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:
Recounting Three Merry Adventures That Befell Robin Hood and Certain Others, by Which He Gained Sore Bones and Three Good Merry Men All In One Day
I wonder if that means our next trio of tales all take place on the same day or if one of the tales will involve getting a whoopin but still adding to the party? Our last trio was all about the Sheriff trying and failing to seize Robin and his band so this is apparently the theme for this book. Remember that Howard Pyle and Scribbner & Sons (the publisher) had toned down the story for younger readers before it ever became this high school giveaway that I’m reviewing from. This could well be a soften collection of the Robin Hood legend from as far back as the 13th century published in the 19th century. That would explain the lack of Crusades, Prince John and presumably the future King Richard being kids and King Henry on the throne of England, and Robin of Locksley just being Robin Hood, the smartmouthed young man who got tricked into shooting the king’s deer and then killed a man in self-defense. It’s rather fascinating to see what isn’t part of the legend in this earlier book versus everything we know today thanks to movies and TV.
While Robin is part of our first tale methinks that tis Little John whom shall be our focus character for our first bonny tale. (Did I use “bonny” right?) It might be interesting if there are tales in this book (well, “these books” for me since the New York Public School system split them in two) take time to flesh out the other men besides Robin himself. Whether or not this will happen we’ll soon be finding out.
I: Little John And The Tanner Of Blythe
Just from the set-up we have two new Merry Men named. It’s the first mention of minstrel Allan A Dale, whose story has yet to be told “anon”, which may mean there may not be a set timeline to these tales if I’m not jumping the bow, and Will Scatherlock. We also learn that David of Dancaster is built a bit smaller but otherwise like Little John and that Mr. Scatherlock is built like a “greyhound”. Also the narrator opens saying that we should “listen” to these stories. Mayhaps they were meant to be read aloud?
We also learn that they actually do realize cloth doesn’t grown on trees and Robin sends Little John to get more of the classic Lincoln green that they all make their outfits from, most likely as camouflage within Sherwood Forest. Then we’re introduced to where our thieving knaves stash their loot, a sort of DIY vault in the forest. I wonder if that comes into play in a later story? Little John heads to his destination, but decides to stop at the Blue Boar, a place that comes up a lot. There is a place with that name in Alcaster, the same direction John
is was going for the new cloth, but I don’t know if it’s the same place. Oh yes, Sherwood and Nottingham are real places although there’s still no definite proof Robin Hood and company were that I know of.
It’s here that we meet the tanner of the title, Arthur a Bland. In this case a tanner, according to Merriam-Webster, “a person who tans hides into leather“, although it also mentions the person sitting in the sun that we were thinking of. He tans the hides and then sells the leather. He also likes to look at the deer even if he isn’t hunting them. John sees him and assumes he’s going deer hunting with the king’s deer (which the narrator tells us he also considers Robin’s deer) and it isn’t long before they’re prepared to fight. I’m getting Marvel Universe vibes here.
Meanwhile, Robin has learned of John’s altered course and decides to check up on his friend, coming across the incoming fight. Robin is relieved that his friend isn’t in danger but kind of hopes he loses, possibly due to his own loss at Little John’s hands his friends teased him about yesterday. Sure he says it’s because of Little John going to the inn instead of right to Alcaster but then again John insisted to himself it was going to rain, and the narrator told us that was a lot of hooey. Had this been a movie or TV fight this probably would have gone on a lot longer, with blocks and parries and thrusts and all that exciting stuff. That’s probably why the tale of the archery contest was so embellished compared to what we see in this book. Here though John strikes with his staff, which doesn’t do much good against the Tanner’s thick leather hat, and Arthur knocks him on his butt with his own staff. We learn later that even the Will Scatherlock we met earlier lost to his at a contest as well, Will #2 in our collection having gone under the name Jock o’ Nottingham at the time. I wonder if everyone gets new names? Robin easily talks Arthur into joining his band (he’s a fan of both Robin Hood and Little John) and sends Little John to go to the right place this time.
This was a very interesting tale, and I guess short tales are going to be what we get from this book. Comics could take a cue about how good short stories can be instead of trade padding but I’m getting off course myself right now, and without the benefit of friends and ale. Granted mine would be ginger ale. So that’s one new recruit down and based on this part’s description we have two more to go. And we have two more chapters in this section, so that works out nicely.
Next time: Robin Hood And Will Scarlet
I was wondering what happened to him. In some versions Mr. Scarlet is there almost from the start and I’ve not heard of these other Wills before. I wonder how Hollywood screwed him up?