illustration of Robin Hood standing in the forest with his bow in one hand

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

by Howard Pyle

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What is a brief summary of The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood?

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The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood chronicles the adventures of an outlaw, Robin Hood, and his band. The narrative is conveyed through twenty-two chapters, in eight sections. The plot unfolds in medieval England, specifically Nottinghamshire, where Robin Hood accidentally kills a person. He manages to escape to Sherwood Forest, where he lives as a fugitive with his band of compatriots.

Although outlaws, Robin Hood and his crew are honest, noble, and righteous. They rebel against a social system that thrives on injustice and servitude. They care for the well-being of the poor, fight the oppressors, and punish the guilty. The characters seek revenge, protect their pride, celebrate their victories, and mourn their defeats. Robin Hood's appeal lies in his charisma, his wit, his morality, and his humble beginnings. His death is the unexpected twist at the end of the novel.

The escapades filled with action and surprises are breathtaking. The stories introduce the reader to the bygone era of knights and chivalry.

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The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood is an 1886 novel by Howard Pyle, and so it is in the public domain and freely available online. One source is indicated in the links below. Here is a brief summary.

Robin Hood is a young archer who kills one of the Sheriff of Nottingham's men in self-defense. Fleeing from retribution, Robin meets up with various strange and interesting characters while living in Sherwood Forest, including Little John, Friar Tuck, and Alan a Dale. These men become Robin's band of Merry Men, and together they fight against the injustices of the Sheriff, who cruelly steals from the peasants to support his own lavish lifestyle. Robin and his men have many adventures, some of which were created entirely by Pyle and not based in medieval legends, but almost all of which have become part of the Robin Hood legend; these include the portrayal of Robin as a selfless hero to the workers, fighting against illegal taxation, rather than the outright thief he had been portrayed as in past works.

The most famous of these adventures is the shooting match at Nottingham, where Robin outshoots all the other contestants while in disguise, and receives the first prize. The Sheriff is outraged later when Robin fires a message on an arrow through the Sherrif's window, boasting of his win. Robin becomes a legendary outlaw, and a thorn in the Sheriff's side, but all of the Sherrif's plans come to nothing, and Robin continues to operate in Sherwood. At the end of the book, King Richard the Lionheart returns from the Crusades and infiltrates Robin's band; after he learns from one of his trusted men how honest and kind Robin truly is, Richard pardons the entire band and allows them to join his retinue.

"Talk not lightly of thy sins, good Robin. But come, look up. Thy danger is past, for hereby I give thee and all thy band free pardon. But, in sooth, I cannot let you roam the forest as ye have done in the past; therefore I will take thee at thy word, when thou didst say thou wouldst give thy service to me, and thou shalt go back to London with me."
(Pyle, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, gutenberg.org)

This book is the best-known of the many works on Robin Hood, and is the basis for many adaptations in cinema, including the 1938 Errol Flynn film and the 1973 animated Disney film, both of which are among the best-known in public consciousness.

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