Rebecca and Rowena, Paperback Book

Rebecca and Rowena Paperback

Part of the Hesperus Classics series

3.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Rebecca and Rowena calls into question the ending of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, exploring the miserable marriage of Sir Wilfrid to the 'icy, faultless, prim' Rowena.

In an irreverent and theatrical plot, in which the dead come back to life, marriage is exposed as really quite dull, and imperialism is mocked mercilessly, Thackeray ridiculously reunites Ivanhoe with his first love, Rebecca, claiming they were wrongly separated in the earlier novel.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Hesperus Press Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9781843910183

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Rebecca and Rowena is WM Thackeray’s fanfiction of Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe – he unabashedly states that his purpose is to reunite the titular hero with the woman he should’ve ended up with, the generous Jewess Rebecca, instead of the beautiful (but in my opinion, less developed) Rowena. Thackeray satirizes many of the characters and conventions of Ivanhoe – brave gallant knights, their beautiful loves, the happy ending. The first couple chapters are my favorite, because of the mood of gleeful anarchy that pervades due to Thackeray’s hilarious subversion of Scott’s characters. We find out what happened to everyone after the successful conclusion in Ivanhoe, and the author’s portrayal includes enough of Scott’s details to be believable – in a horribly funny way. Ivanhoe married Rowena, but her virtues as described by Scott – pious, proud of her Saxon heritage, stubborn in her refusal to give up the man she loved – translate to religious zealotry, insistence on being called ‘her royal highness, the princess Rowena’ and a crazy jealous adherence to throwing his gallantry towards Rebecca in her husband’s face. Robin of Locksley was of course rewarded for his bravery and loyalty to the king in Ivanhoe, but he’s become fat, self-satisfied and vain, the type of tyrannical lord he rebelled against previously. Jolly, conniving, fat Friar Tuck has turned into the type of hedonistic Frenchified pseudo-religious man as Prior Jorvaux in Scott’s book. King Richard, in Ivanhoe, was the best warrior known, but Thackeray shows the other side of prowess in battle – the king is bloodthirsty and competitive, killing children and jealous of his most loyal supporter, Ivanhoe. Throughout, the narrator is always interrupting with his asides and thoughts which are some of the best parts of the book. The story follows Ivanhoe as he again goes to test himself in battle, unhappy in his marriage. There’s a part in the middle where the plot sags as Ivanhoe goes around the knight errant. In the end, Thackeray does achieve his previously stated aim and has a rather melancholy ending. I’d recommend it for people who have read Scott’s original, just because the humor is much more apparent (and some of the allusions more understandable) if you know the plot and characters of Ivanhoe.

Review by

After just finishing Ivanhoe, I had to read Rebecca and Rowena because I, too, wished Ivanhoe had married Rebecca. Ivanhoe's love for Rowena seemed like a boyhood crush compared to the feelings he developed for Rebecca.Mr. Thackeray has "corrected" Sir Walter Scott's ending with a pardoy and satire that resembles that of Monty Python. All of the major characters (Rowena, Ivahoe, King Richard, Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, Athelstane) exhibit either the extremes of their natures, or turn into the opposite of how Walter Scott portrayed them. It is darkly humourous.Mr. Thackeray also parodies the style of writing popular at the time Ivanhoe with several "asides" in which he addresses the reader directly.Great fun. I'd recommend, though, that you be familiar with Ivanhoe...and have a soft spot for get the most out of this novel.

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