders and becomes a slave, before escaping to join the free men in Wales where he meets a young leader Artos the Bear (Rosemary Sutcliff’s interpretation of King Arthur). Sword At Sunset (1963) follows the story of Artos the Bear.

In Dawn Wind, published in 1961, Owain is fourteen when the British war-hosts gather to hold what territory they still had against the Saxons. He hopes that one day ‘the dawn wind might blow and some part of the Britain he had known might be restored.’ Owain too is descended from Marcus. The Dolphin ring turns up again in Sword Song (1991), and finally in The Shield Ring (1956) a group of Vikings, including Beorn – last descendent of the Marcus line, though now with Norse blood, lives in the Fells of Lakeland, trying to hold out against the resources of Norman England.

In summary, chronologically:

The Eagle of the Ninth (1954) – 2nd century
The Silver Branch (1957) – 3rd century
Frontier Wolf (1980) – 4th century
The Lantern Bearers (1959) – 5th century
Sword At Sunset (1963) – 5th century
Dawn Wind (1961) – 6th century
Sword Song (1997) – 10th century
The Shield Ring (1956) – 11th century
“Angharad wore around her neck a heavy golden ring, much battered and set with some dark green stone……(with a dolphin)  engraved on it” (Sword Song)