Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book Review: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

Book: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
Genre: Classic
Rating: ★★★★☆
For: Double Classics Challenge and The Classics Club list
From: the very first book I added to my Kindle!

So, it only took me nearly six months to read this. This is in no way a reflection of the book itself, which is simply delightful, but rather my inability to concentrate on it and being distracted by too many other books.

But yes, I'm glad to have finally finished this quaint book so I can now say I've read one of the first Robin Hood books. I had to do a little Wikepedia research to find out if that's even the truth. (Because, as we know, Wikepedia is the place to go for said truth!) and I learned that this book was published in an American no less. Wow, I would have guessed much earlier. And I also would have guessed he was British.

But regardless, Mr. Pyle took the ballads and stories of Robin Hood and compiled them into what they call "coherent narrative in a colorful, invented "old English" idiom." It was meant for children, which I can see a little, but I maintain that the "old English idiom" will/would/is a bit hard for kids to grasp. That being said, I think this book would be an absolute BLAST to read aloud. And kids will love it.

And while this book is not considered the "first" of course, it is considered the one that got everyone all interested in Robin Hood and sparked the retellings and fascination we see today. At least that's what some think.

The characters are wonderful, and it's a blast to meet them all and see how they are different or the same from other versions of Robin Hood. For instance, Little John is giant big and is proficient with a staff, but in this book, he is Robin Hood's closest friend out of all the guys in the gang. Some other stories I've read (or watched) have Much, the miller's son as his best friend (or Midge as he's called in this book.)

Will Scarlet is quite the dandy in this book, which is a little different that I'd thought of him, yet he IS a very strong and powerful one! Allan a Dale sings, as is his norm, and the Sheriff is as obnoxious as ever. Guy of Gisbourne shows up for only one story and he is quite the wimp, I see no tortured villain in him at all! (Must be just a BBC thing with that angle.)

But.. wait!!! There's no Maid Marian! (I think she is mentioned at the beginning, but never appears.) What's UP with that? So, that's one of my few complaints! How can there be Robin Hood without Marian? What was this author thinking?

But back to the language! I loved it! Such poetic fun style! Such description of these guys who are always "merry, lusty, stout, jolly, joyful, sweet" and etc. And verbs like "quoth, bade, jest, prate, spake" etc.

I highlighted a few passages that I liked, though I had to quit after awhile or I'd highlight the whole thing, and here's a couple to share:

The Little John turned to Robin Hood. "Why, how now, good master," said he. "Alas! Thou art in an ill plight. Marry, thy jerkin is all befouled with the dust of the road. Let me help thee to arise."

" A plague on thy aid!" cried Robin angrily. "I can get to my feet without help, good fellow."

Or this:

"Hold good cook!" said he. "Now, I bethink me it were ill of us to fight with good victuals standing so nigh, and such a feast as would befit two stout fellows such as we are. Marry, good friend, I think we should enjoy this fair feast ere we fight.  What sayest thou, jolly Cook?"

Isn't that just so tongue trippy? Makes me happy.

The stories are filled with sword fights, and archery contests, and mistaken identities, and lusty songs and ballads, and jokes and tricks and adventures, one after another after another. These boys had fun, I tell you! It covers the time from when Robin Hood first becomes an outlaw, takes us through how he meet all his jolly merry men, tells about all their adventures, and then sadly, we even are treated to the demise of poor Robin. Yes, a very very sad story there in the end and not jolly or merry at all.

Bottom line: I loved it. It was a blast to see the "beginning" of this tale.

Other Reviews:

It’s joyous and raucous and funny, and the characters, thinly sketched as they sometimes are, are really likable. From 50 Books Project

Robin Hood is like the ultimate pastoral fantasy combined with a heist story. From All- Consuming Media

Lots of laughs, and definitely lots of action as Robin gathers his band, outwits the sheriff and becomes a hero through his "redistribution of the wealth." From Jeanette's Books

And now, I'll attempt one more time (well, I'll not guarantee that) to convince you to watch this BBC show. What are you waiting for? 


  1. I have been wanting to read this, and yours is the first review I've seen. I'm so happy that it is so much fun! Maid Marian?!? Totally weird.

  2. Oh! I've always been so curious to read this. I know of Howard Pyle from art school- he is a famous illustrator from the "golden days". I didn't know he had written one of the first cohesive books about Robin Hood, how interesting. Was the book illustrated by him?

    1. Jeane: I think it was. I had the ebook, so there were no illustrations, but I read in my "research" that they are awesome!

  3. Yeah! You finished it! I love the fun language of sort of "Old English" - your excerpts are fabulous. And now I've got to read more Robin Hood iterations.

    1. Melissa: Good luck with more Robin Hood!

  4. So, um, did you start talking like weird when you read this one? ;)

    1. Jenny: I kinda did, and I really wanted to!

  5. So fun! I'm shocked it's by an American though. Really need to read this now :) -Sarah

  6. I am a really an avid fan of Robin Hood, and we are planning on collecting different versions so we could use it for our future plays. Our website is if you your interested.



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