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Monday, December 02, 2013

Robin Hood trilogy, by Stephen R. Lawhead

Stephen R. Lawhead is a respected author of fiction, much of it about ancient Britain. I recently read his three books on the story of Robin Hood. See here for the Wikipedia article on Robin Hood. The Wikipedia also has an article on the trilogy, but it is too brief to be very informative.The Amazon pages on the three books are these: Hood, Scarlet and Tuck.

This post is in two parts.

The first part is for those who haven't read previous books, by many different authors, about the story of Robin Hood. There have been many such, telling the story in various ways. If you haven't read such books, this trilogy is a good place to start, but the hero is seldom given that name in the trilogy. He mostly goes by Bran. I will give away the bare bones of the plot, by saying that it is about a bold hero, with a few followers, who fights tyranny, using trickery, woodcraft and skill with the longbow, and, eventually, regains his place in the world. The fighting is mostly done with the longbow.

The characters are well drawn. The story is well-done, well plotted, and the setting is also as realistic as could be expected, considering that it is in medieval Europe. It is mostly realistic, perhaps entirely realistic, depending on your view of faith in God and answered prayer. Although Lawhead's books are often sold as fantasy, there aren't any wizards in the book, and no spells are cast. There is a wise woman, who has a special link to God, and also to the woodland where most of the book takes place. The book has a Christian world-view, which is not out of place in that day and time. The second book won a Christy award. However, the books are not preachy. Some of the characters just have faith and act on it. Not all church officials are motivated by faith, although some of them are.

Lawhead tries for authenticity, in that he gives what he believes to be culture-accurate renderings of many words. One example: The French invaders are Freinc, in these books. There are pronunciation aids. Another adjustment is that the second book is told in the first person, whereas the first and third are not.

For those who have read previous books, the trilogy will take some getting used to. There's no Nottingham, and no Sherwood Forest. The story is moved to Wales, where Lawhead says it belongs. There is a sheriff, and a Guy of Gisbourne, and there is a Friar Tuck, an Alan a Dale, a Will Scarlet, and a Little John (although they all have variations of these names. Little John is called Iwan, with no "little.") There are some important characters, such as the wise woman, an Archbishop, and a Norman nobleman, who are not important, or don't occur at all, in other stories of Robin Hood. Bran is not the heir to an estate, but to a small kingdom.

Lawhead explains the change of location. Perhaps he is right, but I don't think it makes for a better story.

Overall, the books are well written, and held my attention. I'm glad I read them.

Thanks for reading. Read Lawhead.

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