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Sutcliff’s writing is noted for close observation and vivid evocation of the natural world, particularly the landscapes of Britain. This page identifies species mentioned and describes their significance in her texts.

Resources Edit

The links below are taken mostly from the following sites.

Plants Edit

British Edit

Trees & shrubs Edit

  1. Alder (Alnus glutinosa); folklore. Tree common to wetlands and riversides.
  2. Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). Flowering hedgerow tree.
  3. Bramble (Rubis fruticosus agg.) Blackberries and relatives.
  4. Wild cherry (Prunus avium); Folklore
  5. Crack willow (Salix fragilis); folklore
  6. Elder (Sambucus nigra), folklore . A flowering tree or shrub with superstitious associations.
    • Woodland Trust profile; Botanical.com profile; arkive.org profile
    • Warrior Scarlet: The summer sheep runs are bordered by elder trees, grown for medicinal uses and pipes (1,11).
    • Flowering Dagger: Elder grows on the scene of three of Saba and Brychan's ill-fated encounters:
      1. [first conversation]: In a patch of low-growing scrub murmurous with bees, she checked to break off a milky curd of elder blossom. She did not need it; she had more than enough flowers for three garlands already; she gathered it simply for the prodigal joy of gathering; and still carrying it in her hand, stepped out onto the faint sheep-track that skirted the thicket – and came face to face with Brychan following it up from the farther valley.
      2. [abortive sex and pledge of fidelity]: In the midst of a little hollow filled with elder and wayfaring trees, they flung themselves down, arms round each other, breathless and half-laughing, straining close.
      3. [intended suicide]: On the edge of the woods, in a little hollow where hazel and elder crowded close as though to make them a sheltered resting place, they stopped, and sat down.
    • Bonnie Dundee: Darklis foresees the death of Jean in the pool under an elder tree called the Dark Lady's Looking-Glass on Midsummer's Eve (8).
  7. Hawthorn (Craetagus monogyna); folklore. Flowering tree.
  8. Hazel (Corylus avellana); folklore
  9. Wild pear
  10. Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia); folklore. Wayfaring tree, mountain ash.
  11. Yew (Taxus baccata); folklore. Red-berried evergreen tree.

Herbs & flowers Edit

  • Bell-heather
  • Bracken (fern)
  • Convolvulus
  • Wild garlic
  • Horned poppy
  • Red campion
  • Scarlet pimpernel
  • Traveller's joy
  • Willow-herb
  • Wood anemone

Mediterranean Edit

  • Anemone
  • Gum cistus
  • Olive
  • Tamarisk (Tamarix spp.)

Animals Edit

Note: this section is intended mainly for wild animals. Domestic animals with names go in the character index.

Birds Edit

  1. Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
  2. Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
  3. Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
  4. Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
    • Flowering Dagger: The cuckoo is a symbol both of spring and Brychan's secret adoption.
  5. Curlew (Numenius arquata), Scottish: whaup
    • Bonnie Dundee: The Armstrong farmstead is called Wauprigg, or "Curlew Ridge".
  6. Eagles, folkore
    • The crest of the Roman Legions, often used by synecdoche as a name for them.
    • Warrior Scarlet: Cathlan the Grandfather is "a man like a huge old brooding grey eagle that had once been golden."
    • Sword at Sunset: Maelgwn's golden eagle Lucifer is a symbol of his character: "predators, knowing no law but their own, both magnificent in their way" (35).
    • Bonnie Dundee: Captain Faa's characteristic feature is "yellow eyes–blazing wicked yellow like those of the fish-eagle that the Highlanders cal Iolair-Suil-Na-Greine, the Bird with the Sunlit Eye." (10).
  7. Golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria)
    • The Mark of the Horse Lord: The Old Man of the Green Hillocks tests Phaedrus with an illusion of a golden plover's feather, and correctly predicts that Phaedrus will see another at the time of his death at Theodosia.
  8. Green plover (Vanellus vanellus), Northern lapwing, peewit
  9. Green woodpecker (Picus viridis)
  10. Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
  11. Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), windhover, sparrowhawk
  12. Larks (Scottish: laverock)
  13. Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
  14. Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
  15. Wood pigeon (Columba palumbus)
  16. Yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava)

Mammals Edit

  1. Brown bear (Ursus arctos), folklore
    • Song for a Dark Queen: Vortrix the Bear (10).
    • The Mark of the Horse Lord: Aluin Bear's Paw (17).
    • Sword at Sunset: Artorius goes by "Artos the Bear" in affectionate tribute to his size.
    • Sword Song: Bjarni rescues Brother Ninian from a bear attack in the Caithness forest, rethinks his life.
    • Midsummer Fair: Margaret Maitland covets a polar bear (Ursus maritimus) skin. Thorkel Thorkelsson, alleged wrestler of ghost bears, gets into a tavern fight with drunk dancing bear.
  2. Wild boar (Sus scrofa), folklore
    • Shifting Sands: Hunting a wild sow on Mainland, Orkney leads to a dispute over the kill between the chief and a young hunter in the Stone Age.
    • Dawn Wind: Haegel of Sussex hunts a boar in the Manwood, which Bryni Beornwulfson kills to get his attention.
  3. Deer, folklore
    • Shifting Sands: Long Axe the chieftain wears an antlered mask (cf. illustration by Victor Ambrus) at the Autumn Dancing, a hunt festival.
      • Long Axe put on the God-Mask, and the hunters danced, clashing together the antlers of deer they had killed in other years, that the Horned One might give them good hunting. And that was the Autumn Dancing; the Dance of the Men’s Side.
    • The Changeling: Conan the chief is gored by "a great twelve-point stag, a chieftain among his kind."
    • The Mark of the Horse Lord: Phaedrus is acclaimed as the returned king in the Cave of the Hunter, i.e. the Horned One, an antlered hunt deity (6).
    • Sword at Sunset:
      • Saxon warlord Hengest is called "a Royal Stag" by Artos (9).
      • Maglaunus the chief wears the mask of the Horned God at Lammas (17).
      • Ambrosius the High King commits suicide by killing a "king stag" (26).
    • Dawn Wind: Enslaved Owain "carried himself even now like a ten-point stag, which is to say like a king" (9).
    • The Shining Company: Prosper, Conn, Luned, and Prince Gorthyn protect a white stag.
      • (3) "for a moment the thought came upon me that he was some creature out of ancient legend, such as the harpers sang of beside the fire on winter nights. He stood with his head back, poised and proud under the arching crown of antlers, seeming not so much to shine in the moonlight as to be fashioned of the same stuff as the moonlight itself."
  4. Scottish wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris), folklore
    • The Mark of the Horse Lord:
      • The Little Dark People attend the royal gathering in "their full ritual finery of dyed wild-cat skins and necklaces of animals' teeth" (7).
      • Conory's semi-tame female wildcat Shan symbolises his dangerous, unpredictable reaction to Phaedrus and his effeminacy (6, 8).
      • The women warriors of the Dalriadain are called the Wild Cats (13).
    • Frontier Wolf:
      • Cloe's kitten Typhon has "tufts on his ears to prove his proud wildcat ancestry" (6).
      • The Caledones' war cry is a "hideous wild-cat yelling" (11) or "hissing wild-cat anger call" (14); their standards, "tasselled cat-skull" (12), "snarling wild-cat head" (14).
    • Sword Song: Wildcat skins are an export of Argyll (17).
  5. Wolf (Canis lupus), folklore
    • "The Sea Wolves" is the common term for Saxon raiders.
    • Warrior Scarlet: Wolves are a major predator of sheep and the entire Men's Side mounts the Wolf Guard during the lambing season. The New Spears of the Golden People are initiated into the Men's Side through their Wolf-Slaying in their fifteenth year. Wolves are valued in hound breeding; Drem's dog Whitethroat is a valuable gift because he was sired by a wolf.
    • The Changeling: The practice of raising a wolf cub as a dog is a metaphor for Tethra of the Little Dark People's adoption by the Golden People.
      • “It hurt—here inside me it hurt. But I did not have to choose. Ia my mother said that if you take a wolf-cub young enough from its own kind, it will run with the dog-pack—even to the hunting of wolf, when it is grown . . . But maybe it hurts the wolf-cub, too.”
    • The Eagle of the Ninth: The Brigantes are known to raise wolf cubs among their dog packs. Esca presents Marcus with an orphaned wolf cub acquired while hunting, which they name Cub (6). They free him as a young adult, but he is tame and returns to the household (9).
    • The Frontier Scouts or Frontier Wolves wear a wolfskin cloak personally killed by the wearer, and refer to themselves as a pack and otherwise do not hunt wolf.
      • The Mark of the Horse Lord: Frontier Wolves patrol the no man's land of Valentia (7, 20).
      • Frontier Scout: Lucius Calpurnius wins his wolfskin from a Sea Wolf.
      • Frontier Wolf: Alexios's wolf-killing with Cunorix initiates him into the Frontier Wolves (5) and foreshadows Cunorix's hunt for and duel with him (14).
      • The Shining Company: The Scouts are believed to haunt Castellum in the shape of wolves (8).

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