Friday, March 21, 2008

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

The legend of Robin Hood is now as much a part of English history and tradition as kings, fox hunting and tea. For centuries, the stories of this remarkable character have been sung of in ballads, written of in books, and put on the screen in films. As time has gone on, Robin Hood has evolved, with each generation adding its own touch to the classic tales. In The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Howard Pyle compiles many of the most famous tales and puts his own touches on them.

The Plot:

This book follows Robin Hood from the time of his becoming an outlaw to his death. Many of the famous stories are here, including "Robin Hood and the Tinker", "Robin Hood Seeks the Curtal Friar" and "Robin Hood and Guy of Gisbourne". While each chapter is it's own adventure, they are all beautifully woven together to flow as a single plot.

My Review (Caution-Spoilers):

Many of us know the basic story of Robin Hood, but Pyle took many of the ballads and changed the details around a little to make them more suitable for children. He has Robin resort to trickery rather than to murder. He also changes the stories so that instead of stealing all of the traveler's money, Robin lets them keep a third and gives another third to the poor. The term "Robin Hood" used to be given to the blackest of criminals, but Howard Pyle worked to make Robin the hero that we think of today.

Pyle also worked to really develop many of Robin's Merry Men. Characters like Will Stutely, David of Doncaster and Arthur a Bland who only appear in one or two ballads become fully developed people, each playing an important role in Sherwood Forest.

Some of the more famous elements of the Robin Hood story are missing though. Maid Marian is only mentioned once and nothing seems to come of whatever romance might have been between her and Robin. Prince John is also lost in the main story. He appears not as a usurper in King Richard's absence, but as King after Richard's death (which is more historically accurate).

Overall, this is a great book. The stories are exciting, funny and well-written and Robin Hood is definitely portrayed as a hero worth looking up to. The only thing that might throw you is the use of King James English, but even that can easily be worked through. I greatly enjoyed these stories and look forward to sharing them with my own children someday.

The Movie:

This is another story that has been done numerous times for the screen, each one with the same basic plot, but different twists.

Robin Hood: This is the classic Disney animated version. Enjoy it for the beautiful animation, great songs and simple story. Other than that, it is not the best representation of the classic Robin Hood tales.

The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men: This is the Disney live-action version and probably my favorite. It stars Richard Todd, Joan Rice and James Robert Justice and incorporates many of the famous ballads while still weaving a cohesive plot. The story is great, the costumes and sets lovely, and Richard Todd is superb as the hero. This is definitely the version that I would recommend.

No comments: