I had put Howard Pyle's The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood on my e-reader quite some time ago because I had been quite obsessed with Robin Hood during my childhood. Not only had I read a German copy of his adventures, but I had of course also seen the classic Errol Flynn film, the Disney version, and even the early-90s Kevin Costner one. In a rather disappointing twist I discovered quickly that the English-language version on my e-reader was actually simply the original of the German-language copy I had read as a child. I knew all of the stories by heart then. Still, it was interesting to see how Pyle - an American author on a truly British topic - played with language to give his text an older feel (he only wrote it in the late 19th century) and also how his version differed from what is popularly seen as inherently part of the Robin Hood legend today (namely that he has a pertinent love interest, Maid Marian is mentioned only fleetingly).
Most interesting though was the Wikipedia article consumption I indulged for this blog post. It seems as if Robin Hood is in fact based on a number of ballads dating from the 14th century onwards (and which may or may not in turn be based on an actual historical figure). Yet, this Robin Hood (just like the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm for example) was adapted over time to suit the predominating mood or expectations. Thus, only in the 19th century does he become truly a bandit who steals from the rich to give to the poor. Pyle tells the story of how he is forced to flee into Sherwood Forest after having killed a forester who cheated him out of his winnings in a bet and then threatened his life. Yet, in one of the old ballads Pyle based his book on, Robin simply kills all 14 foresters who have also not threatened his life but merely cheated him.
Fascinating stuff about what stories mean, how they are adapted, and what the accurate version of a tale everybody knows actually is. And, oh yeah, the book was an enjoyable, fast and easy holiday reading of course.