This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

15 May, 2014

REVIEW: MYTHS AND LEGENDS: ROBIN HOOD

Cover illustration: Peter Dennis

MYTHS AND LEGENDS:
ROBIN HOOD
BY
NEIL SMITH
Illustrated by:
Peter Dennis

 ISBN: 978-1-47280-125-8
Pages: 80
Publisher: Osprey
Published: 21 January 2014

On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)

He robbed from the rich to give to the poor, or so the legend goes. But who was the outlaw known as Robin Hood? How did his legend develop, and how has it changed over the passing centuries? This new title in the Osprey Myths and Legends series takes a detailed look at the famous outlaw, beginning with a retelling of the early ballads that established his stories. From there, the book explores how the legend grew and how famous names such as Little John, Friar Tuck, Maid Marian, and Alan-a-Dale became associated with Robin Hood. It also enters the perilous world of Robin Hood scholarship with a critical analysis of the case for a ‘historical’ Robin Hood and a review of the mostly likely candidates. A perfect primer for young and old alike, this book covers both the fact and the fiction of Britain’s most famous outlaw.
 

   The last book about Robin Hood I read was fiction. (This is one of twelve books in that series.) That was about 25 years ago. I've read articles about Robin Hood since then, and of course seen films. (The best film is still the one with Errol Flynn.)

   This book is divided into four sections; The Legend of Robin Hood, The Myth of Robin Hood, Robin Hood's World, and The Modern Myth. The first one is the earliest legends, while the second one deals with what has been added since then. The Third section is about the historical evidence, and we end with Robin Hood in films and TV.
   It became obvious early on that I knew very little about the origins of the stories about Robin Hood. (Part of that has without a doubt to do with me being Norwegian.) I found the look into how the legends looked at the beginning absolutely fascinating.

   When you get into the myths, the terrain became more familiar but it was clear that I still had massive holes in my knowledge. It was very interesting to me to get a look at how the story of Robin Hood has evolved over the centuries. And you can certainly understand why Disney opted to not use the original material when they made their animated movie. I think most people will be surprised when they look at how Robin Hood acted in the early tales told about him.
   What I really found fascinating, and I think that others will too, is how recent much of what we take for granted when it comes to Robin Hood really is. We get a clear picture here of how popular culture can form our view of traditional stories.

   The writing is excellent throughout. Smith writes in a very clear, and manages to be very informative without ever getting dry. This is something that can easily be read by the younger generations, as well as their parents and grandparents.
   We get excellent illustrations throughout. Both from the credited Peter Dennis, and earlier examples. Dennis also has a few essays accompanying some of the illustrations, and I found those to be a great addition to the book.

   This may not be a very thick book, but it is pretty comprehensive. It covers a lot of material in few pages, and is great for quick reference. While it may not offer anything new to those who want an in-depth look at the myths and legends surrounding Robin Hood, it offers a lot to people like me who have an interest in Robin Hood but who have never taken the time to look any deeper. There's also a good bibliography at the back, with mostly newer works that should be easy to find for those that want to look further after reading this.
   I highly recommend this to those who want to look at Robin Hood a bit deeper than just popular culture. And it will also be well worth a look for those that are interested in how legends evolve.

NOTE: I got an e-ARC of this from the publisher/NetGalley.

LINKS: Osprey

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