Sunday, November 1, 2020

Classics Club: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle (1883)

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

Author: Howard Pyle

Year: 1883

My Rating ★★

Read for my Classics Club challenge.

I did not love this story.

I didn't hate it, but I sure didn't love it.

I was in my early twenties the first time I read The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle. At that time I was all about adventures and heroes and didn't really think twice about aspects of the story that REALLY BOTHER me now.

There's really only one character that bugs the heck out of me now, and that character is ROBIN HOOD. Robin is not likable. Little John is likable. Allan a Dale is likable. Even Will Scarlet is fairly likable, although absurd. And Friar Tuck makes me laugh. But Robin is an arrogant man.

I dislike Robin Hood for two reasons.

First, Robin has set himself as judge and jury for anyone wealthier than someone of his own status. If you're a friar or a bishop or anyone of nobility, look out, you're in trouble. Robin even takes offense when he realizes that the beggar's guild is pretty rich so he steals from BEGGARS. Really? He claims that a portion of the funds he steals from these individuals goes to charity, those in need who are under the thumb of the wealthy, but the reader never experiences that generosity. It's simply told the reader and then we move on, never meeting anyone apart from a single knight named Sir Richard of the Lea that Robin helped financially. 

Robin wants an even playing field. No one has the right to be rich when so many people are poor, that's the message of Robin Hood. I can't get behind that. To be fair, I didn't live in Robin Hood's time, but this book was written in the 1800s, not the 1200s, so this is Howard Pyle's message, not a message from the era in which it is set. The wealthy are not painted in a positive light. They are evil monsters who deserve to be relieved of their wealth and have it spread around. I'm sorry, but that's not Robin's right to judge. He's only in a position of power because he can evade the law. That's all. Otherwise, he's simply a yeoman robbing from the rich to maybe give to the poor, but also to feed his own coffers. All while praising the life of him and his men in Sherwood Forest and decrying anyone else who might possibly want to work a steady job or live in a city.

Second, he's pretty darn petty. He'll put people's lives at risk without thinking twice about it. He doesn't kill people directly, but people could very easily have ended up losing their lives because of him. Because of his trickery. One man is even arrested because the law thinks he's Robin Hood because he and Robin traded clothing. If someone gets the better of him, Robin pitches the most absurd and distasteful fits of arrogant pettiness. This happens more than I can even count, either being almost bested in a fair fight when he calls his merry men to him or even downright cheating to win in the end.

I admire Robin Hood for two reasons.

He only killed two people directly, the man he shot when he was a youth and then Guy of Gisbourne who, ironically, was also an outlaw and much more brutal than Robin where human lives were concerned.

Robin does not hesitate to physically aid someone if their story moves him enough, like Allan a Dale whose love Ellen was going to be forced to marry a man she couldn't stand.

On the whole, this is Howard Pyle's very Victorian ideal of Robin Hood. Which is why it feels overblown, overdramatized, and, at points, very silly. It's bad news when your main character is so petty and arrogant. I have no patience with such characters. Perhaps I'm being too unfair with Pyle's creation, after all, elements of Robin Hood from this story have been in every incarnation ever written or put on the silver screen. I just didn't like how his character was developed, how the story unfolded, and how little Robin really seemed to do. He did have loyalty to King Richard, which says something, I suppose, but Richard is only the king in the last chapter. Otherwise, it's Henry and Eleanor and Robin makes Henry BOILING MAD.

HOWEVER, with that being said, I still love stories of Robin Hood that actually follow the story I'm familiar with, that of King Richard and Prince John and Robin's love for Maid Marian (she's not even a character in Pyle's story, warranting one brief mention regarding Robin reminiscing over the color of her hair). That story I like because Robin has a much larger reason to be doing what he's doing. He's trying to bring the rightful King Richard back, working towards that end, and undermining the usurper Prince John. That's a story I can get behind because it's one that makes sense with the way my mind works.

It's why I love Disney's Robin Hood and The Adventures of Robin Hood from 1938. They took the best parts of the legend and various stories and created a cohesive whole that gave Robin a purpose much, much bigger than himself. I see him serving others in those stories.

5 yorum:

  1. Seems like Robin Hood is an advocate of socialism. I wouldn't like him either. Maid Marian isn't in the story?? Seriously?

    Have you seen the Robin Hood series from BBC? It came out in 2006 and ran for 3 seasons. It's a great series, however some unsavory female characters almost ruined it.

    Loved your review!

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    1. Quick question, how do you get the drop boxes on your pages bar? That would save me so much space on my pages.

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    2. That's sort of what I was thinking too, although if he is a symbol of socialism, then he's a bit of a lazy one. He's not as serious to plan a major overhaul of government. He only works on a single level in his comfort zone that provides comfort and peace for his select group of people who he's turned into family. He thinks he has a wider scope of vision, but he really doesn't.

      I did watch that Robin Hood series! Wow, that's quite a memory. I was a huge Richard Armitage fan for a time, so he was hilarious as Guy of Gisbourne.

      As for my drop-down menu, I actually subscribed for a year to https://www.dropdownmenugenerator.com/. It's not free, unfortunately, but I like how my menu turned out. It's very editable, which is great. I'm still using it, but I could change the look and format a little for my new blog layout. I wanted to try something different with my blog and it was nice that I can format my menu to match.

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  2. I love Robin Hood! It is one of my obsessions. I've read 3 versions and seen 9 different films of series'. My top favorites are the BBC series and the 1938 (my introduction to the legends when I was six!). Like you, I really liked this version when I read it because it was my first book version, but since then I've come to dislike it. Robin gets so annoying! The Roger Lancelyn Green version is very good and I highly recommend reading it.

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    1. Yay, thanks for giving me an alternative book to try! I love the idea of Robin Hood, just not Howard Pyle's interpretation.

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Thank you for your kind comments, which I adore!