Courtesy, good temper, liberality, and manliness are his chief marks; for courtesy and good temper he is a popular Gaiwain. Yeoman as he is, he has a kind of royal diginity, a princely grace, and a gentleman-like refinement of humour. This is…Robin Hood. – F.J. Child, The English & Scottish Popular Ballads
When it comes to this period of history, the myth, folk and legend surrounding Robin Hood I have always been fascinated by it and have always wanted to learn more about Robin Hood and how the myth and folklore surrounding him originally came about. My fascination with Robin Hood the famous outlaw of Sherwood Forest and his band of merry men started from a young age to the point I have lost count at how many times I have watched various adaptations via TV and film. So when I happened to contact Amberley Publishing to see if they had any books that I could request for review, I was very excited to see on their press releases that were sent to me that they had a book on Robin Hood, I knew right there and then that this was a book for and that I would love to review it on my blog. So, once again I would like to thank Hazel at Amberley Publishing for being so kind and sending me a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Robin Hood by John Matthews was first published in August 1993 and has been republished by Amberley Publishing in September 2016. This book centres on (official blurb): “The identity of Robin Hood has been questioned many times since the outlaw of Sherwood first sprang to fame in the 12th century. No two authorities seem able to agree as to his origins, antecedents, or even whether or not he was a historical personage or a mythical figure. Historians, both amateur and professional, have for years been bringing out new books in which they claim to have found ‘the real Robin Hood’, but his identity remains clouded. More recent studies have sought to push the boundaries of the story further out into recorded time seeking Robin Hood among the records of government and law – enforcement, in the ballads of the 12th and 14th centuries, and in folk – memory of the people of Britain. For them, Robin is a product of the ballad maker’s muse, or a literary fabrication based on the likes and deeds of several outlaws or the garbled memory of an actual person whose real life bore little or no resemblance to the romanticised songs of the ballad-makers. The continuing popularity of the Robin Hood mythos in the modern dress through film, TV and novelisation, shows how deeply the archetype goes. With no less than four new feature films n production at the moment, Robin Hood has never been more in the public eye. This is the only contemporary book to fully explore the mythology of Robin Hood rather than concentrating on the human identity of the famous outlaw. It tries Robin to the ancient archetype of the Green Man, the lore and legends of the faery race, to the possible Eastern influence of the English mummers plays, and suggests the real identities’ of the merry men.”
The first point that needs to be made about this book is the fact it is only a detailed look at Robin Hood and the myth surrounding him but also it is a brilliant journey through myths, folklore, stories, facts and fiction that surround the most archetypal of the legends.
The merry pranks he play’d, would ask an age to tell, And the adventures strange that Robin Hood befell… How often he hath come to Nottingham disguis’d, And cunningly escap’d, being set to be surpriz’d. In this our spacious isle, I think there is not one But he hath herd some talk of him and Little John; And to the end of time, the tales shall ne’er be done, Of Scarlock, George a Green, and Much the miller’s son, Of Tuck the merry friar, which many a sermon made In praise of Robin Hood, his outlaws, and their trade. – Michael Drayton, The Polyolbion, song xxvi
The whole book is presented in a way that made the whole process an enjoyable and easy read. It touches on the possible links and/or connections between Robin Hood, the Green Man and also Herne the Hunter. Throughout this book these three individuals are continuously linked and/or connected together in some way whether that is the fact they are possibly the same person or the fact that they have very similar similarities, values, heritage, etc.
Throughout the whole book you are presented with information that is both interesting and relevant however, for me personally I would have liked a bit more information on Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest and the merry men in general as well as some more primary sources that link Robin to different periods throughout history where the myth/folklore of the famous outlaw of Sherwood played significant roles within the different societies as well as their literature. Other that this I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in Robin Hood or are folklore or pagan enthusiasts in general.
The edition I read was published by Amberley Publishing (2016).
(Image is my own please do not take/copy without permission first).