The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

The Adventures of Robin Hood (by Howard Pyle) was humorous, full of dares, and, well, a great read.

You would think that Robin Hood would be constantly hiding from the Sheriff, but no instead, Robin Hood was always very “polite.” In fact, he oftentimes invited the Sheriff to dine, which usually turned out in “handing over the cash.” In itself, that gave me an extremely satisfactory feeling, since the notorious Sheriff was always trying to hunt Robin Hood down. (The prologue explains that Robin was challenged to a duel and forced to shoot one of the King’s deer. The Sheriff was infuriated and almost driven berserk to think such a dangerous outlaw was on the loose, and that he was just out of his reach).

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, written by Howard Pyle and first published in 1883, is an unusual example of children’s literature. One can imagine the fervor with which it was received back in the day by boys hungry for tales of adventure, and the book certainly delivers that in spades. At a time when it was not as easy to come by literature for kids designed to appeal to committed, serious young readers, a book like The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood must have been a godsend for them.

Here we have adventure of the highest grade, written with deftness and skill that few authors of any era possess. The escapades of Robin Hood and his Merry Men of Sherwood Forest draw the reader in with unexpectedly suspenseful energy, featuring a number of situations in which the boldness of our hero in Lincoln green in attempting to trick the Sheriff of Nottingham and his cronies seems to border on the suicidal. Who but the dashing, daring Robin Hood of yore would risk entering an archery competition in a city where he will be caught and executed if found out, just to prove to the haughty sheriff that such an adventurer as he will not be cowed by a man of the law who has no morals?

Who but Robin Hood would meet a cold-blooded murderer like Guy of Gisbourne in head-to-head battle, unafraid of engaging in mortal combat with this one who has a limitless penchant for cruelty, and whose fighting prowess is as renowned as his own? The surprising twists and turns of Robin Hood’s famous career as an outlaw of Sherwood Forest must have captured the imagination of boys of the 1880s like nothing else they’d ever read, which I believe is a major part of the reason why Howard Pyle’s version of the story has endured as a classic for so long.

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