Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Review: Robin Hood

Title: Robin Hood
Author: Henry Gilbert
Genre: Classics > Historical fiction / Folklore
Year: 1912
Pages: 288

We all know the story of Robin Hood: a man who for one reason or another robs from the rich, and gives to the poor. Now, the problem is that the Robin Hood histories originate from a time before stories were written down. In the oral traditions, the stories were subject to change, for obvious reasons: everyone remembered other things, exaggerated what they found crucial parts, and so on. Therefore, when they were finally written down, several editions existed. Henry Gilbert mixed them up, and invented some stories himself
- as he notes down in the preface - "to give a truthful picture of the times in which he lived".

Maybe I should have looked into this edition of the novel before I bought it. I knew it was a children's version, but I did not think it would be so different from the 'originals'. I have studied Robin Hood in some classes, so I read some of the older stories. Throughout Gilbert's version, I kept thinking it would have been better if he kept to one edition, rather than alternating and even adding. It just felt inaccurate. Of course, this is only an issue if you have any knowledge about the folklore and even though this novel will give you a confused image of our hero, it will be a great introduction to him.

The thing that really bothered me about this novel is the writing style. Gilbert tried to imitate the medieval speech, using words and structures uncommon for the early twentieth century, which is when this was first published. This decision is easily rectifiable, yet it did not fit into the general way in which Gilbert told the story. Not only does that type of language belong to poems, the gap between the storyteller and the characters is consequently enormous too. By this I mean that the narrator uses modern language, whereas the sentences spoken by characters are so-called medieval.  Choosing one type of language would have made the story better readable. 

So, in all honesty, I did not at all enjoy this novel. Some parts were fun enough, but I felt too detached from it and could not care what happened to the characters. It is, however, a classic story, which should read and known about, so if you're looking for an introduction to Robin Hood, and don't know anything about him, go for this one - it's a relatively easy read (as opposed to the Old English ones), and you get to know about several versions of the story. 

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