by Henry Gilbert
“Methinks this is no common man, this Robin Hood. Almost it seems that he doth right in spite of the laws, and that they be wrong indeed if they have forced him to flee to the greenwood and become outside the law.”
—Richard the Lionheart
This is what the then King of England speaks about the man who is probably the most famous outlaw of all time, in Henry Gilbert’s rendition of this popular folk story.
Having been popular for over six centuries, the themes explored in this story still hold stead as our society hopes to scale greater heights of freedom and justice, despite the barriers we still face.
Now that I think back, I realise that this book probably played a significant role in making me realise me that authority, and rules and regulations, are not always absolute. After all, the people who make the rules are not necessarily any less flawed than the ones who break them.
In fact, in this day and age, I can assume there must a growing section of our society who would consider being referred to as an outlaw a compliment.
The adventures of titular character and his companions, the Merry Men, are set in the scenic Sherwood Forest, Nottingham and its neighbouring areas, in the aptly named Dark Ages of Europe, with the crusades, the feudal system and the corrupt English administrators providing the perfect background to the plot.
However, as much as I may praise the story itself, the fact remains that the book itself is not all that great. First published in 1912, the writer tries to capture the essence of the original story by aping the language and style of medieval literature, and falling short.
The first three pages of the book, for instance, are just so excruciatingly dull that it took me over an hour to manoeuvre through them, only to learn that there was a man, standing in a forest.
The plot and the narrative style are repetitive and unimaginative, and the dialogue lacks any depth whatsoever. I mean, if you name a chapter How Robin Hood Slew the Sheriff, what do you think will be the reader’s response?
Even the characters, from the bad guys, to the merry men, to Robin Hood himself, are completely two-dimensional and just rather bland.
And since it is not even the writer’s original story, so I wonder what he even brings to the book. I would also like to add that these are my observations from the first time I read it as a preteen, not from any subsequent re-reads.
So, to whom would I recommend this book? Well, nobody, to be honest. There have been many more popular versions of Robin Hood, with the one by Howard Pyle often considered among the best.
Do read that one, if you get the opportunity, and tell me what you think.
Well, that is all with this one.