A stand-alone Robin Hood book.

Publication year: 1883
Format: ebook from Project Gutenberg

You who so plod amid serious things that you feel it shame to give yourself up even for a few short moments to mirth and joyousness in the land of Fancy; you who think that life hath nought to do with innocent laughter that can harm no one; these pages are not for you. Clap to the leaves and go no farther than this, for I tell you plainly that if you go farther you will be scandalized by seeing good, sober folks of real history so frisk and caper in gay colors and motley that you would not know them but for the names tagged to them.

So starts Pyle’s version of Robin Hood and it’s a good description. Merry Robin and his equally merry band of men have various adventures all in the spirit of good cheer.

Many of the starting stories unite Robin with some of his most famous men, such as Little John or Will Scarlet. Usually, they match quarterstaffs and wits before putting on clothes of Lincoln green. A little to my surprise most of their adventures don’t involve the Sheriff but instead other rascals who take heavy taxes from the poor or the good people. Sir Guy of Gisborne (who has been prominent in a couple of TV shows) appears in only one story. Many of the villains are bishops or nobility who misuse their position of authority and it’s up to Robin and his merry band to set things right. The stories are episodic although a couple of times a story has been split into two or three.

Sometimes the writing is unintentionally hilarious because of the drift in word meaning, such as gay, lusty, or marry. But most of the time the writing is understandable:

“Lo, here is my good staff, lusty and tough. Now wait my coming, an thou darest, and meet me an thou fearest not. Then we will fight until one or the other of us tumble into the stream by dint of blows.”

“Marry, that meeteth my whole heart!” cried the stranger, twirling his staff above his head, betwixt his fingers and thumb, until it whistled again.

Robin’s band has many familiar men such as Allan a Dale, Little John, and Will Scathelock but a few have not been used much in the recent retellings: David of Doncaster and the Tinker whose name isn’t given. David is constantly referred to as “young” and he seems to be a famous wrestler. Tinker appears only once after he joins the outlaws.

The stories don’t have much in the way of character development, being retellings of old ballads. There are also very few women characters and they don’t really do anything, except for Queen Eleanor. After Allan marries his sweetheart Ellen, they apparently live in Sherwood but she’s never mentioned again.

But these are little blemishes and overall I really enjoyed this book. The html version in Gutenberg has the illustrations but the other versions don’t.

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