Read an Excerpt
By Bob Blaisdell, Thea Kliros
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1994 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Robin Hood and Little John
ROBIN HOOD was born long, long ago in Locksley town, not far from Nottingham. As a boy Robin worked in Sherwood Forest with his father, a forester who planted and nursed the trees in the King's woodlands. Robin's father was an expert with the bow and arrow, and Robin learned to shoot a bow from him. Robin's mother was the niece of a knight, Sir Jervey. Her brother was Gamwell, a squire of famous degree, of Great Gamwell Hall. Robin was sixteen when his parents died of an illness. So unhappy was he that he wandered the forest for several days. Finally he grew so hungry he shot his bow and killed a deer.
In Sherwood Forest all the deer belonged to the King and, unluckily for young Robin, the Sheriff of Nottingham, a young man then himself, captured and arrested him for the killing of that deer and of many others. Robin pleaded innocent to the killing of all but the one, saying that he had been lost and hungry, grieving for his parents. Nevertheless, the Sheriff sentenced Robin to death by hanging.
At the last moment a band of men, bold thieves and hunters who lived in a lodge in the forest, rescued Robin from the scaffold. He then joined them in their adventures and, thanks to his wits and skill in archery, soon became their leader.
When Robin Hood was about twenty years old, he met Little John. Though called "Little," his limbs were large and his height was seven feet, and wherever he went, people quaked in their shoes.
The day they met, Robin said to his jolly men, "Wait here in this grove and listen for my signal. I shall search the forest for deer to shoot or a rich man to rob."
When he came to a small stream, he happened to meet an enormous young stranger halfway across the narrow footbridge. Neither man would make way for the other, and so they had a standstill. Robin Hood, who had a temper, said, "I'll show you," and drew an arrow to his bow.
The black-bearded stranger answered, his voice a growl, "I'll thrash you well, my puny man, if you dare to twitch your bowstring."
"You donkey!" said Robin. "If I bend my bow at you, in an instant I can send an arrow through your heart."
"You are a coward," the stranger replied. "You have a bow with arrows to shoot at me, while I have nothing but a staff in my hand."
"A coward!" said Robin, who had never been addressed so. "Not I! I'll set down my bow and fetch myself a staff."
Robin Hood went back along his path and found a staff of oak, and returned to his place on the bridge. "I'm ready, bold man. Look at my staff, and here on this bridge, we'll have a contest. Whoever falls in, the other shall win, and so by that we'll settle this."
"I agree," said the stranger. "I'm happy to compete."
They fell into battle and swung their strong staffs. At first Robin gave the stranger a bang so hard it made the big man's bones ring. The staggered stranger said, "I'll give as good as I got."
So to it again they went, their staffs in a whirl, and the giant of a man gave Robin such a crack on the skull that Robin saw red. Then Robin Hood, enraged, went at it more fiercely, and struck at the stranger harder. The stranger laughed at Robin's fury. Robin, too mad to see straight, because this man seemed to mock him, lost his balance, was struck by the stranger's powerful staff, and tumbled into the stream.
"I ask you, friend," laughed the stranger, "where are you now?"
They fell into battle and swung their strong staffs.
"I see I'm in the stream," said Robin, his temper now cooled in the cold, rushing stream. "I must acknowledge your strength. I shall no longer fight you—you have won."
Robin waded up onto the bank, and then blew his horn. His men came, clothed in green, to the spot.
"What's the matter?" said Midge the miller's son. "Good master, you're wet to the skin."
"This man knocked me in," said Robin.
"We'll get him for that," said Will Stutely.
Robin cried out, "You will find he's tough." Will took a swing at the stranger, but soon found himself taking a bath in the stream. Midge the miller's son tried to outsmart the big stranger, but the stranger's great strength was smarter than Midge's smarts. Midge, too, was soon sitting in the stream.
"Who else?" cried the stranger.
Now Robin said, "No one will attack you again, my friend. But why not join us and wear our cloak of green? I'll teach you how to use the bow and arrow to shoot at fat deer."
"I like deer," said the stranger. "But where do you find deer that don't belong to the King?"
"Right here in my forest," said Robin Hood. "The deer belong to the forest, and the forest belongs to those who live in it. I and my men live here, and these are our deer."
"And what about the Sheriff of Nottingham ?" asked the stranger. "He does not see it the way you do. He serves the King and sets traps and hangs those who hunt the King's deer."
"The Sheriff is our foe, and the deer are ours to eat, as they are any honest man's. The deer belonged to the forest before they belonged to any king. We defend the rights of poor, hungry men to hunt for their food. The King will have to bear this. Please join us."
"I'll join you," said the stranger. "I swear I'll serve you faithfully. I'm a poor man, too. My name is John Little."
"His name should be changed," said Midge. "It's backwards, I think." At the feast which then followed, Robin and the men, as a joke, rechristened him Little John.
"We live here like squires," Robin told him. "We feast on good meat, wine and ale. We have the forest at our command. You are so grand and fine a fellow, you shall be my right- hand man."
"Very good," replied Little John. "And you shall be my lord."CHAPTER 2
Sir Richard and His Castle
ONE AFTERNOON Little John said to Robin Hood, "Master, it's about time you ate. It would do you good."
Robin Hood answered, "I do not feel like eating today, unless I have some rich and worthy knight as my guest, a man who might pay us for a feast."
"Tell us, then," said Little John, "where to go and whom to rob."
"Of course you must not rob any poor men, nor any good men that are squires. But rich churchmen, nobles and knights are fair game," said Robin Hood. "Take your good bow in your hand, Little John, and let Midge and Will Stutely go with you. Wait for our unknown guest, be he an earl, baron, bishop or knight, and bring him here to me."
Little John led the men and waited by the highway, till finally riding from the town there came a sad and grieving knight. Little John stepped out into the highway and went down on one knee. "Welcome, sir knight," politely said Little John. "Welcome to Sherwood Forest. My master is waiting for you to come to dinner."
"Who is your master?" asked the knight.
Little John said, "Robin Hood."
"I have heard good things of Robin Hood. I agree to go with you, my friends." Even so, the knight was sad as he followed Little John, Midge and Will. There was some trouble on his mind that Little John could not discover. They brought him to the lodge door where Robin and all the men lived. When Robin saw him, he too went down on his knee. "Welcome, sir knight, you are welcome to our home. I have been waiting to serve you dinner."
The knight answered, "Thank you, Robin, and all your good men."
They washed and then sat down together to dine. They had bread and wine, and good deer steaks, swans, pheasants and waterfowl.
"Did you enjoy your meal?" asked Robin.
"Thank you," said the knight. "Such a dinner I have not had in many a year. If I ever come to your country again, Robin, I shall prepare for you a dinner as splendid as this you made me."
"Whenever I serve a dinner, sir knight, I am never so greedy as to eat it alone. Tell me your name now. But I must tell you, I expect you to pay for this dinner. Our rule here is that the rich must pay."
"My name is Sir Richard," said the sad knight, "but I am ashamed to say that I have no more than ten pennies."
"If you have no more than ten, I will not charge you a penny. And if you have need of any money, I shall lend it to you," said Robin Hood. "Little John, please look and see if what the knight says is so."
Little John looked through the knight's moneybox, and then went to his master. "It is true," he said.
"How is it," said Robin to the knight, "that you have lost your riches?"
"I had a son, good Robin, who jousted with a knight. When in that fight my son was killed, I paid out money to find his slayer, one Guy of Gisborne. The money that I paid out to marksmen and Sheriff's men was never returned. I had to borrow more from a rich bishop nearby to continue my search, but the bishop now demands his money when he knows I have nothing with which to repay him. He will take my land and my castle and put myself and my daughter out."
"What is the sum you owe him?" asked Robin. "Please tell me."
"Four hundred gold pieces," said the knight. Tears fell out of his eyes, and he turned to go away.
"Where are your friends?" asked Robin Hood.
"Robin," said Sir Richard, "they do not know me any more, for shame of my poverty."
"Come here," said Robin Hood to Little John, "and go to my treasure room, and bring me four hundred gold pieces. We are going to help a sad knight who has fallen into poverty."
Sir Richard blessed Robin, and thanked him countless times. Robin felt glad to help such a knight.
On that very evening Little John accompanied the knight on his way to the bishop's palace. The bishop was waiting there to take possession of the castle nearby unless Sir Richard paid him in full by sunset the next day.
When morning came, Sir Richard's daughter Marian was in the castle gathering up their few remaining goods, for she believed that they were losing the castle and land that day.
The bishop was sitting at his dinner table at home, when knocks on the door announced the knight was at the gate.
"Welcome, Sir Richard," said the porter. "The bishop and his men are waiting for you now."
The knight went forth and into the bishop's hall, and kneeled down and saluted the bishop and his men, including Robin's enemy, the Sheriff of Nottingham. "I have come on the day of payment," said Sir Richard.
"Have you brought me my money?" said the bishop.
"Not one penny," said the knight.
"You are terribly in my debt," said the bishop, laughing. "Why are you here if you do not mean to pay me for the loan?"
"I ask you," said Sir Richard, "to give me more time."
"Your time is up," said the Sheriff, the bishop's friend.
"Please, good Sheriff," said Sir Richard, "won't you speak for me?"
"I will not do that," said the Sheriff.
"Then, good bishop," said Sir Richard, "allow me to be your servant till I may pay you back
"No," said the bishop. "I have a fancy for your land."
"Do you not know," asked Sir Richard, "that it is good to help a friend in need?"
"Get out, poor man!" cried the bishop. "Get out of my hall!"
Sir Richard now jumped up and strode toward the bishop. At the bishop's feet he dropped a heavy sack. "Here is your gold, bishop," said the knight. "It is all the money that you loaned to me. Had you been decent to me I would have paid you more!"
The bishop sat still at his table, and could not eat another bite. Sir Richard turned and left the bishop's hall and rode home in triumph on his horse.
"Welcome, father," sweet Marian greeted him. "Is it true, then, that all we have is lost?"
"Be happy, my daughter," said Sir Richard. "And let us thank Robin Hood. He gave me gold to pay the bishop. If not for Robin's kindness, we would be beggars now."
Sir Richard then managed his land and estate so well that within one year he was able to return to Sherwood Forest and repay Robin all of his gold. In addition, as a present, he gave Robin a splendid feast and one hundred beautiful silver arrows, which very much pleased Robin's merry men. So began Robin's friendship with Sir Richard, and so began the fondness that Marian, the knight's daughter, felt for Robin.CHAPTER 3
IN SUMMERTIME, when the leaves grow green, and the flowers are fresh and bright, Robin Hood and his men were disposed to play. Some would leap, some would run, and some would shoot their bows. Will Stutely shot a target from three hundred feet, and Midge shot one from four hundred, and finally Little John shot one from five hundred.
"That's such a good shot," remarked Robin Hood, "I'd ride my horse a hundred miles to find an archer as fine as you, Little John."
This made Will Stutely laugh. "There lives a Friar Tuck who will beat both him and you. He can draw a bow so well, he'll beat all of us in a row." Will said the friar lived beyond Sherwood Forest by a stream, and he described the enormous and powerful friar so that anyone might know him.
Robin vowed then he wouldn't eat or drink till he saw this Friar Tuck. He put on his gear and his sword, and took his bow in hand. Wearing a sheaf of arrows at his belt, he set out on his horse.
When he passed through Sherwood Forest and came to the wide, cold stream he saw a strong, big man, whose head was round and shaved on top, though his face was bearded. He wore a loose brown robe and a string of prayer beads—these signs showed he was a friar. At his side he had a broadsword and a small shield.
Robin Hood saw that he had found his man and leapt off his horse. Then he approached the friar and said, "Carry me over this stream, Friar Tuck, or else your life is done."
The friar said nothing but set Robin Hood on his back and strode out into the water. When he got to the middle of the stream, without saying a word, he tossed Robin off his back into the water. "It's your choice," now said the friar, "whether you will sink or swim."
Robin Hood swam to the bank of the stream and so did Friar Tuck.
But Robin was angry and took his bow in hand and let fly an arrow at the friar. Friar Tuck blocked that arrow with the shield at his belt. Robin Hood shot till his arrows were gone. Then he and the friar took their swords and shields and fought like fierce beasts from ten o'clock that day till four in the afternoon.
Finally Robin sank to his knees with weariness and asked the friar for a favor. "0 Friar Tuck, I beg for a favor on my knees. Allow me to set my horn to my mouth and to blow a blast three times."
"That I will allow," said the friar. "I hope, indeed, you'll blow so hard your eyes and cheeks pop out."
Robin Hood set his horn to his mouth and blew loud three times. Fifty of his merry men with bows in hand came running from the forest. "Whose men are these," asked Friar Tuck, "that come so fast?"
"They are mine," said Robin. "What is it to you ?"
"A favor, a favor," said the friar. "Grant me one, just as I granted one to you. Let me put my fingers to my mouth to whistle three times."
"I will let you," said Robin, "or else I should seem unfair."
The friar put two fingers to his mouth and whistled loudly three times. And just as soon as he did, fifty-two savage dogs came running to the friar. "For every man there's a dog," said Friar Tuck. "And for you, I myself and two!" The dogs at once went for Robin and tore off his cloak. Robin was bitten and nipped so hard he yelped.
Little John, seeing his master's danger, cried out to the friar, "Call off your dogs, or else I'll shoot them down."
"Hold your bow, friend," said Friar Tuck, for he loved his dogs quite well. "Do not shoot my pets, and your master and I will make a deal."
So Robin said, "Friar, if you will forsake this life by the stream, you may come and live with us in Sherwood, be our chaplain, and share our merriness, wine and gold."
Now Friar Tuck had lived here by the stream for more than seven years, and no one had been able to persuade him to leave . . . until Robin did this day. "I like your service, I think I'll join."
"Welcome, friend. My name is Robin Hood."
"And I am, as you know, good Friar Tuck."CHAPTER 4
Robin Hood and Allen a Dale
ROBIN HOOD was an outlaw, but he did poor men many good deeds. One day as Robin Hood stood under the leaves of the greenwood tree, he saw a young man come drooping along the way. Every step the young man took he sighed, "Oh, what a woeful day!"
Out from the trees at him stepped Little John and Midge the miller's son. The young man saw them, bent his bow and said, "Stand back! What do you want with me?"
"You need to come see our master under yonder greenwood tree," said Midge.
The young man nodded at the well-armed men and went along, and Robin asked, "Have you money to spare my men and me?"
"I have no money," the young man said, "except five pennies and a ring, a ring I've held for seven long years, to have it at my wedding. But yesterday, I was supposed to marry a maid, and she was taken from me and chosen to be, instead, an old knight's delight today."
"What is your name?" asked Robin Hood.
"My name is Allen a Dale."
"What will you give me, young Allen a Dale, to get you to your true love and your true love to you?"
"I have no money," the young man said, "but I would become one of your merry men if you could make that happen."
"How many miles is it to your true love, Allen?"
"It is only five miles."
Then Robin and his men and Allen set out across the plain. When Robin came to the church where Allen was to have been married, he left the men behind and entered.
Excerpted from Robin Hood by Bob Blaisdell, Thea Kliros. Copyright © 1994 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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