Monday, November 9, 2009

The Robin Hoods

Ok, I have 30 minutes, so I have to make this quick. Please, forgive any spelling or errors of logic which may occur because of this time constraint.

There are tons of "Robin Hood" books out there, written over a course of several centuries. I've read two of them, and I've noticed quite a difference.

The two I've read are by Howard Pyle, and Henry Gilbert. The Howard Pyle book dates from 1884, but the version I have comes from the 1950s. I believe this is the classic - the one most of the movies and such are based on. The Henry Gilbert book dates from 1912, I think, and I believe my copy is from the 1950s or 1960s. It has the same characters and I suppose the same basic plot outline as the Pyle book, but it tells the story in a very different way.

The first chapter in each book is titled "How Robin Became An Outlaw" or words to that effect. That's about the only thing the chapters have in common. In the Pyle book, Robin is a teenager (I think) , and he is basically goaded and embarrassed by some of the king's foresters, and kills one of the King's deer right in front of them, just to prove he was a good shot. Thus he became an outlaw, and this happens right at the beginning of the story. In the Gilbert book, Robin is a few years older (say 24 or so) and would never be so rash. He has "outlaw" tendencies with a strong social conscious, but he doesn't become one until he kills a knight who was bothering the maid Marian. (I think). This doesnt occur until pretty deep into the chapter, and before the chapter is over, Robin is leading what amounts to a slave revolt.

So, in the Gilbert book, people get killed, sometimes in quite personal and gruesome ways. An arrow to the throat, a knife plunged into a chest, people burned alive, that kind of stuff. The characters seem to have a lot more depth to them, and the language is harder to understand (even though its over 20 years newer than the Pyle book).

They both are historical fiction of a sort - starting out near the end of Henry II's reign. He dies and Richard the Lion Heart becomes king and immediately takes off on a Crusade to the Holy Land, leaving the the kingdom to his brother John, who was not a nice person, apparently. (Personally I doubt that Richard was a nice guy too, but that's just me) . In Gilbert's book there is still an "institutional" memory so to speak, of the good old days before the Normans, the days of Edward the Confessor, when many of the present day serfs may have had land holding ancestors, land confiscated by William the Conqueror & his son, Willaim Rufus. It gives a pretty brutal picture of what a Feudal society was like. I eat this stuff up. I love it. I love the history and the language.

The Pyle book ends with Richard's return and Robin swears fealty to him. The Gilbert book ends with Robin's death - by the hands of one of the Sheriff of Nottingham's daughters - long after the sheriff was "removed" from office. Robin & Marian were married, but she had died earlier from a plague of some sort.

They're both good. I prefer the Gilbert version.

Made it with a minute to spare, including an impromtu interruption to take to dog out for a short constitutional.


Heather said...

I also love stories about histroical times, wether true or fiction. To be taken to a place in time, to learn about the daily living and things they did to survive. That is my cup of tea.

I now want to read these books, Thanks (sarcasim).

I agree about King Richard. If he had been as great as were to believe, then his kingdom wouldn't have been so open to corrupttion. My thought anyways.

Sorry for spelling errors, first cup of coffee.

A Valdese Blogger said...

Heather: I like these books too. History tends to gloss over things, and sometimes it takes a fiction writer to bring it alive. The first King Richard comes out smelling like a rose in the history books, but I wonder....