Tristan defeats Ireland's greatest warrior and gains the friendship of his uncle, the King of Cornwall, who entrusts him with a very special mission: to sail the seas in search of a queen.
About the Author
Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-1992) wrote dozens of books for young readers, including her award-winning Roman Britain trilogy, The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch, and The Lantern Bearers, which won the Carnegie Medal. The Eagle of the Ninth is now a major motion picture, The Eagle, directed by Kevin MacDonald and starring Channing Tatum. Born in Surrey, Sutcliff spent her childhood in Malta and on various other naval bases where her father was stationed. At a young age, she contracted Still's Disease, which confined her to a wheelchair for most of her life. Shortly before her death, she was named Commander of the British Empire (CBE) one of Britain's most prestigious honors. She died in West Sussex, England, in 1992.
Reading Group Guide
Discussion Questions for
Tristan and Iseult
Tristan's name means "sorrow." [p. 2] How is his name prophetic? When Tristan wants to travel to his mother's land of Cornwall, his father tells him, "Cornwall brought me much of joy and much of sorrow." [p. 5] How does
Cornwall bring Tristan both joy and sorrow?
Discuss what Tristan means when he says,
"I will count the sorrow as fair payment for the joy, my father." [p. 5]
Tristan wants to become a hero, but makes it clear to his father that he doesn't expect "easy glory." [p.4] Why is it so important to Tristan to achieve the status of hero without the aid of his father, King of Lothian, or his uncle, King of Cornwall? Gorvenal teaches Tristan to ride a horse and to handle a sword and a spear.
What other skills deemed necessary for a hero does Tristan learn? How does Tristan become a hero when he goes to Ireland to fight on his
Discuss why Tristan is considered the champion of the ordinary folks of Cornwall.
How is he their hope?
When Tristan first sees King Marc, he thinks,
"Here is one with a gift for loving and a gift for hating, and when he hates, God help the man who earns his hatred." [p. 7] Discuss Tristan's relationship with King Marc. How does he earn his uncle's love and his hatred?
How does Tristan win the hand of Princess
Iseult for King Marc? At what point do Tristan and Iseult fall in love? King Marc is bitterly angry when he discovers that his nephew and
Iseult are lovers. They are brought before the
Council of the Chiefs and found guilty of betraying the King. Discuss why Dynas the
High Steward appeals to the King for their mercy. How do Tristan and Iseult escape their punishment? Discuss how the lepers help them.
King Marc finds Tristan and Iseult asleep in a hut. Explain why he leaves his sword for
Tristan and his glove for Iseult.
Discuss the parallel between the ways Iseult
White-hands and Iseult of Cornwall enter
Tristan's life. At what point does Iseult Whitehands realize that she has not won Tristan's heart? How does she deal with her jealousy of
Iseult of Cornwall?
King Marc sees that Tristan and Queen Iseult of Cornwall are buried together. Discuss the
meaning of this final gesture.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Tristan's adventure begin with his defeat of Ireland's champion warrior.
This book was really good. For all you fans of the movie Tristan and Isolde (I being one of them) you will find that it only bears the slightest resemblance to that, story-wise. Rosemary Sutcliff tells a really good story here though and I definitely recommend it. Tristan is the unwanted son of a Celtic king. His mother died delivering him into the world, and it saddens the king so much to see him that his very name means "sorrow." Tristan is great at fighting, hunting, and all hero-like activities. He also plays the harp. When Tristan is an adolescent, he sets out to serve the king of Cornwall as a warrior, keeping his identity a secret so he can be judeged as a man and not a prince. King Mark of Cornwall is impressed with Tristan's skills and soon grows to love him as his own son. Tristan eventually meets the king of Ireland's daughter, Iseult, a beautiful princess with red hair. Fate seems bent on keeping them apart because as soon as they realize their love for each other, Iseult must marry King Mark. Rosemary Sutcliffe has a way with words and weaving her story together deftly. The plot was good and something was always happening, so I couldn't put it down. On the other hand, I didn't really like any of the characters. Iseult was selfish and spiteful and at times I felt throttling Tristan. King Mark just annoyed me. I would recommend this book for ages ten and up. There are some mature themes but the reading level isn't that hard. I think anyone can appreaciate this version of the original tale of star-crossed lovers.
This is written in a style easily understood by the modern reader, which still allows a feeling of what such life would have been like, as well as being a marvellous legend in it's own right.
The story of Tristan and Isulet is a pretty believable, but also there are a couple of parts that makes you think. But There was plenty of action and love. I personally wasn't crazy about the love part, but others would love it. I recommend this book to all. I deffiantle do. Enjoy.