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Reviewed by Carine Engelbrecht for Readers' Favorite
The character of Robin Hood has delighted readers for centuries with his daring and wit. In his exploits, he often makes fools of corrupt authority figures, but remains true to a hero's honor code. At least, that's the Robin Hood of today's popular culture. But who was he and did he even exist? In Why Everything You Know About Robin Hood Is Wrong, historian KC Murdarasi takes apart the legend of England's best known medieval robber. She dissects each aspect of the well-known tales, comparing it to available historical records. In tracking the shifting identity of Robin himself, his merry men, Maid Marian and his chief antagonists, we meet a fascinating cast of real historical suspects, but real answers remain elusive.
Although it's a short book, Why Everything You Know About Robin Hood Is Wrong is densely packed with interesting little details about medieval life. For example, in an attempt to tie the highwayman to a specific time period, KC Murdarasi expertly extracts one line from a ballad and connects it to an obscure law that lasted barely a century. Likewise, she makes a good stab at unraveling the confusion about his social class and presenting a convincing argument to connect him to a specific region. But as the possibilities multiply, one fears for a moment that the true Robin might be flushed down the drain with the bathwater. But therein lies its hidden wisdom - in how the dynamics of history can grab hold of something and change it to suit contemporary perspectives. In the end, the book demonstrates how folk tales evolve in the telling., how they are adopted and adapted because their narratives find resonance in different generations and new struggles.