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:
In Which It Is Told How Robin Hood Turned Beggar, Went Forth To Seek Adventures, And How He Drubbed Four Beggars And Outwitted A Corn Engrosser
This part is going to be different in that there is only one chapter. I’m thinking the parts were the real chapters here and the stuff I’ve been calling chapters more like subchapter…or something like that. I may not be explaining it right. The point is this is going to be a done-in-one tale rather than one spread out over three weeks of review. Will it be a good story?
Robin Hood Turns Beggar
The first paragraph sets the scene, as winter has ended and a new spring begun, so we’ve been with Robin at least one year at this point, maybe two. I wouldn’t bring this up except that Pyle ends the paragraph with “And now we will see what befell Robin as a beggar”, which feels like an unnecessary sentence. That’s what the title of the chapter is. This isn’t the first time the narrator has done this but it is the one that stands out as the most unnecessary. We do get a mention of Maid Marian…when Robin talks about how toasted he likes the crust of his food with her hair color as his example. Notice how far we’ve gone, including the famous(ly altered) archery contest and thus far Maid Marian, Robin’s supposed true love and thing he fights for most in these tales, has only been mentioned in passing twice and has yet to appear. And she got her start in this book along with Friar Tuck according to my research. Then again you can’t always trust Wikipedia.
So why does Robin want to turn beggar? Curiosity. Yep, he’s just really curious about what life as a beggar is like. There are time I really don’t understand this man. This is our iconic hero of pop culture folks. This is why re-imaginings scare me, to turn the oddest people into something they’re not. Robin is a criminal for defending himself from an angry drunkard and accidentally killing him. He makes snap decisions about who is or isn’t rich, ending up with his nephew having to beat the tar out of him in self-defense. And as we see later he was even willing to beat a beggar up if he refused to exchange clothes. Again, this is our iconic hero folks! I hope this wasn’t based on a real man because either his legend was all wrong or he was.
At any rate he instead comes across a beggar who once got in trouble for “making sure cooling food didn’t fall off of the windowsill” at an inn, and that meal was to go to the Prior Emmett. So at least he stole from someone who deserved it. This version of Robin gets that right once or twice. So they eat together, Robin buying some ale at the same inn while the beggar, Riccon Hazel (I expect him to join the band by the end of the story), hears of how far Robin would go to get a beggar’s clothes. You would think the clothing of a beggar would be easy to get for these guys. It’s not like they have some special uniform or anything. Basically whatever clothes still fit to qualify as not being naked and you’re…”good” really doesn’t feel right here.
The point is Robin mentions that he would have attacked him were it not for the meal if he refused to swap clothes, and this after Riccon was trying to talk him out of it because being a good beggar is a special talent. I think there’s a marketing joke in there someplace. Riccon still decides this is an insult and let’s Robin know. Robin’s response is basically “I said I wouldn’t because we’re buds now so put a sock in it before I smack you one”, because Robin Hood is all about manners. Not GOOD manners mind you. So guess what happens. If you said anything other than “they have a fight” you haven’t been following along with us.
Yep, they take up quarterstaffs and do battle. Surprisingly Robin wins his one, given his quarterstaff track record has many “draws” and “Excedrin Headaches” in the listings with few wins. The beggar agrees to the exchange (after he takes the money he hid in the lining) and heads off to have a good time in a suit of Lincoln Green instead of the technicolor dreamcoat Robin took from him. I’m trying to decide who actually won.
Robin comes upon a quartet of “fellow” beggars, each with a sign declaring their condition. If I tell you the deaf man was the first one to hear Robin coming I think we can agree listing them all would be useless. Then again, how else can I talk about Robin beating up a blind man and a mentally challenged man and sending the blind man and one-legged man running for the hills so he can rob them after they attack him for not knowing the beggar’s secret lingo without making him sound even more terrible than I half-jokingly make him out to be. Yeah, they’re full of crap and taking money to the treasury of the beggar’s guild while Robin will admittedly use this money for charity and “business expenses” so I guess I’ll give Robin this one. Of course then he goes looking for more trouble because this didn’t add to this suicidal quota for today.
So it is that Robin finds himself crossing paths with a “corn engrosser”, which we actually get an asterisk for telling us that “engrosser” translates to “merchant”. Given all of the references to tales of merry ol’ England and other terms in this chapter alone (apparently someone famous at this time was named Tom Baker–insert your own Doctor Who jokes here) I’m surprised they even bothered. Again, given to American high school students in the 1940s. Turns out this guy bought up all the corn and upped the prices to famine level so he could make a ill-gotten profit, so that’s another guy deserving what he gets. Clever trick with the safe-like shoes on the Engrosser’s part though, even if he deserved to be robbed in a karma sense. I’m not defending Robin’s action, just his targets in this particular story.
So at least in this tale Robin was a jerk to five bad people, but he still has a “1” in the jerk column himself for that first beggar. Next time we go back to the two-part adventures for the rest of this book as Robin is called to a meeting by the Queen herself. Guess who isn’t happy about that, and it’s not the Sheriff.
Next Time: Robin Hood And Three Of His Men Shoot Before Queen Eleanor In Finsbury Fields