The Merry Adventures of
Robin Hood

Howard Pyle

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The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

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The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
of great renown in Nottinghamshire

published 1883

The Shooting-Match at Nottingham Town
“But what sayeth our good gossip Swanthold? Is it not ‘A hasty man burneth his mouth, and the fool that keepeth his eyes shut falleth into the pit?’ Thus he says, truly, therefore we must meet guile with guile.”
Little John and the Tanner of Blyth

It often comes about in this world that unlucky happenings fall upon one in such measure that it seems, as the saying is, that every cat that one strokes flies into one’s face.

[...] so, presently, looking up into the blue sky, across which bright clouds were sailing like silver boats, and swallows skimming in circling flight, quoth he, “I fear me it will rain this evening, so I’ll e’en stop at the Blue Boar till it passes by, for I know my good master would not have me wet to the skin.” So, without more ado, off he strode down the path that lay the way of his likings. Now there was no sign of any foul weather, but when one wishes to do a thing, as Little John did, one finds no lack of reasons for the doing.



“I would have thee know, fellow, that I am, as it were, one of the King’s foresters. Leastwise,” muttered he to himself, “I and my friends do take good care of our good sovereign’s deer.”
Robin Hood and Will Scarlet

“Not a drop of rain has fallen these three days, neither has any threatened, nor hath there been a sign of foul weather in earth or sky or water.”

“Nevertheless,” growled Little John, “the holy Saint Swithin holdeth the waters of the heavens in his pewter pot, and he could have poured them out, had he chosen, even from a clear sky; and wouldst thou have had me wet to the skin?”

At this Robin Hood burst into a roar of laughter. “O Little John!” said he, “what butter wits hast thou in that head of thine! Who could hold anger against such a one as thou art?”

“I would have thee know, fair friend, that I am, as it were, a votary at the shrine of Saint Wilfred, who, thou mayest know, took, willy-nilly, all their gold from the heathen, and melted it up into candlesticks. Wherefore, upon such as come hereabouts, I levy a certain toll, which I use for a better purpose, I hope, than to make candlesticks withal. Therefore, sweet chuck, I would have thee deliver to me thy purse, that I may look into it, and judge, to the best of my poor powers, whether thou hast more wealth about thee than our law allows. For, as our good Gaffer Swanthold sayeth, ‘He who is fat from overliving must needs lose blood.’ ”
Robin Hood and Allan a Dale

“It doth make a man better,” quoth Robin Hood, “to hear of those noble men that lived so long ago. When one doth list to such tales, his soul doth say, ‘Put by thy poor little likings and seek to do likewise.’ Truly, one may not do as nobly one’s self, but in the striving one is better. I mind me our good Gaffer Swanthold was wont to say, ‘He who jumps for the moon and gets it not leaps higher than he who stoops for a penny in the mud.’ ”

“Truly,” quoth Will Stutely, “it is a find thought, but, nevertheless, good master, the one gets a penny and the other gets nought, and, without the penny, one is like to go with an empty stomach. These same stories are well to listen to but ill to follow, say I.”

“By the faith of my heart,” quoth merry Robin, “thou dost ever trip up a lofty thought that gazes in the sky, and dost bring its nose in the dust.”



Robin seeketh the Curtal Friar of the Fountain

“Truly, the river hath no side but the other,” said the Friar.

“How dost thou prove that?” asked Robin.

“Why, thus,” said the Friar, noting the points upon his fingers. “The other side of the river is the other, thou grantest?”

“Yea, truly.”

“Yet the other side is but one side, thou dost mark?”

“No man could gainsay that,” said Robin.

“Then if the other side is one side, this side is the other side. But the other side is the other side, therefore both sides of the river are the other side. Q. E. D.”

“ ’T is well and pleasantly argued,” quoth Robin; “yet I am still in the dark as to whether this same Curtal Friar is upon the side of the river on which we stand or upon the side of the river on which we do not stand.”

“That,” quoth the Friar, “is a practical question upon which the cunning rules appertaining to logic touch not.”


Logic (examples)

Robin Hood compasseth the Marriage of Two True Lovers

That night there was such a feast held in the greenwood as Nottinghamshire never saw before. To that feast you and I were not bidden, and pity it is that we were not; so, lest we should both feel the matter the more keenly, I will say no more about it.

Robin Hood aideth a Sorrowful Knight

“What art thou, friend, who dost stop a traveller in this manner upon his most gracious Majesty’s highway?” said the Knight.

“Marry,” quoth Robin, “that is a question hard to answer. One man calleth me kind, another calleth me cruel; this one calleth me good, honest fellow, and that one vile thief. Truly, the world hath as many eyes to look upon a man withal as there are spots on a toad; so, with what pair of eyes thou regardest me lieth entirely with thine own self. My name is Robin Hood.”

“Was this the man who spake so boldly to your lordship?”

“Ay, truly it was the same,” said the Bishop; “a naughty fellow, I wot.”

“And didst thou, Little John,” said Robin, in a sad voice, “call his lordship a fat priest?”

“Ay,” said Little John, sorrowfully.

“And a man-eating bishop?”

“Ay,” said Little John, more sorrowfully than before.

“And a money-gorging usurer?”

“Ay,” said Little John, in so sorrowful a voice that it might have drawn tears from the Dragon of Wentley.

“Alas, that these things should be!” said jolly Robin, turning to the Bishop, “for I have ever found Little John a truthful man.”



Robin Hood turns Beggar
“Over beyond yon clump of trees is as sweet a little inn as ever thou hast lifted eyelid upon, but I go not thither, for they have a nasty way with me. Once, when the good Prior of Emmet was dining there, the landlady set a dear little tart of stewed crabs and barley-sugar upon the window-sill to cool, and, seeing it there, and fearing it might be lost, I took it with me till that I could find the owner thereof. Ever since then they have acted very ill toward me [...]
The Chase of Robin Hood

“Come, come, Little John,” quoth Robin, “leave the lass in peace, and fall to thy victuals, or thou wilt belike go with an empty stomach. Eat first and woo afterwards is as good a saying as one can open ears to.”

“Nay,” quoth Little John, boldly, “it is an ill saying for me, for who would turn to victuals and drink and let so fair a lass go, without paying heed to the sweet looks that the blessed saints have bestowed upon her? Come hither, thou dainty little duck, and pour forth some wine for me, that I may drink to thy good health, and pray the good Saint Withold that he send thee what is meet, to wit, a lord or an earl for a husband. By my soul, I would rather drink water that thou hadst poured into my cup than rich Muscat after any other she in all England!”

At this speech the other yeomen roared with laughter, and the lass looked down, blushing, and thought that Little John was as nice a lad as she had seen in all her life.

King Richard cometh to Sherwood Forest
“Hearest thou our master?” quoth he, with a sly wink. “Whenever he cometh across some poor piece of wit he straightway layeth it on the shoulders of this Gaffer Swanthold—whoever he may be—so that the poor goodman goeth travelling about with all the odds and ends and tags and rags of our master’s brain packed on his back.”

A certain one sayeth that upon a stone at Kirklees is an old inscription. This I give in the ancient English in which it was written, and thus it runs:

Hear undernead dis laitl stean
lais robert earl of huntingtun
nea arcír ver as hie sae geud
an pipl kauld im Robin Heud
sick utlaws as hi an is men
vil England nidir si agen.

Note (Hal’s):
This inscription exists, though transcriptions vary in the details. The supposed “ancient English” is spurious, and scholars have attempted to determine when and by whom it was concocted.

I was quite young—I’m unsure just how young—when I first acquired and read this book. (It’s a children’s book-club edition.) I was fine reading both modern English and Pyle’s pseudo-King-James-Bible renditions of the tales, but this bit was beyond me. I took it to my mother, who simply read it out in a way I could grasp. I recall that moment as my introduction to a whole new level of reading comprehension.

— end note

text checked (see note) Jun 2023

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