The Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
Just finished reading the Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle. I read this as my folklore entry for Stainless Steel Droppings Once Upon a Time event.
I don’t imagine Robin Hood needs much introduction. Most people will be familiar with him through film. Living in Sherwood Forest and robbing from the rich to give to the poor. A much loved folklore figure with his band of merry men. Apparently Robin Hood became a popular folk figure during mediaeval times and may have actually sprung up from ballads and tales of real outlaws.
Anyway I went into this with much nostalgia as my gran used to tell us stories of Robin Hood when we were children. She never used a book she just told us the stories from memory and she was an excellent story teller so I had fairly high expectations! I also visited Nottingham Forest as a child with my family and we have a picture of us all with the Major Oak.
I don’t imagine I need to elaborate on the plot. The story brings to us the usual characters that Robin encountered or recruited along the way. Will Scarlet and Little John in particular – although if you’re expecting any of the Maid Marion love story you may be disappointed as she plays a very minor role (more a thought really) I suppose this probably started out more as a tale for boys – although don’t take my word for that as it’s just pure supposition. I did find it quite novel to read of how Robin Hood became an outlaw as I don’t think I’d understood that aspect before. According to this particular story Robin killed a man during an argument and a wager gone wrong. In fairness to Robin the other man shot an arrow at him first so you could argue this was self defence but after that (and also after having killed the King’s deer) he was an outlaw with a bounty upon his head. According to the stories he deeply regretted killing that man and had no taste for bloodshed. His death is also written about here and the legend of how he shot his bow and arrow one last time to mark his final resting place – a sad ending and betrayed by somebody who you would least expect.
I enjoyed reading this, it brought back childhood memories and also I confess that throughout I was thinking of the Disney film and the songs in particular! I wouldn’t say I loved it, although it’s an entertaining read without doubt, but I thought that the writing style, particularly the dialogue in places, is a little difficult to unpick. For example:
‘This same Robin Hood, of whom, I wot, I never heard before, is a right merry blade, but gin he be strong, am not I stronger? And gin he be sly, am not I slyer? Now by the bright eyes of Nan ‘o the Mill, and by mine own name and that’s Wat ‘o the Crabstaff, meet this same sturdy rogue, and gin he mind not the seal of our glorious Sovereign, King Harry, and the warrant of the good Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, I will so bruise, beat and bamaul his pate that he shall never move finger or toe again! Hear ye that, bully boys?”
I certainly didn’t dislike it however and it’s made me think about trying to find a more modern retelling of the stories. If anyone has any suggestions then let me know.
On the whole this was a lovely reading experience although I recognise this particular classical version may not be everyone’s cup of tea.