lauzeta ([personal profile] lauzeta) wrote2011-08-01 06:23 pm

(no subject)

I don't really have enough energy to talk about this at length right now, but I am beginning to think that I detect a strong family resemblance between Rosemary Sutcliff's Sword at Sunset and Mary Renault's The King Must Die. Discuss?

[identity profile] 2011-08-02 12:44 pm (UTC)(link)
I haven't actually read Sword at Sunset yet. I'm probably a bad person.
So what's the resemblance? Beyond the Bildungsroman general?

[identity profile] 2011-08-03 11:15 pm (UTC)(link)
well, I haven't finished it - so my bias is that we're neither of us bad people.

It's got something to do with the way they both deal with these very alien cultures in a way that makes them seem both far more familiar and yet very different than the foundational myths we all know. I wish I could figure out how they do it.

(Might be something to do with the fact that they both know how not to overexplain cultural differences? I'm not sure.)

[identity profile] 2011-08-05 11:00 pm (UTC)(link)
Plus, I begin to wonder how a narrative about the heroic leader who, essentially, drives out the illegal immigrants would play if you updated it. Granted that at least in Sutcliff they're violent slave-owning illegal immigrants (I am not up-to-date on 5th-c. Anglo-Saxons) - but none of that was unheard-of for the time.

[identity profile] 2011-08-07 04:43 am (UTC)(link)
Sorry for not replying above - your comment was so impressive that I realized I didn't have anything useful to add! But The King Must Die at least, has stuck with me ever since you recommended it - and a lot of what I remember about it has to do with the main character, and with the presentation of - as you say - a very alien but naturalized culture, and with the interweaving of half-remembered Theseus myths with a possible history that - at the time - was very eye-opening. I felt like I was learning about real (or at least, realistic) cultures in ancient Greece and Crete; I also remember the arresting way she balanced myth and realism both in her storytelling and in the imagined ethos of those cultures. Theseus seems not really to be the son of Poseidon, but I held it out as a possibility for quite a while, and Theseus seems to have as well.

To what extent do you think these stories are a product of their time (late 50's early 60's)? Is the sense of alienness/familiarity/similarity you get reading because the books are mirroring their modern time, or because they simultaneously discovered the idea that in the ancient world people had different values, and went in similar directions? I'm not sure if that question makes sense.

[identity profile] 2011-08-07 04:45 am (UTC)(link)
'that question' = my rambling question; I guess I'm asking based on your 'none of that was unheard-of for the time', above.

[identity profile] 2011-08-10 10:51 pm (UTC)(link)
I don't think it was a very impressive comment at all! Although I appreciate the compliment.

I think some of Renault's theories about Archaic Greece have been discredited, although I'd have to do more research to be sure. The thing to remember about Greek myth - well, one of the things - is that they do frequently attribute one human and one divine father to the same person. Theseus' dual parentage is actually accurate to the myth.

I don't know if I really understand your question. I think the style in both books is probably similar because of when they were written, yes - just coming out of the early 20th century and waking to a broader and more difficult world after WWII, maybe has something to do with it? Plus they're so dense and beautiful in their language and research in a way I really don't see often anymore in historical fiction. I suppose I could be reading the wrong things though.

I'm also not saying that none of these books point out the moral grey areas of their protagonists. It's more that - well, I've never seen a King Arthur retelling that gave the story from the other side, you know?

[identity profile] 2011-08-21 05:38 am (UTC)(link)

"But looking down at it as I stood leaning on my sword, I saw it for the face of the King Sacrifice; older than either Christos or Mithras, reaching back and forward into all time until the two met and the circle was complete. Always the god, the king, the hero, who must die for the people when the call comes." - Rosemary Sutcliff, Sword at Sunset (Chicago Review Press, 2008), pg. 368.

I suspect an over-reliance on The Golden Bough