Chapter By Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
Remember, the book is in public domain. Download or read the ebook online legally and for free at Project Gutenberg, Google Books or the Internet Archive among other sites, or check out the audiobook from LibriVox. You can also use a print copy. In either case my copy may not match up with yours chapter-wise. Follow along with the very-long subtitle. For this chapter:
Telling How The Sheriff Of Nottingham Swore That He Would Deal Dole To Robin Hood. Also How He Made Three Trial Thereat, But Missed Each Time By A Good Bow’s Length.
The first three “official” chapters will be under this description. That includes the next two weeks of reviews. I’m guessing each of the three tales will be how Robin Hood and his band dealt with the Sheriff. Remember, he’s after Robin because the man killed his…nephew, I guess. It just says “kin” so I’m not certain. Could be his brother. His drunk brother who challenges younger men and tricks them into shooting at the king’s livestock. The only think Robin did wrong at this point was not standing trial and claiming self-defense, but I don’t think the Sheriff is the unbiased type. Oh, and he also wants the reward, but let’s not forget the revenge.
Also last time we saw various differences to the legend as we know it today. Robin isn’t the betrayed war hero but a wronged commoner whose new role in life isn’t really connected to his downfall. On the other hand, thought the origin of Little John’s name is different how he came to become Robin’s right hand man and future best buddy is still in-line with the stories made today. What will the differences be in this one?
Part First chapter I: Robin Hood And The Tinker
It seems first the Sheriff tries it the old fashioned way, just serve the warrant to Robin. However, his men and anyone else in the area figures they’ll get a whoopin’ if they try, even after the Sheriff offers fourscore angels, which is actually a coin. He’s not talking about the ones in Heaven. It would be about eighty coins, roughly 6 shillings, a few bucks I think in US money but that must have been worth more back then. The Sheriff can afford it since Robin’s bounty is 200 pounds and he’s hoping to get that for himself so maybe he wasn’t getting paid and the Sheriff back then was more like a bounty hunter. I don’t know, I never lived back then.
So he sends a messenger out of Nottingham in order to find some poor sucke…I mean helpful man of justice who could use a few bucks. On the way he stops at a tavern where a little ale has him go on and on about Robin and the good Sheriff and trying to serve the warrant…and by “him” I mean the narrator. I can’t say that Pyle was full of ale but the whole tavern scene goes long as soon as some people call the stranger over to weave a tale, and apparently he’s a blabbermouth. Sadly, so is the author. He does soon acquire the services of a tinker (Merriam-Webster’s definition is “a usually itinerant mender of household utensils“) who apparently fancies himself a good fighter. The grammar divide between then and now is again on display in this exchange, and one or two lines even I couldn’t translate in their exchange.
So the next day or so the Tinker unknowingly comes upon our hero and the two almost immediately become besties. I guess back then loving someone like a brother happened fast simply by being offered some booze. Times were different in those days. Of course when Robin learns what the Tinker is there to do he sets up a trap to “punish” the man for trying to serve a warrant on so noble a yeoman. He robs the man of the warrant and his money, then makes him pay for the beers they drank, which Robin had made extra strong for the Tinker. The Tinker doesn’t seem like a bad person, like the Sheriff and Prince John we see in more recent versions so honestly Robin and the tavern owner (who was actually paid by Robin so the man actually stole the Tinker’s hammer and bag…you know, the tools of his livelihood) are kind of jerks here. I’m not going to mix words. This is not the Robin Hood we were made to admire folks.
Speaking of Prince John he isn’t here. Neither is King Richard. Instead we’re told the Sheriff works for a King Harry. I supposed the book could mean one of the various King Henrys given the time the original tales first circulated but it seems odd that they would refer to him by that name. Again, I never lived in that time so I don’t know. We also are told in passing of a third Merry Man, a David of Doncaster. He joins Will Stutley and the newly arrived Little John Little among the named Merry Men thus far.
A bit wordy and the King’s English doesn’t really hold up but it’s not a bad tale per say. We have two more in this first part, so join me next week for another tale of rude Robin Hood. Based on the title, it should be one we’re all familiar with, but given past history in just one chapter and a prologue I expect it be different from how we’ve heard it in the late 20th century to today in the 21st.