This book is insane! The first part is a retelling of the Robin Hood story, or more precisely a retelling of Henry Gilbert’s 1912 Robin Hood, which is...moreThis book is insane! The first part is a retelling of the Robin Hood story, or more precisely a retelling of Henry Gilbert’s 1912 Robin Hood, which is puzzling in and of itself. Why bother writing a less artful version of a book that already exists? The second part is an glossary of “people and places,” which is largely taken up by characters from the Gilbert retelling you just read. This means that you get the same stories as in the first part, only this time in alphabetical order by character. Variants and conflicting versions (of which of course a great many exist) get no mention at all. Make no mistake this is a 116-page guide to the first 113 pages of the book.
(The glossary is padded out with period information, such as a complete translation of the Magna Carta.)
The third part of the book is made up of primary source material, but try looking up some of the characters from these ballads in the glossary. Renett Brown? Clim of the Clugh? Queen Catherine? None of them have entries, simply because they weren’t in the one part of the book the glossary was based on.
I cannot get over how crazy this is. Dixon-Kennedy touts the glossary as covering “all the players and places mentioned in the legends,” but “the legends” doesn’t mean the legends, it means the one retelling of the legends he favors. This leads him to absurdities, such as claiming that Robin Hood only meets the Sheriff of Nottingham three times. Yeah, he only meets him three times in Gilbert! Rome, we are told, “is only mentioned in the legends once,” meaning Dixon-Kennedy only typed it once in his Gilbert rephrasing.
Imagine calling a book “The King Arthur Handbook,” and then providing a list of all the characters from the movie Excalibur. That’s what this book is like.
The old ballads reprinted in part three are pretty cool, though.(less)
This book asserts (more than once) that Aboriginal culture is "by far the oldest continuing culture on earth," and that these stories themselves are t...moreThis book asserts (more than once) that Aboriginal culture is "by far the oldest continuing culture on earth," and that these stories themselves are tens of thousands of years old, a difficult claim to prove, or even support; equating technological level with culture is more of a nineteenth-century fallacy than a modern one, and even consistency of, say, artwork, hardly demonstrates that the art meant anything close to the same thing to the different people producing it over time. And how do you prove the antiquity of oral tradition? There have been various attempts, but they all rely on a comparative method that would be difficult to apply in Australia.
So these claims sound to me like a fantasy, but, hey, what do I know? Something's gotta be oldest, right?
Except one of these stories is so clearly not tens of thousands of years old -- it could scarcely have been written before the mid-sixties, and probably not before the mid-eighties, with its cloying emphasis on tolerance and self-esteem.
The books has other flaws (and even other strengths, such as the art), but this is the fatal one. If you're going to make exaggerated claims about the antiquity of some stories, you should try harder not to include an obvious modern fake. (less)