Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood" by Howard Pyle

Oh, how I wish I'd read this book when I was younger!  Not that I didn't love and appreciate it now, because I did, but because I could have enjoyed it so many times by now.  

It took me rather a long time to read this because it was so delightful, I didn't want it to end.  And, to be truthful, I did not read the epilogue.  When I was young, maybe under ten, I made a vow never to read the end of a Robin Hood story that ended with him dying.  That way I can always think of him still merrily having bold adventures somewhere in the wide world.  And so, I never have.  I only know he dies at the end of many retellings because the one I was reading when I made that vow had a chapter called "The Death of Robin Hood," and I couldn't bear to read it.  


So imagine my joy when the epilogue of this book began with these words:  "And now, dear friend -- you who have journeyed with me in all these merry doings, -- I will not bid you follow me further, but will drop your hand here with a "good den," if you wish it" (p 319).  Pyle himself acknowledged that people like me won't want to read this part, and he readily excuses us from doing so.  What an obliging person!


Okay, but anyway, I loved this book.  Dearly.  It is, at the moment, my favorite retelling -- even surpassing the Henry Gilbert, which I read so often in my youth.  I might even have to rearrange my list of favorite books so this can be probably in the top ten. 


This of course is a pretty basic retelling of Robin Hood's adventures, though I was surprised that Maid Marian is really not in it at all.  Robin mentions her once or twice in a vague way, but she never appears at all.  However, Little John and Friar Tuck and Will Scarlet and Will Stutely and Alan a Dale are all here.  And the Sheriff of Nottingham is the main antagonist.  Guy of Gisborne only shows up at the tail end in one chapter, and is swiftly dispatched.  And Prince John isn't around at all -- for most of the book, King Henry and Queen Eleanor are on the throne, and then at the very end, King Henry dies and King Richard arrives.  It isn't until after the main book ends that Robin goes crusading, unlike many versions that have him coming home from the wars and becoming an outlaw then.


I especially love the characterization of Robin Hood.  As King Henry said toward the beginning, "He is a saucy, rebellious varlet, yet, I am fain to own, a right merry soul withal" (p. 32).  He is a cheerful, happy man, not given to brooding even when he accidentally kills a man and has to go into hiding at the very beginning of the book.  He is repentant of that killing, and mentions several times how it gives him sorrow, but overall, he's happy-go-lucky.  As it says elsewhere, "it took but little to tickle Robin's heart into merriment" (p. 222-23).  Doesn't he sound fun to hang out with?


I have lots of favorite lines, so I'm going to share many of them here to show you the book's delightful, joyous flavor, which is much of what makes me love it.


Particularly Good Bits:


As for mine host, he knew how to keep a still tongue in his head, and to swallow his words before they passed his teeth, for he knew very well which side of his bread was spread with butter, for Robin and his band were the best of customers, and paid their scores without having them chalked up behind the door (p. 26).


"Hold, friend!" cried Robin to the Miller; whereupon he turned slowly, with the weight of the bag upon his shoulder, and looked at each in turn all bewildered, for though a good stout man his wits did not skip like roasting chestnuts (p. 119).


Now happenings so come upon us in this world that the serious things of this world become so mixed up with the merry things that our life is all of a jumble of black and white, as it were, like the boards of checkered black and white upon which country folk play draughts at the inn beside the blazing fire of a winter's night (p. 123).


So passed the seasons then, so pass they now, and so they will pass in time to come, whilst we come and go like leaves of the tree that fall and are soon forgotten (p. 174).


"Gaffer Swanthold speaks truly when he saith, 'Better a crust with content than honey with a sour heart" (p. 208).


If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for mild violence.  


This is my 23rd book read and reviewed for The Classics Club.  I'm almost halfway done with my challenge!




Because I'm spending a year reading about Robin Hood, I treated myself to something special back in May:  a handmade Robin Hood-themed bookmark!  I got it from the Etsy shop BookNiche and I like it a whole lot.  Do check out their shop if you like thong bookmarks!  There are nearly a hundred of them in stock right now, all different and all nifty.

16 comments:

  1. Oooh! This post reminds me of how delightful this book is! I do think that the lack of Maid Marian is strange... Hmmm... I've got to say, Howard Pyle does make Robin Hood sound like a fun person to hang out with! And that bookmark is sooo cool. Definitely checking out that etsy shop now.

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    1. Elizabeth Anne -- I hope you like the Etsy shop! They have a couple more bookmarks I wouldn't mind owning.

      Maid Marian really didn't fit into this story, so I actually appreciate Pyle not trying to shoehorn her in. I didn't even miss her until Robin mentioned her name in one of the later chapters!

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  2. Wo Hooo! we just got the howard Pyle robin Hood book yesterday and I think it is so grand. I think I read it once, long ago. But this book is so good it bears a second reading. Good quotes.

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    1. Isaac, I hope you get as much enjoyment from it as I did :-) "Grand" is a good word to describe it!

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  3. This is the version I read of Robin Hood growing up and I always liked it. My brothers preferred this version because there was no Maid Marian and therefore no romance. ;)

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    1. Lois, that's quite funny about your brothers. Mine would have been the same!

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  4. I have this book but haven't settled down to read it yet. Hopefully soonish!:) Great review!

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    1. Thanks, Olivia! I must admit I owned it for 4 or 5 years before finally reading it -- how foolish of me!

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  5. Just dropping in to say, I ran across this (http://interestingliterature.com/2013/01/23/interesting-facts-about-robin-hood/) and thought you might enjoy reading it, although I suspect you already know most of it. :)

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    1. Fascinating stuff! Thanks for sharing, Charity. I didn't actually know a bunch of that stuff -- like that "Tuck" isn't Friar Tuck's name. The comments were also illuminating.

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  6. Thank you so much for the bookmark shout out! I recall the feedback you left and was curious about the book you had mentioned. Now I have to add this to my reading list! You have a lovely blog; best of luck as you continue your challenge! - Jill, Book Niche

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    1. You're so welcome, JSBrink! It's an awesome bookmark, and I've been thoroughly enjoying using it.

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  7. Awwwww, I'm so excessively happy that you loved this book! It really is one of my favorites and I need to re-read it within the next year! I love how truly jovial Robin is. So many film versions just don't quite capture that part of him and this book proves that he spends a lot of time laughing.

    Although, like you, I was shocked at Maid Marian's lack of presence. Things triggered Robin remembering her hair if I'm recalling the story aright. So funny!

    It's also a lovely bookmark and a fun way to celebrate reading the book!

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    1. Carissa, yes! Robin is jolly and jovial and gleeful and adorable. That's a huge reason I liked this so very much.

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  8. I just finished it! It was absolutly splended!

    I, too, was suprised that Marian was metioned only twice, but overall it was so good! The forth quote that you metioned stood out to me too!

    I have only ever seen the different movies, this was the first book about Robin Hood for me! It might have to go on the top for my favorites! But, I am hoping to start The Adventures of Robin Hood -by Roger Lancellyn Green soon. ;) But summer reading right now is crazy so we'll see. :)

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    1. MC, yay! I'm so glad you loved it :-) I must admit that I haven't read all of Green's book, just skimmed it a bit, but it seems to be delightful as well. I hope you enjoy it too!

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