Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Myths & Legends: Robin Hood by Neil Smith and Illustrated by Peter Dennis

Pros: summarizes several stories, mentions scholarship about historical possibilities for Robin Hood’s identity

Cons: repetitious, Maid Marion’s origin story left out

This is another volume from Osprey’s Myths & Legends series.  Like the others, it summarizes the stories involved as well as gives historical information on where the legends came from.

This book is separated into the Legend of Robin Hood (the earliest stories, mostly from A Gest of Robyn Hode), the Myth of Robin Hood (the populist stories added from the 15th C, influenced by the May Games) and Robin Hood’s World (historical information).

Peter Dennis’s artwork is great, though there are a lot of historical artwork reproduced as well.  I did find it strange that the explanation boxes for his illustrations gave short summaries of the stories they illustrate.  Since they appear after the longer story summaries, it’s unnecessary repetition.  The exception to this being the one on Robin and Friar Tuck, where he mentions a lot of background information about the story and the location it takes place in.  Rather than the summary I’d have appreciated more information on his artistic choices, which only gets minor treatment.

Given the book’s size and the amount of material to cover, there’s a lot left out.  The most glaring omission to the book is the story of how Maid Marion joins the Merry Men.  While it’s mentioned that she was a later inclusion to the mythos and how her story morphed over time, I was disappointed that one or two of her stories weren’t included to show how she evolved as a character.  It’s bizarre considering her importance to Robin Hood’s modern tales and the fact that the author summarized Friar Tuck’s story, which dates from the same period as Maid Marion’s.

Ultimately, this is a great starting point for those interested in learning more about Robin Hood. 

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