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 Queen Eleanor Sent For Robin Hood To Come To The Court At Famous London Town And How Robin Came At Her Bidding. Likewise It Is Told How King Henry Chased Robin Through The Land, Yet Caught Him Not
I’m admittedly curious about this one. Granted I’ve been enjoying this book even if it reveals the secret dark side of young Robin Hood and brings his hero status into question. After all this came out well before all the more famous portrayals we know and remember this is the toned down version. I have to wonder how bad the original legends were. However, why would Robin, an outlaw, agree to meet with the queen when he should have known the king was already annoyed with him based on what the Sheriff told him and the fact that he’s been hunting deer the king claims as his despite not planning to anything with them. Or maybe it’s my lack of geographic knowledge and Sherwood Forest is closer than I think? Sure, I could look it up since both London and Sherwood Forest are real places and I just looked. They are not. With that out of the way let’s get on with the book.
Chapter 1: Robin Hood And Three Of His Men Shoot Before Queen Eleanor In Finsbury Fields
The tale starts with a young page, described as sixteen and “fair as a maiden” which I’m sure he’d be insulted by being a teenage boy, as he comes looking for Robin Hood. The queen has offered them safe passage during an archery contest because she really wants to see him shoot. Robin was a darn good archer before all this began and became legend as his tale went on. How she can keep the king from going after him…well, we already know she can’t, at least for the trip back home. Robin is taking along Little John, Will Scarlet, and Allan-A-Dale. (What about Allan’s wife? Surely she’s like to meet the queen.) It seems they’re convinced it isn’t a trap, which given the last archery contest they went to is an odd assumption. I wonder if Queen Eleanor and King Henry got along if his wife is inviting a famed criminal to shoot arrows in public.
So the crew meets with Queen Eleanor, who seems to enjoy hearing the stories we’ve already heard. Pyle makes special note of the reaction of the queen and her ladies-in-waiting to the Bishop’s tale during the story of Sir Richard, which makes me wonder if they’ve run into him before and are either amused at him riding and hunting in the forest or if they didn’t like him and him being stuck there for three days gave them more amusement.
Then we go right to the archery contest. I have to wonder if everything was set up so fast that no word would get to Henry that Robin and crew were coming because when the Bishop rats them out he is not happy. Still, the Queen did get him to agree not to go after them before said ratting as well as placing a bet…which I assume was the real plan here. The tournament becomes a three-on-three shooting match, with Will being the only one to fail. I wonder why poor Will Scarlet had to screw up? Was Pyle not wanting to have the Sherwood crew not sweep it all for a reason? Did he think it brought a sense of realism that one failed and chose the least experienced despite Will having been trained by Uncle Robin? It’s an interesting choice. We also see Robin and Little John share their winnings with their opponents, which the King put up for the winner, which was nice. There was good sportsmanship all around.
While I wasn’t all that interested in the archery match until the final session between Sherwood and the King’s champions that’s more on me than the story. Otherwise it was an interesting tale, but it isn’t over yet. Next time the King isn’t happy about these criminals showing up his men, moreso than having lost the bet, and despite his agreement to let them be for 40 days (a month plus a week or so), you can bet he’s going to do something worthy of filling the next chapter.
Next time: The Chase Of Robin Hood