Thursday, May 25, 2017

Robin Hood embittered

I just finished reading Howard Pyle's classic retelling of Robin Hood.  It was written by an American author in the late 1800s, so it's entirely an invented, imagined Merry Olde England, complete with its own not-very-authentic dialect.  It's a great read, especially for kids, and in fact I think that this manufactured archaic English is part of the charm.  It challenges kids' ear to decipher something that isn't quite like their real, living language, but that they can understand if they put a little effort into it.

Most of the book is jolly stout yeomen being merry and lusty, clobbering each other in quarterstaff matches before clapping one another on the back and quaffing ale together from a skin.  Lots of hail fellow well met, tricks, macho jokes, and the like. 

The exception is the last scene, where Robin becomes disillusioned with the world, breaks promising, and calls his men to insurgent, nihilistic anarchy after they've become law-abiding citizens.  He is then hunted down, and betrayed by a cousin, who opens deep wounds in his arms under the guise of curing him of a fever, but does it in such a way that Robin is locked up in a room while his strength slowly ebbs from his veins.  I was surprised at the cynical, dark tone after so much merriment and good-natured, well-meaning derring-do.  But I thought it was kind of cool.  I wonder what Pyle was trying to do with this part.

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