The Shield Ring by Rosemary Sutcliff

 The Shield Ring cover

The Shield Ring by Rosemary Sutcliff was first published in 1956 and I hadn’t even heard of it until I saw it fairly recently in a secondhand bookshop in St Andrews, but it turned out to be great read – as Sutcliff’s books generally are.

The setting is the English Lake District, a place that I’ve enjoyed visiting quite a few times, but the next time I visit I’ll be looking at the landscape in an entirely different way, imagining all the things that were going on there as those of Viking descent who had settled there fought the Normans over a thirty year period or more. The Normans who had fairly easily overcome the inhabitants of the southern half of England in the softer landscape found it to be a much more difficult task in the northern wilds of the Lake District which seemed to be sheltered by a ring of mountainous terrain.

I must admit that I had no idea the famous Domesday Book that we hear about so often stopped short of the Cumberland Fells so there is no mention of Lake Land at all. I can imagine that it must have been one of those areas that on old maps would have been marked – HERE BE DRAGONS.

The book begins with the not quite five year old Frytha witnessing the burning of her village by Norman William’s men. Frytha had been out and about in the woods with Grim her father’s shepherd/man of all work, when they realised that the woodland around them felt different. The birds and animals had fallen silent because the Normans had arrived and were busy slashing and burning. Grin knew there would be no survivors so he took Frytha further north into the Lake Land where she was quickly adopted by a local family. It’s the last stronghold of the Vikings who are constantly honing their battle skills to ward off the Normans who have built a stronghold at Carlisle.

Frytha quickly finds a friend in Bjorn who is just a few years older than she is, it turns into a great relationship with the two of them facing danger together in later years as they team up to do their bit to help out their community agains the Normans.

Rosemary Sutcliff was such a lovely writer of well researched books, and I certainly always learn new things of interest in them.

4 thoughts on “The Shield Ring by Rosemary Sutcliff

  1. I’ve only read a few of Rosemary Sutcliff’s books, but I agree that they’re usually great reads. I love the Lake District and had no idea either that it wasn’t included in the Domesday Book.

    • Helen,
      That was such a surprise to me but when I thought about it it makes sense that the land around the Lake District would be off limits to the Normans for years.

  2. She was such a gifted writer! I need to move this book higher on my TBR but I have about a month between semesters and want to finish my 20 Books of Summer.

    • Constance,
      I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I’m also hoping to get through my 20 Books of Summer, but I’ve gone off piste and have been reading books which don’t appear on my list – and I still want to complete the list. Mind you my time should be my own, no semesters to worry about but I’ve just been so busy!

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