Whilst staying at my mother’s cottage by the sea this week, I was leafing through her bookshelves and found a delightful children’s version of Robin Hood from the 1930’s. It had been awarded to my father for a Sunday School prize. That was a surprise in itself, because he’d never mentioned anything about going to church in his youth, let alone Sunday School. He had apparently score 85% for something or other. Knowing Dad, that’s no surprise as he was something of a high-achieving intellectual, finishing his life with a qualification in Mandarin Chinese, both written and spoken!
I found a seat in the sunroom and curled up in the late afternoon light to read. It took me about about 45 minutes. The pages were parchment-like, thick and smelling of aged paper. The illustrations were on every third or fourth page, simple line drawings with the odd coloured single page illustration.
The language was quite advanced in parts, unbelievably primary in others and in the light of what writers go through now, lightly edited to the point where I wondered if it had been edited at all.
The contents were many of the stories we know from fable, from Errol Flynn’s movie, from Richard Green’s TV series and even from the most recent BBC drama series. It seems the legend is very strong.
But the thing I found most shocking and breathtaking, was not once was Guy of Gisborne mentioned.
In its way this frees me completely in writing my novel. I can write Guy in any way I like.
What a super little find!
What a wonderful discovery! And so much all the more-so for its personal links.
One thing I definitely miss here is visiting old books shops and scouring the children’s section for beautifully illustrated works.
From my own recollection of childhood Robin Hood stories Gisborne featured very rarely. I think once or twice in the Enid Blyton version, but mostly an insignificant character used to darken the name of King John and the Sheriff of Nottingham when he appeared at all.
One thing’s for sure – with so little known about the real Gisborne, all options are open!
I do know there is a reference to Guy of Gisborne in Childe Ballad 118 and in one of my research tomes on Robin Hood there is a definite reference to Gisborne existing as the evil sidekick to the Sheriff.
But he was obviously a very very minor character in the original legend… and if that is the case, as you say it means all options are open.
The book is a delight, Mark. It has that ‘olde’ smell and what is amazing is that given it has been in a bookshelf exposed to the sun, the colours of the spine and cover are exceptionally strong and the binding itself hasn’t deteriorated in any way. Having a slight experience in bookbinding, I think that is quite astonishing given the glues they used then.
Ooh. I’m sure I’ve seen that book somewhere before!
I bet you have Simon… it probably belonged to your wonderful grandfather!
What an absolute treasure you have there in your possession. I LOVE old books and I am in heaven when I find them in thrift shops or flea markets. They’re even more special when they provide writing material, as this one obviously has. I look forward to reading your story of Gisborne.
Me too, Jenny. There’s something about the preciousness of these books, the colours, the artist’s rendition, and to be frank, the more naturally edited-style.
Prue, What a delightful visual. I felt as if I were you sitting there and reading that lovely old book. I thought I knew all about Robin Hood but I guess we didn’t get the full story in the US. …. Guy of Gisborne?
PS… I was kind of intrigued with the evil Sheriff when I was a little girl. I was always drawn to bad boys. I imagined myself as Maid Marion rehabilitating the Sheriff. Boy did I learn my lesson!
Basil Rathbone did a brilliant Sir Guy of Gisborne opposite Errol Flynn… probably my favourite.
He was mine too until I beheld RA. The swordplay between Rathbone and Flynn was amazing.
Robin Hood was one of the most important heroes of my youth. I loved the Howard Pyle version. I can’t now remember if sir Guy was in that one. I was much more interested in Alan a Dale, who doesn’t appear so much in the movie versions. Gisborne really came to prominence in that wonderful misty-pagan Robin Hood TV series in the 80s with Michael Praed.
I did a whole lot of Robin Hood research a few years ago for my modern retelling of the Robin Hood story: SHERWOOD, LTD. (due next month from MWiDP.) I have a Gisborne character–definitely not a good guy. But I’m also trying to show that Robin Hood isn’t necessarily such a good guy either–he’s the trickster–who’s exciting, but a really bad boyfriend.
The Gisborne legend seems to come from ancient Celtic roots–and got merged with the Robin Hood story around the 13th century. In the early ballads he’s a fierce warrior Robin must battle. And as I remember, it all has something to do with a lion’s skin–which suggests really primitive origins. I’m going to be very interested to see what you do with him in your version.
I have a vague memory of the Howard Pyle verion, very vague. Must try and seek it out.
And to be frank, I think the most recent BBC version displayed Robin as exactly that… self important, a trickster and a womaniser.
I am interested that you found Guy emerged from Celtic roots, that’s one aspect I haven’t come across. But certainly a fierce warrior and ultimately beheaded by Robin.
That’s certainly NOT going to happen in my version.
Looking forward to Sherwood Ltd, Anne.
Guy can be variously portrayed. In Richard Carpenter’s BBC Robin Hood (earlier than the most recent BBC version), Guy is the illegitimate son of the Earl of Huntingdon. In Angus Donald’s recent Robin Hood novel, Outlaw, Guy is an ambitious Saxon. In both cases, he is in opposition to Robin Hood, but the situation is quite different when Guy is actually Robin Hood’s half-brother (Richard Carpenter’s version). This lends a great deal more drama to their conflict. On the other hand, if you’re writing Guy as the central character without Robin Hood, you don’t need to characterize Guy with reference to his relationship with Robin Hood. You can give him his own battles to fight.
i had come across serious research that implied a blood connection between robin and Guy, hence the rabid hatred of one for the other. And ambition is a given. Or as he says in my version “Gisborne” : status is power.
Guy had such potential as a character in his own right, I wanted to see what would happen if the man had never ever been connected to Robin Hood in any way… very definitely the anti-hero and potentially a second volume. the man has great scope.
Shomeret, I should like to read Angus Donald’s version of Robin Hood if I didn’t have such an aversion to Hood himself! It may be that I have to put aside such atttitudes.
You cannot imagine how relieved I am to know that GoG will NOT be beheaded. I almost fainted when I read that. Whew! Guy is saved. Maybe. Ahhh, but we’ll have to wait and see won’t we Mis Prue???!!! 😉
Jealous of your book find! It’s like finding buried treasure isn’t it?! I adore digging thru bookshelves and desk drawers!!!
It was pure serendipity. I sat in the sun and flicked through old photo albums, turning because of the glare. A beam lit the brightly-coloured spine of Robin Hood and that was that!
Guy saved? Did I say that? Not beheaded, no, but…
Isn’t it wondering to find something like that? Once I came across a 3rd grade primer owned by my mother which would have placed it around 1931. It even had her careful childish cursive handwriting inside the cover. Priceless.
it was thrilling, meant to be. More special for being Dad’s. And for being an ‘olde’ book. I love the sound of your mother’s primer. I have Dad’s as well. And my mother’s beautiful secondary school sketch book filled with work that defies belief. She said she wasn’t an artist but I know where my daughter inherited her artistry from!
When I watched the extras of Robin of Sherwood (TV series from the mid-80s), the writer said that “the Saracen” (Nazir in the TV series) was copied in the Kevin Costner movie (but they turned him into a black infidel, played by Morgan Freeman, because that writer had made it up and The Saracen wasn’t in any original Robin Hood legend). I can’t remember if he said anything about inventing Gisborne as the sheriff’s “side-kick” (I liked the Robert Addie version of that series, BTW, and I still haven’t watched the one you and Nik rave about. Give me time, I’ll get to it, eventually! ;-)) and I can’t remember my non-fiction book on the birth of the legend either, but it might be a subsequent addition… so feel free to explore! 🙂