The last book was rather short, and this one is going to be rather long. The chapter system is interesting but there will be quite a bit of reading. My source is a discussion in itself, and this time you can actually read along even if you don’t currently own a copy. I haven’t had that bit of luck since Seduction Of The Innocent and I bet none of you read that. You cowards! This time however, it’s in public domain. Isn’t that cool? Well, maybe you’ll think so after the reveal.
First let me tease what’s coming for the folks coming in on the homepage. Our next Chapter By Chapter book is a bit outside my usual genre, and while that hasn’t ended well in previous Chapter By Chapter books I have a good feeling about this one. To be fair The Black Stallion’s Ghost was made for a different audience (someone who knows horses), Seduction Of The Innocent is meant as a warning about how the old guard treats new media, and Op-Center had a few issues, but my biggest complaints were the chapter structure and how half the book was more interested in promoting the series than dealing with the main crisis. This one is a timeless classic, and has influenced how the title character and his band have been treated in media since. I don’t know if that makes it a must-read since it isn’t the original incarnation but considering the characters are part of our culture, and not just pop culture, it’s possible. Grab thy bows and guard thy change purses because we art going to the forest in “merry” old England to avoid paying taxes to the King. At least until the New World beckons us. In case you haven’t guessed, the fourteenth book to be reviewed one chapter at a time is…..
The Merry Adventures Of Robin Hood Of Great Renown In Nottinghamshire
By Howard Pine
Or as I’ll will refer to this for the sake of the article titles and sidebar pulldown menu, The Merry Adv. Of Robin Hood.
As I said, this is not the original telling of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. The original printing of this book came out in 1883 but the legend goes back to the 13th century. There Robin was a member of the lower classes (known as a “yeoman”, not to be confused with the military rank) who of course robbed from the rich and all that. Only some of his well-known cast appeared in these stories–the Sheriff of Nottingham, Little John, and Will Scarlet for example. Maid Marian and Friar Tuck wouldn’t arrive until the 15th century, as would Robin Of Locksley’s loyalty to King Richard, fighting in the Crusades, and many other things about Robin’s lore. And you thought comic adaptations played around with the order of events. There’s some argument as to whether or not Robin Hood was based on a real person or was a real person himself, but I review stories, not history.
I’ve also heard Robin was not always the clean and moral hero we know today, that he used to be a jerk to rich people whether they deserved it or not. Then again I live in a time where folks seem to thing only evil people get rich so take that for whatever it might be worth. I haven’t read the original tales (surviving versions only go back to the 15th century) so I can’t confirm that, just that we read a story like that in a high school text book. Whatever the case, this book is one of those that paints Robin and his band as the heroes (or so I’m assuming since I haven’t read it yet), which is the norm for how the Merry Men are depicted in media today. There are a lot of depictions out there to choose from. Want something more traditional? There’s a lot of those. Prefer one with talking animals for some reason? Disney gave us that. Maybe you prefer parody. Mel Brooks, Daffy Duck, and a forgotten show called When Things Were Rotten are only a few examples. Heck, they set one in outer space! Look up Rocket Robin Hood some time. He’s appeared in comics, cartoons, movies, TV shows, video games…you name it, there’s probably at least one Robin Hood story part of it.
The printing I have is interesting. My father went to school in New York and my grandfather worked for a publisher. (I think he was a security guard but I’m too lazy to just go downstairs and ask dad. I know he did security somewhere.) Between these two events a kid from Connecticut born in 1973 got his hands on a version published for the New York Public Schools in 1949. These were actually free for the students, sized to fit in a pocket (they must have had slightly larger pockets back then though) but because of the size limits they actually released this in two volumes. I have both of those and two other one-volume books they put out that I may review in the future. My school never gave us free books so I can only assume assistant superintendent Regina C.M. Burke was trying to counter those eeeeeeeevil comics considering what I learned during the Seduction Of The Innocent research. Granted I could be wrong. At any rate once I found out the history I’ve decided to review both of my volumes since the original printing by publisher Charles Scribner’s Sons (who offered these versions for the school) was all one book. Also for some reason this version takes out Howard Pyle’s artwork, going with artist Paula Winter, a student at the Washington Irving High School in New York, (I couldn’t find any info on her I could confirm was the same person) for the illustrations instead.
Howard Pyle, our author and original artist, focused on books for young people…and books for young readers must have been a lot bigger back then because even this pocket version is just shy of 200 pages with a relatively normal typefont and still needed a second volume to fit the whole thing. That would feel like War And Peace compared to some of the books I got in my middle school years. Medieval England is one of his favorite topics, writing stories about knights in general and King Arthur specifically. He also taught art at Drexel University and later started his own school. Another of his works, Men Of Iron, was adapted into the 1954 film The Black Shield Of Falworth, which featured Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. He passed away from a kidney infection while living in Italy in 1911. He was and still is a respected artist, but since his illustrations weren’t used in my copy and I’m more interested in what he wrote for this series that will be my focus.
I mentioned that you can join in on this one even if you don’t own the book. The Merry Adv. Of Robin Hood has since fallen into public domain, and if you don’t want to order it or rush to the library you have ebook and audiobook options. For example Project Guttenberg, Google Books, and the Internet Archive have the book available to read online or download. Choose your preferred version. Or if you would rather listen to the audiobook, LibriVox has done up the book with various readers in that format, which you can download from their site or also listen to online, which they host via the Internet Archive. I never know how many people actually own the books I review in this readalong book club so hopefully I’ll see a few participants giving their own opinions on this one. If my numbering doesn’t match up with what you have just follow the titles and we should be on the same page…so to speak. Let me know if any of those links don’t work and I’ll try to work around it.
This should be a very interesting one, and another first for this article series. Join me next week as I look into the prologue (which is the first chapter I think in other printings–that’s going to be one of the confusions here) and see how this band of men got so merry.