When it comes to the subject of re-tellings, I think that Robin Hood is the very definition! After all, that’s what the story of Robin Hood is... a re-telling. Somewhere, sometime a long time ago, someone existed that did some cool things and someone sometime decided to tell about it, or sing about it or whatever they did. And then that got passed on, and on and on... each one telling it a little different, a little better, adding a little more detail here, a little more detail there, perhaps embellishing it a bit or a lot, perhaps including a little more romance or danger or villainy... in other words, making it more interesting in each telling.
In the end, we are left with one of the best stories ever! And a story that continues now, in modern days, to be retold, over and over and over again. And I predict this is a story that people will never get tired of, and that for years to come we will forever more see its reinterpretation over and over and over again.
How awesome is that? Awesome I tell you!
I love this story! I’ve come up with a few reasons why. I believe that these reasons are also why that through all its many re-incarnations, the story of Robin Hood continues to thrive.
First, the swashbuckle. I mean, who can resist a good swashbuckling story? And what does that mean anyway? I looked it up and a swashbuckler is a swaggering or daring adventurer. Yes, that would describe Robin Hood and his merry men to a T. Especially the swagger, and every story I’ve ever read has that part down.
Second, I believe the camaraderie between Robin and his band is extremely appealing. A bunch of guys, who seem rough and raw on the outside, and are yet sweet and vulnerable on the inside? And not only that, but they rely on and help and care for each other, and have an absolute merry blast while doing so? Bring it on.
Third, the whole idea of fighting evil with shady means is romantic and captivating. Robin Hood is most known for “robbing the rich to give to the poor” and what a noble cause! Well, if you are the poor I suppose, and not the rich!
Fourth, most of the stories I’ve read (or watched) also have the true romantic element included in the form of Maid Marian. To me, the story is not complete without her. She adds that bit of feminine touch to the tale that makes it much more interesting and dynamic.
Fifth, I, along with many others I’m assuming, find the historical backdrop to the story quite fascinating. Most tellings take place during the Crusades and the time of King Richard the Lionheart and his roguish brother Prince John. It’s a tumultuous crazy time that is perfect for storytelling.
Sixth, the characters! Not only is there the constant of Robin Hood himself, but his buddies, the Merry Men: Will Scarlett, Alan a Dale, Much the miller’s son, Friar Tuck and of course, Little John. Marian is sometimes part of the band, and sometimes not. Then there’s the most awesome of villains, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy of Gisbourne. It’s irresistible to see all the different depictions of these characters in their various retellings.
And finally, I must mention another constant Robin Hood element, the archery. I don’t know what it is about someone shooting an arrow or crossbow, but it’s beyond cool. And Robin Hood is the best archer in all of literature, yes? Of course he is!
I think my reasons for why I feel this story has endured (and why I love it so myself) could go on and on, but these are a start!
Now, I must say that I feel in no way a Robin Hood expert. I’ve only recently come into my fascination with the story, and with most of the blame for this falling on the BBC show, Robin Hood (which I beg you all to go watch now!) In fact, I’m sad to say that about ten years ago I found myself in the very vicinity of Robin Hood lore and I DID NOT GO and see stuff! We drove past Sherwood Forest and said, “Look! There it is!” (It was small, and there wasn’t much to see actually.) And we drove past the exit for Nottingham and said, “Look! Nottingham!” and we did not go. I feel totally rotten about this and if I do find myself ever in England again, I will be looking up anything Robin Hood I can find, you can be sure.
Anyway, if you are at all interested in Robin Hood re-tellings, here’s what I’ve enjoyed:
Robin McKinley’s take on the story in The Outlaws of Sherwood, which I found very “true” to the story I have in my head of Robin Hood. (My review here.)
Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson, in which the story takes on a much more historical AND romantic turn. I loved this interpretation. (My review here.)
Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen, a recently quite popular YA book where Scarlet is actually a girl, and yet still part of the merry “men.” Another great twist on the story. (My review here.)
This past year I read and loved a more “original” book, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle, where each chapter is a different Robin Hood tale. The old English language was awesome (even though Howard Pyle is American!) (My review here.)
I’ve also enjoyed the movies about Robin Hood starring Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe, though my favorite is still the BBC series by far.
And now for Christmas I got Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead, which I’m dying to jump into! And of course I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes!
I’d love know what Robin Hood re-tellings you’ve read that you suggest! Also, let me know if you are a Robin Hood newbie and if you try out one of these above suggestions. I’d love to know what you think! And if you are like me and have loved Robin Hood for awhile now, what is it about him and his story that captivates YOU?