By Angus Donald
I have always been a fan of Robin Hood, in all but one guise (yes guess!) so I’m biased before I start.
It’s a brilliant portrayal, with religion, politics, action, dirt, mud, blood and anger. We’re looking at Robin from a different face in the crowd, and the perspective is refreshing, as is Robin. Not always a good man, a real man. I could rave and rave about this, but the best option is to buy the book and read it yourself – I was blown away!
The plot centres around a character named Alan Dale, based on the historical Alan-a-Dale. Alan, who comes from abject poverty often going hungry for days, is caught in the middle of Nottingham stealing a hot beef pie. He manages to escape immediate punishment by running away and, as the notorious outlaw Robert Odo (Robin Hood’s real name in the novel) is holding court in the local church, his mother pays for Alan to be taken into his service, saving him from the Sheriff of Nottingham’s vicious justice.
Alan never sees his mother again as he departs that night to live in the vast expanse of Sherwood Forest under the tutelage of the most notorious outlaw in English folklore. A few days later it emerges that Robin was close friends with Alan’s father, an exceptional trouvére or minstrel, which leads Robin to take Alan under his wing and become his mentor.
As the legend of the outlaw Robin Hood spread in the coming centuries, it was said that Robin was a contemporary and supporter of king Richard the Lionheart, driven to outlawry during the misrule of Richard’s brother John while Richard was away at the Third Crusade, but this is not the story that spreads during Alan’s and Robin’s own time. At the time, it is even rumored that Robin was granted a king’s pardon which he later repudiates and returns to the greenwood.