Rosemary Sutcliff unconditionally among the best historical novelists using English |The Brittanica Library entry on children’s literature

Splendid, and completely accurate, of course!


There is a detailed entry on “children’s literature” in the Brittanica Library (Ex Encyclopedia Brittanica?). Of UK children’s literature it claims:

The English have often confessed a certain reluctance to say good-bye to childhood. This curious national trait, baffling to their continental neighbours, may lie at the root of their supremacy in children’s literature. Yet it remains a mystery. But, if it cannot be accounted for, it can be summed up.

It also argues that:

In two fields … English post-war children’s literature set new records. These were the historical novel and that cloudy area comprising fantasy, freshly wrought myth, and indeed any fiction not rooted in the here and now.

Of Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical fiction:

There was fair reason to consider Rosemary Sutcliff not only the finest writer of historical fiction for children but quite unconditionally among the best historical novelists using English. A sound scholar and beautiful stylist, she made few concessions to…

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A Birthday Toast for Tolkien!

It seems fitting that I finally posted my post of the first Hobbit movie on the Professor’s birthday. According to my calculations, this is his one hundred and twenty-fourth birthday. And still timeless in our minds and hearts.

If you catch this post tonight, pop on over to the Live Birthday Toast Celebration hosted by Dr. Corey Olsen, The Tolkien Professor, and his friends. It’s a video stream of them chatting entertainingly about Tolkien, his books, and the films, accompanied by a chat window for average viewers like us. Even if you can’t stay for the whole thing, you can pop in and out with ease. Highly recommended.



This is hardly the sort of thing you all deserve after waiting so long without much activity from me, but I bow to the request of a friend. I mentioned in passing to Jubilare that I’ve done more silly doodling than serious writing in the past months, and she suggested that something silly might do her good. Perhaps it might do me some good, too. You yourself, of course, are invited to enjoy or skip this entirely as you please.

Keep in mind that my only formal artistic training is an elective basic drawing class I took in my senior year at college. It required that I buy fancy pens and pencils, and special paper and ink, and officially-recommended erasers. I spent hours observing, measuring, trying to get all the darn lines and shadows right. For my final project I copied a frame from Casablanca reasonably well (my Ingrid Bergman actually looked kind of like the real one, but I couldn’t master her cute nose), and also pulled off a self-portrait that looks significantly cooler than I ever have in real life. In short, I vastly exceeded my own expectations with some of my final artwork and got a B+ in the class.

The results of that class are not featured below. Rather, the below doodles were done with any common pen or crayon I had, and for no other artistic reason other than I was bored and wanted to amuse myself or someone nearby. I am not a very good drawer, but sometimes I do succeed to amuse.

The one below was doodled at an Italian restaurant on my mom’s birthday. I had my niece and nephews sitting around me at the table. It’s one of those restaurants where they have white paper for placemats and they leave crayons next to the salt and pepper whenever your party has kids in it. So to keep busy while we waited for our food to arrive, we doodled, did wordsearches, and played games of tic-tac-toe and hangman. Then I showed my nephew Aaron, age 8, a huge blank space and asked him what I should draw there. “Something AWESOME,” he said. “Okay,” I replied.

Click to see a bigger version: the text is vital to understanding my grandiose aesthetic-philosophical vision for this piece.
Click to see a bigger version: the text is vital to understanding my grandiose politico-philosophical vision for this piece.

The next one is part of a letter I sent to one of my friends earlier this year. He hadn’t been feeling well, so I sent him some George MacDonald and Rosemary Sutcliff to read. There wasn’t much to say, letter-wise, since he already knew the books were coming, but I couldn’t just let a piece of paper stay blank and all, so…

"Class warfare." *snicker*
I dug deep into my memories of childhood and middle school for this evocative, controversial piece. You may also notice the creepy sun-smiler as an homage to Tracy Butler. (Beware, possible *spoilers* in that link if you’re not up-to-date with the Lackadaisy webcomic).

They’re not all that crazy, actually. Sometimes when I’m particularly bored at work, with nothing else to do, I grab some scratch paper and let a pen wander on it. Sometimes story notes come out. Sometimes I try to draw Gandalf and a grumpy dwarf emerges instead.

I've no idea why some of his beard-hairs reach up to his hat brim. Scary.
His beard is kinda scary but I still like that hat.

One day I remembered how much I loved drawing those scribble-tornadoes that I’d learned to do in elementary school.

I posted this on Facebook and someone asked if this was supposed to be from the Oz movie from earlier this year. Nope; I haven't seen the movie. This was just stuff I thought my primitive drawing skills could handle. Plus, you know, tornadoes and umbrellas are both cool.
Okay, this one’s kinda crazy. I posted this on Facebook and someone asked if this was supposed to be from the Oz movie from earlier this year. Nope; I haven’t seen the movie. This was just stuff I thought my primitive drawing skills could handle. Plus, you know, tornadoes and umbrellas are both cool.

And then a bit more recently I got sorta contemplative and wanted to see if I could actually draw a simple, but reasonably evocative setting. I tried to stick with shapes I thought I could handle and just…doodled. So here it is. I kinda like it. Aaron told me it was “amazing.” He says that about a lot of my doodles.

Willow reeds

I know this is all hardly a replacement for a post of real, thoughtful substance about fiction, but if it cheers someone up, then it’s hardly a waste. God bless all of you. Hope to write again soon.

Another Major Award!

No, still not a lamp. Leg. Statue. “Yeah! A staaaatue!” “Ralphie!”

I’ve been given the prestigiously obscure Liebster Award, in which one blogger with fewer than 200 followers writes trivia and answers to random questions about themselves, and then tags a bunch of other bloggers with fewer than 200 followers to write more trivia and more random questions. My eternal thanks to Lady Blue Whimsy for sharing the fun with me!

L’Trivia du Moi

Firstly, I’m supposed to talk about myself.

1) Hello, my name is David, I like fantasy stories and run a modest blog visited by wonderful people which I’ve somewhat embarrassingly been neglecting for several months.

“That’s no good! Why, that’s not even conversation!”*

2) Alright, how about this? I’m currently listening to the achingly beautiful soundtrack from The NeverEnding Story (1984).

“Ah, that’s better. Any other amusing trivialities?”

3) I can struggle my way through Latin, even the medieval variant, preferably if I have Cassell’s Latin Dictionary at hand…and William Whitaker’s Words.

4) My workplace got robbed recently, but it was my day off (no one got hurt, fortunately!).

5) I recently counted over two dozen unread books in my bedroom, the thought of which leaves me simultaneously sad (they are unread) and very happy (BOOKS TO BE READ!).

6) Since discovering him about a month ago, I have spent many hours listening to the Tolkien Professor podcast by Dr. Corey Olsen. IT IS AMAZING. If you love talking about Tolkien and taking his works seriously, definitely give this guy a listen. What he’s done is take the world of academic Tolkien Studies, which is struggling valiantly for recognition amongst mainstream academia, and brought it to the masses. There are close to 300 episodes already, but they are organized into different series: some go through The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion chapter-by-chapter, others speculate about Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, some are recordings of the actual class lectures he gives at Washington College or Mythgard Institute. Basically, if you read my blog and like Tolkien, immediately add this podcast to your listening list.

7) I like people more than I let on.

Answers to Lady Blue Whimsy’s Questions

1. If you could date a fictional character, whom would it be?

Probably Gwyneth Blair. I’d probably have more to talk about with her than with most other fictional women I can think of, and I’m pretty sure we’d get along.

2. If you could travel either forwards or backwards in time, which one, and why?

Backwards. Something about traveling to the future just feels wrong, like cheating. But, especially being a historian by training, I thrill at the idea of traveling back and actually experiencing the things we can now only study through texts, archaeology, and such clues. It’s like the ultimate primary source! Of course, I have a feeling that even if backwards time travel existed, historians would still argue angrily over what “really” happened. Everyone who went back to a particular event would see it differently. Even when the facts match up, “history” is often merely the interpretation that wins out in the mainstream.

3. Vanilla, chocolate, or Superman ice cream?

Wha–Superman ice cream? What’s that? Does it taste like the American dream? (And why does that sound awful?) Like Truth, Justice, and the American Way? Like Krypton? Oh wait, I guess it’s a real thing. Hm, never had it. Personally, I can’t resist an excellent vanilla OR an excellent chocolate ice cream, and I combine them whenever I get the chance.

4. If you had to name your children after your family and relatives, which five names would you pick?

Five all for one kid? Hehe, I’m guessing this is five names in general. Well, perhaps: Rose (or some variant, my family has many), Audrey, Orlando, Joseph, Michael.

5. What one type of food or dish could you eat every day for the rest of your life?

Home-cooked spaghetti.

6. If you could be a fictional character, whom would you be?

Be? I’ll go with Ridley Dow, from the wonderful Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia McKillip. A kind-hearted but absent-minded scholar of the arcane, he cuts a mysterious and dashing figure when he arrives at the Cauleys’ Inn during a storm. I used to imagine myself as a roguish swashbuckler, but Ridley’s brand of dramatic scholarship is a slightly more realistic goal for me, but no less romantic. He gets to study magical, Fey happenings and save (and end up with) the woman he loves, all while making some very good friends and dressing pretty cool.

7. If you could only write one story in your entire writing life, which would it be?

The evasive-but-true answer is whatever story God desires me to finish, but the story most important to me is currently titled The Carpenter’s Sons, and I do hope it will be a published novel sometime before I die. Ideally, it’ll be a pleasing blend of influences (Tolkien, Brian Jacques, Rosemary Sutcliff, R.L. Stevenson, and George MacDonald most notably) filtered through the better parts of my imagination, and all by the grace of God.

8. If you could change the ending to a favorite story, which would it be?

I’d like to make the ending of Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth a bit more romantic, between Marcus and Cottia. It’s nice as it is, but it’s the only part of the book that feels even slightly less than perfect to me. A bit rushed, mainly, as if their romance was an afterthought (although their friendship itself is very well developed).

Tag some other bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers

  1. Brenton Dickieson
  2. Manoah’s Wife
  3. Matt Schneider
  4. Urania, Terpsichore, Melpomene, Thalia, Calliope
  5. Tyler Tichelaar
  6. The Golden Bookwyrm
  7. Emily Kazakh

(Of course, as with always when I tag people, you’re not obligated to participate, and you can participate even if I neglected to tag you. But if you do participate, please let me know somehow, because I really want to read your answers to the questions below!)

Questions for the Tagged

1. If you could choose one fictional creature to be your pet/animal companion, which would you choose and why?

2. Name a favorite moment of yours from any movie released in the 1980s and explain why.

3. If you had to be chased by some hostile fictional creature or character, through a fictional landscape, which ones would you choose and why?

4. In-N-Out, Five Guys, or Chik-Fil-A?

5. Name a song you really like from a musical genre you don’t generally like and explain why this one works for you.

6. What is, in your opinion, the best portrayal(s) of the Elves/Fair Folk/Faeries in film? Multiple choices are permitted, but you must say why you think your choices are so good.

7. What was the last black-and-white film you saw, and what did you think of it?

8. What did you think of the new trailer for The Desolation of Smaug?

*Extra special gold star points and cookies to whomever can name what movie this line comes from.

Contest Winners!

*ahem* I won a thing.

You can read the story direct here. On the off chance that you’re interested in short stories based off odd photos like this one, I welcome you to check it out and let us know what you think! Also be sure to read the very entertaining second-place story by Michael Atkinson.

While We're Paused!

This past season, we have featured a writing contest with the following prompt. After reviewing the submissions, we are pleased to announce our winners!

In 1st place is David Urbach for his mesmerizing and imaginative tale, Mirza’s Strange Sitar. Congratulations David!

In 2nd place is Michael Atkinson for his flash fiction Mermaids and Shiny Things. Michael has won previously with Of Plates and Plans.

To read the real account of the object behind the prompt, click here.

Thank you all for your submissions! Please stay tuned for our next writing contest, which will be announced at a future time.

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For desperate Whovians…

Those of you still mourning my on-hiatus Doctor Who reviews and longing for in-depth discussions of your favorite episodes may want to pop over to them0vieblog, where Darren has recently reviewed the Ninth and Eleventh Doctors’ respective debuts. He’s also got reviews of the Tenth Doctor specials, which you can find organized at his Reviews Hub.

Quite frankly, Darren is a much better and more interesting writer about things cinematic and televisional than I am. He’s also more prolific and very good about responding to comments. Since I haven’t yet re-started my Who reviews — but very much miss the discussions the previous ones engendered! — I urge all who are interested to visit Darren and benefit from his thoughtful analyses.