In this edition, Henry Gilbert tells of the adventures of the Merry Men of Sherwood Forest – Robin himself, Little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet, and Alan-a-Dale, as well as Maid Marian, good King Richard, and Robin’s deadly enemies Guy of Gisborne and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.
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Henry Gilbert’s Robin Hood sulks in the uneasy twilight of world literature. The likes of Sir Gawain, Piers Plowman and Beowulf have had the good fortune to have their tales told in a clear, definitive voice and then retold by scrupulous and concise editors. Robin Hood’s story was told and retold by so many balladeers and then moulded into whatever shape his editors thought would fit the sensibilities of the times. Therefore it is difficult to find Robin Hood in his original alliterative verse a
Unfortunately Henry Gilbert’s retelling does the legend of Robin Hood no service. His tales stand in a kind of literary limbo. They were first published in 1912, but language and style he used inaccurately aped the supposed concept of medieval without having any scholarly basis. The “thees,” “thous,” and liberal helping of archaic terms served no purpose but to turn the leisure reader off from the book. This is reminiscent of the mistake that Charles and Mary Lamb made in their Tales from Shakespeare. Rather than preserve the beauty of the original language only the difficulty remains.
The one area in which Gilbert redeems himself is in honesty. Even this praise may only come through hindsight. The mores of the society at the turn of the last century were not as squeamish about bloodshed as this one. Today, material for children must be scrubbed, sanitized and made harmless. Today, Robin Hood sings and dances or is portrayed by a cartoon fox. He bests his enemies by befuddling them, rather than beheading them. Gilbert’s Robin Hood injures and kills his enemies when necessary. Life in Sherwood Forest is still unbelievably pastoral, but at least the shadow of the hand of death hovers over these men of violence.
To one interested in the tales of Robin Hood, I would first recommend some cinematic escapism through Men in Tights and Disney’s conceptualization. Stay far away from the Costner version! Then, if one’s interest is truly peaked, hunt down the original ballad verses and work through the language. Henry Gilbert’s 1912 retelling simply isn’t worth the effort.
Robin Hood is the best-loved outlaw of all literature, and one of the best-loved characters altogether. Henry Gilbert’s version of the story proves it. The book is interesting to read, since it provides an explicit view over the hard past times in old England, over the people and the lands. Its action brings the suspense which will keep you entertained reading it till the very end, and its characters almost deliver their very feelings to you, as a reader. Robin Hood is finely designed, so that h