Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Outlaws of Sherwood

The Outlaws of Sherwood

Robin McKinley

Date: 01 August, 1989   —   $6.50   —   Book

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Fiction, Fantasy

There are two traditional English myths, Robin Hood and King Arthur. Some children are drawn to one and some to the other, and usually it is either one or the other. I was a Robin Hood child, drawn to the idea of outlaws living in the forest.

McKinley's tale is sometimes marketed toward juveniles, and does feel somewhat like a coming-of-age novel. In her afterword, she explains that she worried about her interpretation until she read of how Robin Hood is always retold to resonate with the time. Therefore, her characters have concerns much like ours would be, and speak in an easy, unaffected manner the way we would.

She does not neglect to examine the hardships that would come from living in the forest. Few people today know what it is like to have to survive a winter in a time before chimneys, let alone out in the open sky or in a little bit of a cave. She makes Robin fairly prosaic, but shows how the myth can outpace the man... and has Marian as the one who realizes what is happening.

Many of the traditional details still appear in her retelling but seem entirely normal witin the context. The ending always struck me as sad, not because of the circumstances but because they have taken the best choice open to them, and that is a thin comfort indeed when viewed from our perspective... we who can, indeed, have it all much of the time.

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