Hood, Paperback Book
3 out of 5 (1 rating)

Description

A new reign of terror has brought fear and hatred to the land, while an ancient legend stirs in the heart of the wildwood ...The Norman conquest of England is complete - but for one young man the battle has only just begun.

When Bran ap Brychan's father is murdered by Norman soldiers, he flees to London, seeking justice.

The journey is long and hard - and the suffering of those he meets along the way fuels his anger.

With his demands dismissed, Bran has no choice but to return home, but a worse fate still awaits him there.

His lands have been confiscated and his people subjugated by a brutal and corrupt regime.

Should Bran flee for his life or protect his people by surrendering to his father's murderers?

The answer, perhaps, is known only to the Raven King - a creature of myth and magic born of the darkest shadows in the forest. Stephen R. Lawhead's Hood brings to life the legend of Robin Hood as never before.

Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 448 pages, map
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Traditional
  • ISBN: 9781904233718

£8.99

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Stephen Lawhead's new trilogy about Robin Hood, the King Raven trilogy, is pretty unusual in its portrayal of Robin Hood as a Welsh prince in the time of William II rather than a dispossessed aristocrat during Richard the Lionheart's crusades. Stephen Lawhead includes an epilogue, 'Robin Hood in Wales', in which he explains his reasoning.<br/><br/><i>It will seem strange to many readers, and perhaps even perverse, to take Robin Hood out of Sherwood Forest and relocate him in Wales; worse still, to remove all trace of Englishness, set his story in the eleventh century, and recast the honourable outlaw as an early British freedom fighter. My contention is that although in Nottingham, the Robin Hood legends found good soil in which to grow -- they must surely have originated elsewhere.</I><br/><br/>As far as I can tell, Lawhead's hypothesis is reasonable. I kind of wish he'd included a list of sources, maybe referenced some other writers, as I know nothing else about this. It's kind of appropriate that I read this now: I go to a Welsh university where I'm going to be studying the Robin Hood tradition next semester! If anyone knows where to find research related to this, I'd be really happy.<br/><br/>It doesn't seem so implausible that the stories could have originated in Wales, for a start. At heart, the tactics of Robin Hood seem similar to the tactics adopted by the Welsh. Ultimately unsuccessful tactics, obviously. And the Robin Hood stories were originally just a collection of oral folklore, probably appreciated most in places where people most felt that someone needed to be sticking it to the man. Minstrels would apparently attach local place names to the tales, to make them more interesting to the listeners. It'd probably be impossible now to figure out exactly where the stories originated from, really.<br/><br/>It's interesting that two key, quintessentially English heroes were, to differing degrees of verifiability, actually appropriated from the Welsh.<br/><br/><i>As for the English Robin Hood with whom we are all so familiar... just as Arthur, a Briton, was later Anglicised -- made into the quintessential English king and hero by the same enemy Saxons he fought against -- a similar makeover must have happened to Robin.</i><br/><br/>I imagine that the 'makeover' for Robin was less conscious than with Arthur, but it's still interesting that if you dig, the two main English heroes might not be so English at all. Note that Briton refers to the indigenous population of the British Isles, before the Angles, Saxons and Normans.<br/><br/>Reading reviews of this book all over the internet makes me feel a little sick when they declare that of course Robin could never be Welsh -- and I seriously quote: "Nothing good ever came out of Wales." And others who were just uncomfortable with a Welsh Robin. Which doesn't surprise me, knowing how English people have reacted in the past to me pointing out that the first Arthur stories were Welsh. If the Robin Hood legends are somehow holy for you, then don't try this trilogy -- you won't like it.<br/><br/>Saying that, despite the unusual choice of setting, the story isn't all that different. Even though Stephen Lawhead acknowledges that Maid Marian was a sixteenth century addition to the legend, one of the characters does indeed go by the name Mérian. There's also John (Iwan), Tuck (Aethelfrith), Guy... They don't all join the story in the traditional way, but the plot remains pretty close. Robin himself is actually called Bran, in this story: Rhi Bran.<br/><br/>There's a lot that could be very, very interesting about this book. It definitely makes me grin that the Welsh are so positively portrayed and their opponents rather negatively portrayed, and the idea of a Welsh Robin is, as far as I can tell, pretty bold and new. The bias and setting are new, the drawing on Celtic myth is interesting. I did recognise some bits that seemed to come right out of Lawhead's earlier research and invention for The Paradise War.<br/><br/>One thing that definitely impressed me was the sensitivity to language. There were Welsh names scattered through it, for people and for places, and the Normans used French phrases and words. The Welsh didn't call themselves Welsh, which of course, they wouldn't have done. The word "Welsh" originates from the Saxon "wealas", which means foreigner. I smiled a little to read the Welsh calling themselves Cymry. Definitely appropriate.<br/><br/>I have to say that it didn't come together into a whole very well for me, unfortunately. Robin himself isn't terribly likeable -- he thinks he's God's gift to women, he wants to please himself, almost abandons his people... He does eventually return to his duty, and take up his burden, but then he's a rather distant character, I found, and I still didn't connect with him. Which is awkward, given that traditionally he is one of the most sympathetic characters. Most of the characters weren't really fleshed out, and I kept getting flashbacks to the recent BBC adaptation of Robin Hood to fill in the gaps... It doesn't help that the portrayals are quite one-sided -- the Normans are grasping, greedy, the Welsh are the beleaguered peasants. We all know who is Right and who is Wrong -- there's very little blurring of that, which could've made it richer and more interesting. <br/><br/>The story itself moves slowly, and by the end of the book the adventure we all know so well is only just kicking off. In a way, that's good, because we now have a good and solid background, with the different political situation laid out for us. The players are in place, hopefully the next books will be less about set up.<br/><br/>Lawhead's writing is pretty readable, and not purple prose like his early stuff, but in itself this first book doesn't draw me into the trilogy very well. It may pick up from here, but either way, I'm reading it mostly because I'm interested in the underlying ideas.<br/><br/>Edit: Having done a module on it, and read around on the subject, I have to say that Lawhead's idea of Robin being originally a Welsh story doesn't work. Perhaps aspects of the tale might have come out of Wales, but the Robin Hood ballads didn't spread to Wales much. You'd expect <I>something</i> to have survived, even if only in fragments.<br/><br/>Still a very interesting interpretation, though, and I'd still like to see Lawhead's sources.

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