Subject: Representation where I wasn't expecting it!
Posted on: 2021-06-09 17:15:14 UTC

I recently read the book Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff, which is a take on the Arthurian legend with more than the usual basis in the historical facts of post-Roman Britain being besieged regularly by Saxon invaders. This Arthur (who mainly goes by Artos) is a half-Welsh bastard son of a Roman from the Imperial line, but mostly he's a beloved war leader whose band of cavalry are responsible for several significant victories that keep Britain free from invaders for just a little bit longer than it would have been otherwise, before Events Eventuate and it all comes crashing down around his kingly ears.

This book surprised me with its open acknowledgement and acceptance of gay relationships among soldiers. There's an explicitly gay, loving couple among Artos' companions. Both of them, and their relationship, are treated with utmost respect even in death (look, they're soldiers, most of them die on-page eventually), and it's delightful to see in a book published in 1963.

Furthermore, if you ask me, there's a bit of subtext between Artos himself and closest companion Bedwyr, who takes the Lancelot role in the tragedy. For spoilery plot reasons, Artos is sexually stunted when it comes to women, which makes things rather difficult between him and his bride Guenhumara. It's possible that his trauma also rules out any sexual connection between himself and another man—but then again, it's possible that it doesn't. At the very least, I think Bedwyr's bi and into him, and all three of them should have just come to an arrangement together, but alas, that's not the story. {= P

Also worth noting: Sir Cei (second-closest companion) is a flamboyant straight man, Guenhumara is a badass with a mind of her own and a relatively active part in shaping her life considering society is still male-dominated, and a race known as the Little Dark People play a significant role and are also treated with respect, at least by Artos.

Overall, this is a very good book, and I recommend it highly.


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