illustration of main character, Otto, kneeling with his hands in prayer inside a Christian church

Otto of the Silver Hand

by Howard Pyle

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Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 176

Otto of the Silver Hand was one of the first historical novels for young adults to present the realities behind the chivalric ideal. Pyle reveals the prevalence of cruelty and vengefulness in medieval society. The lesson that chivalry was not always glorious does not, however, overshadow the high sense of adventure found in the story. The story's unflinching portrayal of the unpleasant aspects of medieval life may shock some young readers, but its well-organized and exciting plot makes for entertaining reading.

Otto of the Silver Hand grew out of Pyle's research of the chivalric world in preparation for writing his Arthurian series. As he examined elements of the Arthurian tradition, Pyle became distressed with the knights' wickedness. He had hoped to write a glorious account of King Arthur's realm, but found it impossible to ignore the harshness of medieval society. Ultimately, Pyle wrote Otto of the Silver Hand to demonstrate the brutality of the era and to suggest that history is different from legend. His dramatic illustrations breathe life into the story, making it more believable.

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