|The Shining Company|
First edition cover
2010 Phoenix Award
The Shining Company is a novel published in 1990 by the Bodley Head. It is based on the Welsh elegiac poem Y Gododdin and dramatises the lead-up to the Battle of Catraeth in about 600 CE.
Plot[edit | edit source]
On his twelfth birthday, Prosper the second son of Gerontius the lord of Nant Ffrancon, Wales, is given an Irish bond servant named Conn with an injured knee, to his disappointment. Prosper has to tend Conn's wound, and along with Prosper's foster sister Luned, they become friends (1). Later that summer, they meet Phanes of Syracuse, a Greek merchant with a remarkable archangel dagger from Constantinople, which wakes Prosper to the reality of the outside world and Conn to the longing to smith metal, a craft barred to bondsmen (2). The next year, Prosper, Conn, and Luned sight a white hart while searching for their lost dog, and make a pact to tell no one (3). But the news reaches the King's son Gorthyn, who comes to hunt the hart. Prosper plans to kill the hart humanely, but the Prince himself calls off the hunt at the sight of it, and Prosper inwardly gives him his allegiance (4). Two and a half years later, when Prosper is sixteen, Gorthyn summons him to be his second shield-bearer at the hosting of Mynyddog the Golden, King of the Gododdin, and Conn goes with him (5).
Gorthyn's party arrives at Dyn Eidin, Mynyddog's seat, expecting a war hosting against the growing power of the Saxons of Bernicia, and are shocked to find Mynyddog visibly ailing. Phanes of Syracuse, an old friend of Mynyddog's, explains to Prosper that the King is indeed gravely ill, but his illegitimate son Ceredig the Fosterling will lead the host in his place (6). When the full Company of three hundred younger sons of chieftains from the kingdoms of the North and West has assembled, they and their shieldbearers swear faith to Mynyddog, with his bard Aneirin as his spokesman, at a feast and sword-giving, at which Prosper first sees the Companion Cynan Mac Clydno and his devoted friend the Princess Niamh (7).
The Company sets about training with their shieldbearers, and Conn is at a loose end until Prosper sends him on an errand to the weapon smith, and then seeing his continuing fascination with the craft, proposes to give him as an apprentice, which would force his father to free him (8). Prosper and two other shieldbearers are assigned to pass three days doing anything but sleeping, and they set out for the ruined Roman fort of Castellum, where they pass the time in gossip and stone-masonry, and discover another party on the same test, who leave a token in their camp as a challenge (9). On the third night they repay the visit and find the other three dropped asleep, and attacking them in jest, Prosper ens up in a fight with a panicked Faelinn, touchy shieldbearer to Peredur of Rheged (10). At the Midwinter feast, the Company and the Teulu, the King's bodyguard, come to blows over the Champion's portion, and the Fosterling formally gives up the captaincy of the Teulu in favour of the Company (11). In spring, envoys from the Dalriada come to be persuaded to join Mynyddog's cause, and the envoy demands a show of the Company's esprit de corps by having two men catch a third running towards the cliff called Epona's Leap. Prosper is chosen as a runner with Faelinn as his catcher, and Prosper's evident fear of what Faelinn might do pays off their old score (12). Later that spring, the news arrives that Aelle of Deira is dead and Aethelfrith of Bernicia is taking control of both kingdoms, and Mynyddog sends out the summons to war to the kingdoms of the North and West, with the Company riding ahead to secure the Deiran capital of Catraeth (13). The Company rides south by the western road for stealth's sake, and encamp at the border of Deira. While wandering outside the camp, Prosper and Cynan come upon a Saxon shepherd whom the Fosterling is forced to kill to ensure his silence. It is Prosper's first experience of war (14).
The Company comes upon Catraeth unguarded and takes the Royal Village, but Aethelfrith escapes to fight another day, and the Company burn the place and retires to the ruined Roman fort (15). In the next days, they raid and defend against the growing Saxon war host while waiting for the first reinforcements to reach them from nearby Elmet, and Prosper's prince Gorthyn and fellow shieldbearer are killed, along with Cynan Mac Clydno's brothers and Faelinn's master Peredur. Elmet does not answer the call, and Mynyddog's Gododdin have not arrived (16). When the Company had dwindled to less than three hundred Companions and shieldbearers, the Fosterling tells them that, since they cannot escape or expect reinforcements, they will make a last charge to kill as many Saxons as they can, and covering the escape of one messenger, Aneirin, escorted by Conn and the other field-smiths. Cynan takes Prosper and Faelinn as his shieldbearers, and the Company makes their farewells, as Aneirin conjures a druidic mist (17). At nightfall in the mist and smoke, the Company rides out, and as they die and break up, Prosper and Cynan find themselves alone and outside of the Company's last stand when Cynan takes a blow to the head, and Prosper drags him off to rejoin Conn's party (18). Cynan mends during a week's rest and days on the road back to Gododdin, but is listless and silent. When they reach Gododdin land, a chieftain tells them that they had mustered as Mynyddog bade them, and then were dismissed without ever stirring for Catraeth (19). Aneirin and Prosper tell the King's Hall the story of the Shining Company, and Mynyddog explains to them that since the other kingdoms did not answer his summons, he could not throw away the rest of the Gododdin war host reinforcing the Company. Cynan collapses again, and at the end of four days' fever, tells Prosper that the King betrayed them (20). At the end of a summer recuperating under Prosper and Niamh's care, Cynan declines to resume his place in Mynyddog's Teulu, and offers to return Phanes's archangel dagger to its owner in the emperor of Constantinople's bodyguard. Prosper advises Conn to return to Nant Ffrancon as a free man and marry Luned, and departs with Cynan (21).
Chronology[edit | edit source]
The Battle of Catraeth is dated circa 600 CE. The events of the story begin about six years earlier, and are narrated by Prosper from a frame implied to be many years later.
Year 1: 595 CE
- Spring, Prosper's 12th nameday (1): Conn arrives
- Summer (2): The archangel dagger. Bernicia growing.
Year 2: 596 CE
- Harvest time (3): The white hart
- Autumn (4): Prince Gorthyn's hunting
Year 5: 599 CE ("two years went by, and the half of another year" (5))
- May (5): Owain wed. The Company summoned to Dyn Eidin.
- End of May (7): Company assembled. Oath swearing & sword-giving
- Early summer (8): Conn becomes a smith's apprentice
- Late summer (9, 10): Prosper's ordeal of wakefulness
- Midwinter (11): Feast and armour-giving, Teulu vs. Company brawl
Year 6: 600 CE
- Early spring (12): Dalriadan envoys
- Spring (13): Aelle dies. Aethelfrith takes Deira.
- A week later (14): The Company rides for Catraeth
- 5 days later: encamp at the border of Rheged and Deira
- 3 days later (15): reach Catraeth. Cynri dies.
- Following weeks (16): Raiding the Saxons. Besieged in Catraeth. Gorthyn, Cynran, Lleyn and Peredur die. Elmet does not come.
- The last day (17): the last night (18). Faelinn, the Fosterling, and everyone else dies
- The next day (19): Aneirin tends Prosper and Cynan. That night: to a Roman posting station
- A week later: they leave for Dyn Eidin
- 4 days later: they reach Gododdin lands
- 4 days later: they reach Dyn Eidin
- Less than 2 months after leaving (20): they return to Dyn Eidin
- For 4 days: Cynan in a fever
- Summer (21): Prosper and Niamh nurse Cynan
- Lammas, 3 months after their return: Cynan and Prosper leave Mynyddog's service
Characters[edit | edit source]
Characters from Y Goddoddin and other historical sources are in italics. Names with an asterisk* are legendary people in the context of the story.
Nant Ffrancon[edit | edit source]
- Prosper (1), a shieldbearer to the Companions at Catraeth. Younger and less-favoured son of Gerontius, "long-boned and tawny-fair like my mother" (1). "I have always liked thigs to be plain and uncomplicated." (8). 'You were always one to make patterns of other people's lives for them.' (17). "I was the only one who could tell it, just as Aneirin was the only one who could make the Great Song. I told of the last ride of the Shining Company." (20).
- Gelert (1), a young and foolish dog, once nursed by Prosper (1). "It would be Gelert, of course, born foolish and unfortunate." (3).
- Shadow (6), Prosper's mare
- Gerontius (1), Prosper's father, "lord of three cantrefs between Nant Ffrancon and the sea" (1). "I have said that my father had little love for me, and that is true, but it is true also that I always had justice from him." (3).
- Owain (1), Prosper's elder brother. Kind of a dick (3). Married reluctantly to a neighbouring chieftain's daughter (5).
- Old Nurse (1), as good a healer as Brother Pebwyr. "Old Nurse was so old that her memories went back far enough to join with men whose own memories touched the time when the Legions had scarcely left Britain, and she had spoken in her youth with men who had spoken with Arthur Pendragon...She was almost as good a storyteller as my father's harper. But she was as curious as a squirrel" "If you wanted her to do anything for you, it was best to go yourself and ask, with courtesy and humility." (1) Runs the household (5).
- Luned (1), Prosper's kinswoman, "only a few months older than me". "brought up under our roof since her parents had died of the fever that comes sometimes in the spring after a mild wet winter, and neither of us could remember a time that we had not been together, so that it was almost as though we were brother and sister." (1). "she was not much given to tears" 'Beautiful she is.' (4). "It struck me suddenly how much I did not know of her. She had always been one to keep her secrets to herself." (5).
- Conn (1), Prosper's body servant, "a boy of about my own age, brown of skin and hair and eyes", with a damaged left knee. From Eiru, before sold to slavers (1). Inspired to smith-hood by the archangel dagger. "The trouble with Conn was that he never, well, almost never, winged off on any kind of flight of fancy." "he was dragging his left leg slightly, as he still did when he was tired, or sore at heart." (2). Finds Luned attractive. "that cool, dead-level voice of his" (4). "was seldom without something to do with his hands" (5). "He seemed to spend a lot of time looking on from the outskirts in those days, having no place of his own. He ran errands for everybody, tended horses, burnished harness and gear, fetched and carried, and was beginning to wear a sullen look, a down-tailed look like a masterless dog." "his loping, faintly lopsided run" " it came to me...how seldom Conn had gone near the smithy at home." (8). "had the look of a man who has found his own path to follow." (9). "that slow grave smile of his" (12). Sent back with the rest of the field forge as Aneirin's escorts. ""suddenly I saw the pattern that was forming for Conn; and when the Fates set their pattern on your forehead, it does not melt away...'you are a smith and therefore no longer a bondman....'" (17).
- Tydeus (1), Prosper's tutor, teaching him Herodotus. Retires as a monk (5).
- Herodotus (1), author of Histories
- Pebwyr (1), brother infirmarer
- Loban (1), Gerontius's smith. "an old man, begining to be hunched by the long years of work; all shouldres and no legs, but he must always have been small and meagre" (2)
- Iorwen (1), a monk
- Arthur Pendragon (1), "he that among his own hills was still called Artos the Bear." (1) "his twelve great battles, and how he thrust back the Saxon kind so that they came no more for the lifetime of a man." (7). "used fire arrows in the taking of some Saxon stronghold" ""The Three Hundred had begun to call themselves the Companions because that was the name by which men spoke of Artos's band of cavalry." (8).
- Cu (1), Gerontius's master of hounds
- Gwen (1), a bitch
- Cabel (4), an old wise hound
- Colwen (2), member of the kindred
- Gwyn (3), Gerontius's harper
- Gwyn ap Nudd* (3), King of the Wild Hunt
- Gildas (3),
- Tuan (4), Gerontius's huntsman
- Lady Nerys (5), Owain's bride, "such a mouse of a girl"
- Naia (2), a mare
- The white hart (3)
Elsewhere[edit | edit source]
- Phanes of Syracuse (2), a travelling merchant, a Greek, with "bee-brown eyes" (2). 'there is old friendship between Mynyddog and me; I came here first when I was a boy, with my uncle, and Mynyddog was a boy also.' (6). Interpreter for Aneirin's rescue mission (9). Messenger of Aethelfrith's accession to Deira, stabbed in the back (13). Doesn't entirely recover (20). Gives the archangel dagger to Cynan to return to Constantinople (21).
- Aidan of Strathclyde (3), king of the Dalriada. "He's a warlord more than a king; and his wars are glorified cattle raids, whether he goes against the Saxon kind or his neighbours." (12).
- Gartnait of Caledonia (3)
- Aethelfrith of Bernicia (3), new king and warleader (3), 'whom men call the Flame Bringer' (7). Takes over Deira from the dead Aelle (13). "Aethelfrith's hair was molten red". Escapes the Company's assault on Catraeth. 'Aethelfrith is no coward, only hard-headed. He knew that had he remained to die here with his men, we should have gained the victory that we came for. While he lives, his hosting war bands still have him to lead them, and we have no true victory after all." (15). Not killed in the last charge (19, 20).
- Urian of Rheged (3), dead would-be uniter of Britons (3). Betrayed (10).
- Urfai (4), King of Gwynedd, Gerontius's overlord and Gorthyn's father
- Branwen* (9), legendary wife of a King of Eiru, mistreated and vengeful
- Languareth* (9), legendary Queen of Strathclyde, retrieved her ring from a fish
- Aelle (11), Saxon king of Deira (11). Killed in a hunting accident (13).
- Dinogad* (13), has a marten-skin coat
- Bruidge, Cathal, Aed, Arbell, Conairy, Cushling, Madduin* (13), successive owners of a fort
- Alexion (2, 21), Phanes's friend in the emperor's bodyguard, the original owner of the archangel dagger
Dyn Eidin[edit | edit source]
- Aneirin (1), composer of Y Gododdin (1). "a lean, dark-skinned man with yellow eyes and yellow teeth and a beak like a bird of prey's under a grey-striped shag of rusty hair: Aneirin, the King's bard." "he had been a captive of the Sea Wolves and suffered evil things at their hands. I had seen for myself the thickened white scar on his neck that marked the gall of a Saxon thrall ring." "he seemed obsessed by ancient legends and past heroes" (7). Captured while an ambassador to the Saxons, chained underground. A pagan (9). A healer, a fighting man, and a Druid (13). "There was blod on him; he had been working all day among our wounded, but it might have been his own, for he had been with the archers last night." (16). Sent to bring news of the Company's last charge to Mynyddog (17). Makes the Great Song of the Gododdin (20, 21).
- Mynyddog of Gododdin (1) "whom men called Mynyddog the Wealthy" (3). "A man, the wreckage of a man, who must once have been a giant but had shrunk and withered into himself until his mantle seemed to hang loose on bare bones" 'What ails him?' 'An arrow between the ribs, from the cattle wars, three years past.' 'The King has odd eyes, one green, one grey...and the fosterling has them too.' (6).
- The Queen (6), a skillful doctor (6). "spear-tall, with a strong quiet face" (7).
- Cuchulain* (7), did something notable in the Pass of the North, died young
- Clydno (7), the King's late judge
- Princess Niamh (7), third daughter, "smaller than the rest...with dove-gold hair" "she had straight dark brows that should have been a boy's and overshadowed all the rest" "the Queen her mother had chosen to pass on to her, and not to either of the other two, her own healing skills." "old friends" with Cynan Mac Clydno (7). 'I wonder if the Queen chose that one because she lacks the beauty that the other two have, and could do with a skill to make up for it...More likely because she had the skill born in her and it only needed to be trained' 'she would come running if Cynan whistled.' 'She used to run at his heels like a puppy whenever she could escape from her nurse.' (9). "She had grown much older in the year and more since I had first seen her, and I knew that he would only have to whistle and she would follow, as Dara had once said–to Constantinople, or to the apple islands beyond the sunset. But I also knew that he would not whistle." (21).
- Cannaid (11), a lapdog
- Fercos (8), swordsmith, Conn's master, (8), a harsh taskmaster" (9).
- Cenau (9) of the Hearth Companions, "the grim little fighting man who most of us believed would take the Fosterling's place as Capatain of the King's bodyguard" Fired that Saxon king's Hall to retrieve Aneirin (9). New Captain of the Teulu (12).
- Llwyarch Hen (9), Cenau's father
- Amalgoid (11), Champion of the Teulu,
- Bleddfach (11), the King's steward, with an "old dry voice"
- Felim (13), brother infirmarer who disapproves of Aneirin
The Company[edit | edit source]
- Gorthyn (4), the King's younger son, "who, it seemed, cared for few things in life as he did for hunting" "a rather ugly young man with a bony, laughing face under a thatch of hair that shone the colour of oatstraw...and found myself wanting to like him, like him enormously" "I have never known any other man with a smile quite like Gorthyn's; it was not over-broad, but it had wings to it." "something, a kind of fealty, went out from me to him that I knew would not return to me again so long as life lasted, his or mine." (4). "It was on the last mounted sally...that Gorthyn's horse was killed under him....It took Gorthyn between neck and shoulder, slicing through the ringmail into flesh and bone....It took him three days to die" (16)
- Bryth (12), Gorthyn's chestnut horse
- Lleyn (4), Gorthyn's armour-bearer, "not more than a couple of years older than myself, square-built and freckled, with two front teeth missing; and him, too, I could have liked well enough" (4). "I had hoped to be with Lleyn, who had become a friend by that time" (9). 'of [Gorthyn's] own hearth kin' "all but fell over another body with the barb of a Saxon arrow that had passed clear through, sticking out between the shoulder blades. I turned it over, but there was no need; one does not need to see a friend's face to know him from other men; it was Lleyn." (16).
- Gwenabwy (5), a prince of the Cymry, "thickset, formidable-looking young man", "People often thought that it was for his fighting powers that Gwenabwy had come to be likened to the wild pig. It was. But we who came to know him knew also that there was another reason."
- Tydfwlch the Tall (5), the elder and leader of the three Cymric princes. "always found delight in a battle of any kind" (11).
- Ceredig the Fosterling (6), Captain of the Teulu, Mynyddog's bastard. 'The King has odd eyes, one green, one grey...and the Fosterling has them too.' (6). "an odd look on his face–surprise, and a sort of bitter inward-turning laughter–and guessed that although the thing was indeed common knowledge, it was maybe the first time that the King had formally acknowledged his briar-bush son before all men." (7). 'I am a man who likes to choose with care the company he dies in, and I should be full fain to die in yours. Nevertheless, the choice is for you to make, each one for himself. And if I ride alone, I shall not therefore forget that I have loved you, and had, I think, your love in return.' "He was like one or two generals, not many, whom I have known since, merciless on the training ground but gentle before battle." (17). "I told of that last sight of our Captain, who was the King's son, broken and hoisted aloft on the points of spears" (20).
- Alexander (6), won an empire with 300 Companions, allegedly; ditto the Spartans at Thermopylae and Arthur
- Madog of Elmet (7), sent to summon his people to Catraeth, unsuccessfully (16). "Madog crouched at the Captain's other side...staring into the fire also with red-rimmed eyes in a face that was so furious and shamed that it hurt to look at it." (17) "now our standard-bearer" (18).
- Morien (7), "always the inventor among us...set to work with linen rags soaked in pitch until he had achieved arrows of a like kind, one of which set fire to a store-shed roof, and gained him the name of Morien the Fiery, which he bore from that time forth." (8). "little dark Morien" (13). "rising as usual to anything that had to do with fire." (17).
- Peredur (7) "of Caer Luil, who was among the few to answer Mynyddog's summons from the lost kingdom of Rheged." (10). "I had been so deep taken with my own two beside the May tree that I had no awareness that Peredur also was among that day's dead." (16).
- Geraint (7), "big fair Geraint of the far South". "the striped silken scarf he always wore knotted round his waist under his sword belt" (12).
- Cynan Mac Clydno (7), "All three brothers looked like horses–the high cheekbones and flared nostrils and full dark eyes, the thick stallion crest of black hair–and none of them ever walked if they could ride...It was always Cynan whom I noticed" "Cynan made laughing love to every girl who came his way" (7). "It was almost the first word that we had heard him speak since Cynran's dying." (17). Prosper and Faelinn's leader for the final battle. Takes a head wound and collapses (18). "They had got his mail coif off him, and his head had not fallen to pieces, but a horrible black and broken place led out from under the clotted hair on his temple and down to his jaw" "It had always been said of him and his brothers that they had been born on horseback and suckled by a mare, and certainly I have known him sleep on horseback without coming off." " in his sleep, despite the half-healed wound that marred his cheek and forehead, he loked to be almost himself again, but still he seemed shut off from all that went on round him, and he never spoke." (19).
- Anwar (18), Cynan's horse
- Cynri Mac Clydno (7), second runner at Epona's Leap (12). "Cynan and Cynran had a grave-laying of their own to attend to, for they had found Cynri lying where the bodies were clotted thick in the mouth of the Mead Hall." (15).
- Cynran Mac Clydno (7), "the youngest of the three brothers" (8). "Close under the gate tower Cynan crouched over someone, something, that ran red like a broached wine jar. I went to see if there was help to be given, and saw that it was Cynran. He was almost broken apart midway by a blow from another of the great Saxon war axes, part still and part writhing like a snake crushed under a cartwheel. It was horrible. As I reached them he cried out shrilly, "Oh, for God's sake finish it!" And Cynan slipped his dagger from his belt left-handed–his right arm was under his brother's head–and finished it" (16).
- Llif (8), "from beyond the old northern wall, a long, lean Pict, sandy-haired and tattooed on breast and shoulders with the blue spiralling patterns of his people." (8). Suggests to Aneirin that the Companions each be named (13). " I mind coming upon Llif in a patch of sunlight, stripped naked and with a little pot of woad in one hand and a stick with the end chewed soft in the other, tracing warrior patterns wherever there was space among the tattooing on his breast and shoulders and thighs." (17).
- Dara (8), one of Cynan's shieldbearers, with whom Prosper does the wakefulness test. "a stout, good-natured callant with pale eyelashes and a giggle that came out of him like water out of a bottle." "enjoyed anything that savoured of gossip" "born and bred on Eidin Ridge and having, moreover, a nose for other people's affairs that would have done credit to some old henwife." (9) "I remember seeing Dara drop beside me with his head split open by an axe" during the Company's assault on Catraeth (15).
- Huil (9), one of Llif's shieldbearers, with whom Prosper does the wakefulness test. "like all his Pictish kind had a nose like a hunting dog" "his native tongue was not ours, anf though he spoke our tongue none so ill, he pronounced some of the words strangely" "Huil, with his feelings for curves, would have had us build round it" (9)
- Faelinn (10), "shieldbearer to Peredur...They were all touchy, the Rheged men, all shadowed by the death of their own King...all a little unsure, even those whose fathers were loyal, of whether other men might be finding them guilty; all of them a little prone to pick a quarrel or hold a grudge in consequence." "barley-pale hair, and tangled with it, the blue glass earring that he always wore", ripped out accidentally by Prosper. "for Faelinn it was worse than for the rest, because he had squealed like a stuck pig, because he had panicked and gone for his knife, and had a torn ear that would keep him from ever forgetting it." (10). "Suddenly we laughed, sharing the laughter, and I knew that Faelinn had never had the remotest idea of letting me go over the edge. He had known that in the moment of seeing him there as one of my catchers I had been afraid. And that moment had been all he needed to even the score." (12). Orphaned of Peredur on the same day as Prosper of Gorthyn and Lleyn (16). "Faelinn and I were still together, not friends, but held together by our lost-dog state." "The thing that had grown between us in those past few days was too shadowy and still too prickly to be called friendship, and I was afraid that maybe I had taken too much in my own hand; but I saw that he was glad, as I was, that we should make the last ride together." (17). "Faelinn was gone. I do not know how or when, for I never saw him go" (18).
- Ywain (12), one of the Companions, "a thickset, steady-looking man who often led his troop." Prosper's catcher at Epona's Leap (12).
- Credne (13), a shoesmith of the field forge. Sent as Aneirin's escort (17).
- Flamm (17), a smith of the field forge, sent as Aneirin's escort
- Garym (17), "to guide them, Garym, who knows these hills and has scouted for us all this while." Born in the valley of the Roman posting station. Returns there after he has guided them back to Gododdin (19).
Places[edit | edit source]
Britain[edit | edit source]
- Gwynedd (5), North Wales, ruled by King Urfai
- Nant Ffrancon (1), valley below Yr Wyddfa.
- Gerontius's house, "a half-ruined villa that must have been like a palace in its day" (1).
- Monastery (1), just outside the villa
- Smithy (1)
- Herb garden (1)
- Bathhouse (1)
- Great Hall (4), the atrium
- Mill (5)
- Coed Dhu (3), the Black Wood, where they lose Gelert and sight the white hart
- Hemudfang Tor (4), where the hunters bring the hart to bay
- "the old fortress hill that had been the chief place of our clan before the Romans came" (5) =Hemudfang?
- Gerontius's house, "a half-ruined villa that must have been like a palace in its day" (1).
- Rhyfunnog (4), the Royal Hall
- Nant Ffrancon (1), valley below Yr Wyddfa.
Elsewhere in Britain
- Deva (5), (Chester) "the City of Legions", "a fallen ruin" (5).
- Dalriada (3), (Argyll & Kintyre) ruled by Aidan
- The Rock of Black Annis (12), a considerable drop
- Caledonia (3), ruled by Gartnait
- Strathclyde (3)
- Elmet (3), small kingdom, home of Madog. 'If the summons gets to them through their marshes and forests, the men of Elmet could reach us within the first days; they're the nearest.' (13).
- Rheged (3), once ruled by Urian. "the old, lost kingdom" (5). "the old lost territory of Rheghed, a land almost empty of men, where the farms as well as the forts were hearth-cold and forsaken." The Company passes through en route to Catraeth, north and south of the wall (14).
- Caer Luil (10), (Carlisle), home of Peredur and Faelinn, "which the Romans called Luguvallium;...a living town full of merchants and travelling folk" (14).
- The Eddain valley (14), high country south of Caer Luil
- A ruined Roman fort on the road 2 days south of Caer Luil (14). 'Boundary stone?' 'Like enough; Rheged on this side of it; Deira on the other.'
- Gododdin territory (3), ruled by Mynyddog
- Dyn Eidin (1), (Edinburgh) Mynyddog's capital. Eidin Ridge dominates the surrounding low rolling country. (6). Former war capital made Royal Hall by Mynyddog's father (11).
- The Giant's Seat, another hill at the east foot of Eidin Ridge
- Epona's Leap (8), cliff at the west end of Eidin Ridge
- Castellum (6), (Cramond) Roman frontier fort west of Dyn Eidin, to which the Roman road leads. "Dara and Huil and I joined the old paved road that headed north-westward towards the long-forsaken legionary fort on the shores of the Firth...The place had and unchancy reputation, for it was said that it had been garrisoned, not by Red Crests, but by men who called themselves Frontier Wolves and had some kinship with the four-footed kind, and whose ghosts still came back in wolf shape to run through the ruins at full moon." On the east side of a river (Almond) in a steep gorge, with a paved ford and a standing stone. A Mithran cave (9). Jetties (10).
- Traprain Law (11), former capital razed by Mynyddog's father, who relocated to Dyn Eidin
- Habitancum (13), site of the Gododdin hosting on the road to Catraeth
- The Long Moss (14), bog southwest of Dyn Eidin, with an old road through it
- Eildon (14), three-peaked hill in the heart of Gododdin territory
- Dyn Eidin (1), (Edinburgh) Mynyddog's capital. Eidin Ridge dominates the surrounding low rolling country. (6). Former war capital made Royal Hall by Mynyddog's father (11).
- Deira (3), new Saxon kindgom in the east, ruled by Aelle
- Catraeth (1), (Catterick), Aelle's capital. 'here is the Grand Road linking north and south, and here comes in another from across the Penuin Hills. Then, five miles or so south of the joining place, the road crosses a river, and beyond is Catraeth–Cataractonium, the Romans called it, from the rapids and broken water thereabouts. Here is what remains of the town, and here, maybe a mile on, the Saxon royal village...unless we can take them by surpriseand fire their own thatch above their heads, they are most likely to meet us somewhere on the open ground south of the river. But be all that as it may, our task is to take the town–the Fosterling was there once; he said there's the remains of a fort in the north-east corner–and hold out there, cutting the road, and making things as difficult as may be for the Saxon battle lords in their coming together, until our main war hosts can come up with us.' (13).
- Bernicia (3), new Saxon kindgom in the east. "For almost the lifetime of a man, Bernicia had been only an offshoot of much stronger Deira, only a scatter of settlements along the coast. But in the first few years under their new King and warleader Aethelfrith, they had been spreading and gaining strength. One day they would be as great as Deira–greater; one day the two might join war hosts" (3). "which I have heard they call Northumberland now." (16).
- A Roman posting station (19), Garym's home valley
- Onnum on the Wall (19), they pass through on the road back
- Dumnonia (12), the far southwest, home of Geraint
- Pictland (13), "beyond Bannog", home of Llif
- The Penuin Hills (13) (the Pennines), "watershed country where the rivers of east and west have their beginnings, a grear emptiness with no sound but the wind and running water and curlews crying" (15).
- Another Roman fort (15)
- The Tees (15), the Company's route out of Penuin. Another fort.
Elsewhere[edit | edit source]
Eiru (1), Conn's home
- Roscommon (13), a Druid covered it in fog
- Sparta (1), home of 300 famously dead soldiers
- Syracuse (2), Sicilian home of Phanes
- Constantinople (2), the Eastern Roman capital on the Golden Horn, home of the Blues and Greens and the emperor's bodyguard
- The street of the Golden Grasshopper (21)
- Thermopylae (1, 6, 17, 20), last stand of the 300 Spartans (+ uncredited extras)
Rome (2), fallen
Background[edit | edit source]
[edit | edit source]
- Full digitized manuscript of the Book of Aneirin at the National Library of Wales
- 1868 Skene translation of Y Gododdin at Celtic Literature Collective
- 1970 Clancy translation of Y Gododdin at Celtic Literature Collective
Quondam et Futurus interview[edit | edit source]
Sutcliff discussed The Shining Company in a 1991 interview with John Withrington published in the Arthurian journal Quondam et Futurus (Vol. 1, No. 4):
JW In The Shining Company there’s a definite feeling of transition: one of the characters remarks that King Mynyddog is “not Artos,” but while Sword at Sunset ends on a fundamentally hopeful note, this book has the lone survivors leave for Constantinople. Does this represent a grimmer, more pessimistic outlook on your work in the years which divide the two books?
RS I don’t think so really, but I think on that particular occasion…I enter very much into the background, and this, I think, is a darker, smaller background, and it wouldn't have as much “blending” into other civilisations, other ways of life. The characters are much more bounded by what they themselves see as happening. And it was pretty dark in the North at that time. Whereas Arthur I think I made into a chap with a very long sight, with a feeling that there was a light coming back from the end of the tunnel.
JW The Shining Company has a very much more claustrophobic kind of atmosphere.
RS Yes. Well that’s it, they're just not very aware of the rest of the world.
JW I thought it interesting that in Sword at Sunset the sons of enemies could play together, that there was still some hope, but one never gets that feeling in The Shining Company.
RS No. But that’s, as I say, because of them, not because of me.
Publication history[edit | edit source]
- London : Bodley Head, 1990.
- Arrow (Random Century Group), 1991.
- New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 1992.
- London : Random House Children's Books, 1994.
- London : Red Fox, 2004.
- London : RHCP Digital, 2013.
- Aneirin no uta: Keruto no ikusa no monogatari. Japanese by Hiroko Honma. 小峰書店, 2002.
- Die glorreichen Dreihundert. German by Astrid von dem Borne. Cover illustration by John F. Martin. Stuttgart : Verlag Freies Geistesleben, 2011.
References[edit | edit source]