First Lines: Although it was a hundred years since the Battle of Hastings, there was no real peace in England. William the Conqueror had divided the country amongst his followers, only in special cases leaving the old Saxon Thanes the ownership of even a small part of what had once been their properties.
This book was on my to-read list for a very long time. I’ve always been very drawn to the story of Robin Hood, in all of its different formats. This version, from the 1950s, seemed like it would be pretty entertaining.
Robin Hood is champion of the poor and oppressed against the cruel power of Prince John and his men, specifically the Sheriff of Nottingham. But how did his legend start? With injustice, of course. When Robin needs to hide from the Sheriff, he makes his home in Sherwood Forest with a quickly growing group of Merry Men. Robin emerges time and time again to outwit his enemies and do it with style and flair. But even legends can’t live forever…
I’m familiar with a lot of the original ballads of Robin and I liked how this took those ballads and made them easier to digest. The chapters are short (almost like vignettes), easy to understand, and loosely interconnected. Robin seems more respectable in this version than he has in previous versions where it seems like all he does is fight and drink. He’s still a bit of a trickster and he can be a bit merciless at times, but it’s all tempered with a certain morality that Robin has.
I also really liked this version because of the autonomy and strength it gave Maid Marian. In the old ballads, she’s treated as a minor character with no agency of her own. Things happen to her. She doesn’t do the happening. But in this version, Marian has a backbone and frequently stands up to people in power. Not only that, but she also rivals Robin in her skills with a sword and a bow. It’s so awesome that she’s portrayed this strong.
This does feel like it was written almost as a children’s story. Maybe not little children, but 8-12 maybe. I could see these chapters being read as bedtime stories. There isn’t any cursing, no graphic violence (well, except the occasional beheading?), or really any innuendo. The only thing it has is a few drunken Merry Men from time to time. It’s way toned down from the original ballads. I’m not sure the original Merry Men were ever sober.
This was fun. It was a light, entertaining read that reminded me why I liked these characters and these stories so much.