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In My Honest Opinion

This is the section where I get to express my various opinions in the form of reviews of Robin Hood books, movies, and tv shows. If I've read it or seen it, here's the place where I tell you whether you should too and why. <g> It's all just my opinion so feel free to disagree.

Scale: 4 arrows=wonderful
3 arrows=very good
2 arrows=pretty good/okay
1 arrow=not good
0 arrows=terrible

Books // Movies // TV Shows

Robin Hood Books

Lady of the Forest - Three arrows
Author: Jennifer Roberson

The story focuses on the legend of Robin Hood from Marian's point of view. Marian's beauty is sometimes over emphasized, but she is a fairly strong woman overall. The prose can be a little bit purple, but it's an entertaining read. Also well done is the complex interweaving of the characters and the way the outlaws are forced into interaction with each other.

Interesting takes on the legend: Robin Hood/Robert of Huntington is a Crusader who has just returned to England after being captured by the Saracens. He is a close friend and confidante to King Richard, and becomes an outlaw stealing for the King's ransom.

Lady of Sherwood - Two arrows
Author: Jennifer Roberson

This is the sequel to Lady of the Forest. In my opinion it's not as good, mainly because there's too much rehashing of the first novel. While I'm sure it's helpful to those who haven't read the novel to provide backstory, it seems overdone and becomes annoying. The descriptions can be repetitive. Some of the storylines and scenes are interesting, but as a whole, the plot is less intricate and therefore, less involving. There's little time for adventurous exploits when the main characters just keep riding back and forth between different castles trying to save Marion's lands.

Interesting takes on the legend: This book introduces Mercardier, the head of King Richard's mercenaries, as a pivotal character.

Locksley - Two arrows
Author: Nicholas Chase

There are some interesting ideas in this book, and it's certainly a different take on the legend. It's set during the familiar King Richard/King John time period, but this author's vision of Robin's life is very different from the other books I've read. It's first person from Robin's POV, and just in my personal preference, I didn't really like the person Robin was in this book. The book is also divided into four parts, with his stint in Sherwood being somewhat glossed over. There's more emphasis on the political intrigues, and his involvement in them. The other reason I only gave it two stars, is because the pacing is pretty slow. There's a lot of historical detail, which is great I'm sure for people interested in the period. But I got bogged down in it. And the writing style (Robin's voice) is also pretty formal, which can make it harder to get really drawn in.

Interesting takes on the legend: Marian is Robin's sister, not his love interest. There's a really different take on the rescue of Marian and how the outlaws get into the castle (I won't give it away here.) Robin is intimately involved in not just the paying of King Richard's ransom, but also the murder of Arthur of Brittany, the Magna Carta, and a bunch of other events based on history.

The Forestwife - Two and a half arrows
Author: Theresa Tomlinson

This is Marian's story. Robin and the band play a part, but it's very much secondary to Marian's adventures and personal journey from coddled child to capable woman. Also, there is a romantic thread for Robin and Marian, but it's not that prominent. The book is sort of episodic, with chapters (especially in the beginning) centered around incidents that gather Marian's band of friends together. Lots of emphasis on conditions during King Richard's reign, especially conditions for women. Strong women characters. It's a young adult book so it's a bit less complex (and shorter) than the others listed, but not too patronising.

Interesting takes on the legend: Marian is much more a crusader for justice than Robin is at first. He's more interested in fighting battles for King Richard, and really only starts helping the people for her sake and the sake of his mother.

The Outlaws of Sherwood - Three and a half arrows
Author: Robin McKinley

McKinley is one of my favorite authors, and this book is entirely charming. It's very funny, exciting and engaging. It's shorter than some of the others, and seems a bit more modern in sensibility at times, but overall it's got a great balance of humor and drama. One of the most fun Robin Hood tales I've read, but it doesn't degenerate into silliness.

Interesting takes on the legend: Robin is only an average archer, Marian is the one who wins the archery prize. Robin is a very reluctant hero, practical to the core, while Marian and Much are the idealists who urge him into his role.

Sherwood - Four arrows
Author: Parke Godwin

My favorite Robin Hood novel. The writing is excellent, the storyline is great, the feel is intensely realistic. Everything rings true, and the characters are wonderfully shaded with various hues of gray instead of being written as black and white, good vs. evil.

Interesting takes on the legend: It's set in the time of William the Conqueror rather than Richard. Marian is a peasant instead of a high-born lady. The Sheriff truly respects Robin and they actually end up fighting together.

Robin and the King - Three arrows
Author: Parke Godwin

Sequel to Sherwood.
Sequels never seem to quite live up to the original. This one is good, but not as good. William dies and Robin is called into service to his son. Eventually he returns to outlawry because he cannot support the new King's methods.

Interesting takes on the legend: Both books have a lot of emphasis on English (Saxon) law; this one especially. Robin's fight for justice is based on the idea of rational, codified law.


Robin Hood Movies

The Adventure of Robin Hood - Two arrows
(1938 - Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland)

I gave this an extra arrow for pure kitsch value. I know it's considered a classic and Errol Flynn is considered "the" Robin Hood by some people. But frankly, I'd only recommend it as something to watch with a couple friends if you're in the mood to laugh. It's over the top. That basically sums it up. Historically, it's pretty much inaccurate, costumes, props, large chunks of the storyline, the whole bit. The story is basic, and not bad. The acting is kind of melodramatic. The action sequences are more funny than exciting, but that can be said of the whole movie. Sometimes the Saxon=good, Norman=evil oversimplifications can be too much. Granted, it was made in 1938, but just because it's old doesn't mean it's a classic in my book. And on a parting note...Robin's first costume has glittery spangles on it. Okay? :)

Robin Hood - Two arrows
(1973 - Disney)

Robin Hood as a fox? If you can get past the fact that it's fairly dumbed down for kids with silly animation and the fact that a lot of it is just played up for laughs, it does hit on the main parts of the legend (archery contest, rescue of Maid Marian, etc.) But it's really fairly un-original as far as storyline goes, pretty much takes up the Errol Flynn story and adds a lot more (intentional) humor.

Robin Hood: Prince of Theives - Two and a half arrows
(1991 - Kevin Costner)

Robin Hood as a cranky American with a wandering British accent?
I like this one okay, but I only saw it once. There's some interesting things in it like Morgan Fairchild as a Saracen (remind anyone of RoS?), and the look of it is beautiful. I'm torn between how neat their giant tree village was and how horribly stupid it would have been for a band of outlaws to tie themselves to one place in such an obvious manner. That's the basic problem of the movie I think...it looks neat but if you think about it at all you end up going...this would never have worked in real life. Interesting that they included the character of the Sheriff's "witch," adding the mystical element also reminded me of RoS. Overall, it's not great. It's not terrible, but it doesn't really do the story justice.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights - Two arrows
(1993 - Cary Elwes)

It's a spoof so it's not really attempting any kind of historical accuracy or legitimacy. Silly, often stupid humor, some of the jokes fall very flat. However, there are some hilarious moments. Cary Elwes is great. It's better if you see Prince of Thieves first since the plot is a direct spoof on that version of Robin Hood. (There's also a lot of spoofing of Errol Flynn.) I saw them in reverse order and ended up laughing at parts of Prince of Thieves as I got some of the Men in Tights jokes I had missed.

Robin Hood - Three arrows
(1991 - Uma Thurman & Patrick Bergin)

My favorite Robin Hood movie. It was made for tv which makes it even more impressive that I think it's better than the big budget Prince of Theives. It's not my favorite portrayal of Robin, the actor is too old for the role I think. Unlike a lot of other tellings, the character is outlawed basically for his own vanity. The outlaws also only begin to give back money to protect themselves when the prices on their heads are raised. It's interesting to see a more fallible Robin especially because he does acknowledge his own faults, but it's also a little jarring if you prefer a more heroic Robin. The interplay between Will and Robin is very nice and snappy. I like Uma Thurman's Maid Marian a lot. She has a mind of her own and disguises herself as a boy to join the outlaws. Great blend of humor and action in this movie, the tone is often light and the movie is fun, but it doesn't mock the characters and it has a nice dark, damp England in the winter feel to it. It plays on the Norman/Saxon thing, but with a lighter touch than Errol Flynn's bludgeon tactic. Instead of the Sheriff of Nottingham a Norman baron who is Robin's friend is forced to outlaw him, nice shades of gray as he has to question where his loyalties really lie.


Robin Hood TV Shows

Robin of Sherwood - Four arrows

Well obviously this is my favorite. :)
Perfect blend of humor, tragedy, action, mysticism and realism. The sets and costumes are gritty and realistic, so are the the characters. None of them sink into stereotypes, all of them have something to offer to the group. The interplay between the outlaws and between the Sheriff and Guy is great fun. The stories are well told. The action is fast-paced, but there's more to it than just sword-play. The show never loses sight of the fact that Robin is fighting for a greater good, for people other than himself. It just holds together well as a whole, even after changing Robins. I think that the change in Robins was actually one of the best things about the show...using both of them gave us a chance to see Robin in more than one light...how different men react to filling the same role.

Maid Marian and her Merry Men - Two 1/2 arrows

This one is pure farce. And it's fun for a few episodes. Marian is the brains behind the operation, Robin is an utter fool in love with himself, and the merry men aren't much better. It's cute and not meant to be anything but funny. It gets old after a while, but it gets laughs the first couple times.

The New Adventures of Robin Hood - No arrows

BAD! Just terrible. No offense to any fans of the show, but I could only stomach one episode in its entirety and only a couple more even just watching snippets. It's historically RADICALLY inaccurate. It's poorly conceived, poorly acted by several of the characters. It's intended to take a lighthearted action-adventure approach like Xena or Hercules, but it makes no attempt at accuracy and it's carelessly done. It's just not worth watching unless you want to laugh at the concept of Mongols invading Britain and being stopped by Robin Hood, or at the villagers in their flourescent clothing.

Star Trek: The Next Generation (episode title: Qpid) - Three arrows

Just including this one for fun. Q puts Picard and his crew into a Robin Hood setting and the Captain has to save his Lady Marian (Vash). Largely played for laughs, it's a fun episode, lots of great lines (like Worf snapping "I am NOT a merry man") and cute gags like Troi shooting Data during target practice. Vash is really entertaining as Maid Marian because she's completely willing to marry the Sheriff if it'll save her head and she and Picard argue like an old married couple over who screwed up the rescue. Catch it in re-runs if you can, definitely worth a look.