So you’ve heard all about how Robin Hood was dashing and witty, made a fool of the Sheriff of Nottingham, won the golden arrow, saved Maid Marian, stole from the rich and gave to the poor, and was rewarded for it all by good King Richard, and it’s all old stuff, right? Think again; the novels below bring new excitement to the ancient tales, most with some sort of twist.
The Forestwife by Teresa Tomlinson is a completely new take on the legends of Robin Hood. It’s rather more believable than other versions, also, with very little theatrical swashbuckling. Fifteen-year-old Mary de Holt is to be forced into marrying a man more than twice her age when she makes a run for Ecclesall Woods. There she comes to be known as Marian, and an assistant to the Forestwife. As more people seek the Forestwife’s help, a band of people forms; soon it grows to include a group of renegade nuns, a charcoal burner’s daughter, and the young men who follow the teasing Robert of Loxley. All of whom, for various reasons, become outlaws.
The second book in the series, Child of the May, turns the role of main character over to Magda, daughter of Little John. Magda is tired of her mundane life in the forest and longs to go on adventures with Robert and her father.
Both books are unique and unforgettable, making me very sad that I have not been able to get my hands on a copy of the last book, The Path of the She Wolf; unfortunately it has not been published in the U.S. and is much harder to find.
A young mute boy known as Dummy escapes from his harsh master and makes his way to Sherwood, where he literally falls into Robin’s Country. Once past their initial suspicion, the Merry Men take Dummy on as a sort of apprentice to their good-natured thievery. Here in Robin’s sanctuary, for almost the first time he can remember, Dummy is cared for and respected. As he makes friends among the outlaws, Dummy’s voice and memories of his past begin to return, and he may remember surprising things about his previous life. As usual, Monica Furlong fashions a quickly engaging novel about learning the ways of life and making your place in the world, which is suitable and younger readers, but equally enjoyable for teens and adults.
Nancy Springer brings readers an intriguing version in which Marian never makes an appearance. After her mother’s sudden death, 13-year-old Rosemary sets off to find the father she never knew...Robin Hood himself. Befriended by a wolf-dog and the ancient and mysterious aelfe, Ro eventually finds the outlaw’s hideout. But Robin doesn’t know he ever fathered a child—or that Ro is a girl—and Ro feels she must prove herself before she tells him who she really is. The series has a good strong-girl theme without being sexist (the boys in the band get their spotlights, too) or unrealistic, as Ro and her friends wrestle with loyalties and leadership. Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is the first of five books in the Tales of Rowan Hood series; don’t miss the rest of the maiden outlaw’s adventures in Lionclaw, Outlaw Princess of Sherwood, Wild Boy, and Rowan Hood Returns.
The Outlaws of Sherwood—once past the slow beginning—tells a good tale, but the characters don’t really stand out from one another, and Robin McKinley’s writing is sometimes confusing because she adds so many interjections into a sentence. Still, if you can get into the writing style the story is worth reading and enjoyable, with a few new characters appearing.
More Robin Hood Stories for YA & Juvenile Readers: The Gallows in the Greenwood, by Phyllis Ann Karr
Sherwood: Original Stories from the World of Robin Hood, by Jane Yolen and various authors
Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest, by Ann McGovern
Young Marian’s Adventures in Sherwood Forest, by Stephen Mooser