Roger Lancelyn Green is a wonderful author of the 20th century. He gathered many original sources of tales and myths and then turned these into an easy-to-read, „chronological“ format to bring these old stories to the young and old alike. He for example published his own collection of King Arthur stories, Tales of the Norsemen and also the Robin Hood legend. Even though he does re-write some content to fit his chronology he is usually careful not to add any major incorrect facts that might stick with you and mislead you about characters or events. He also does a great job of trying to clear up conflicting storylines from different source texts.
His collection of Robin Hood stories is no exception. His simplicity in style just draws you in and lets you finish the book relatively quickly. It doesn’t draw on and the narrative is always driving forwards. And even though it’s simple and it’s marketed as a children’s book I believe this is for all ages (like a good children’s book ought to be 🙂 ). The different chapters all treat one story from one or more sources and often revolve around a (new) character and / or an event. I especially love the quotes of the beginning of a chapter. Sometimes it’s taken from the direct source of the story, sometimes it’s just a fitting line from somewhere else. But that definitely makes it feel even more rooted in the traditional folk-tales.
We have all heard of Robin Hood at one point or another. We know about his amazing feats with bow and arrow, his undying love for Maid Marian and his band of Merry Men. We have probably all seen an adaption of the material at some point. The BBC series, the film with Kevin Costner, the film with Russell Crowe or the Mel Brooks parody. We always encounter the same characters and sometimes we just think they have been made up by modern day adaptations, but a surprisingly large amount of characters and events actually stem from the original tales. Robin Hood has always had action-hero skills, like shooting a moving target about a mile away or hitting a willow rod at incredible distance. There have always been sword and staff fights going on and some do read like taken from a film script. It’s always been there, it’s not a modern invention. But that’s why these stories are so timeless.
Many of the characters have preserved their original traits surprisingly well. Guy of Gisborne has always been an antagonist and after Marian, the Sheriff of Nottingham is the evil institution, Maid Marian is always by Robin’s side and she can fight as well as any man. I really thought that was a modern trait of her, but it seems that this has been around for a while. Of course you’ll also hear about Will Scarlet, Much, Allin A Dale, Little John and Friar Tuck. And about many other characters that you might not have known about yet.
Before Robin Hood I read Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, which I enjoyed as well. This book features Robin Hood and I just thought it was so bizarre that the title hero basically spends most of the book undercover or hurt and he only does something meaningful in two chapters. I found Robin of Locksley to be a much more memorable and interesting character in this book. In fact it made me feel like knowing more about the outlawed Earl of Huntingdon, so I bought the title I am reviewing here. Of course Ivanhoe served as source text for one or two chapters in Roger Lancelyn Green’s collection.
All in all I can heartily recommend any book by Roger Lancelyn Green that gathers old legends together under one cover, as he is such a diligent and dedicated editor. Robin Hood is no exception and it was highly intriguing getting to know the initial conceptions of certain characters and find out what kind of twists the modern day adaptations took on it. If you are looking for an easy but still educational read, Robin Hood is definitely for you.