Welcome back to another round of Six Degrees of Kool Books! If you want to play, please reference THIS POST for instructions.
Last week, DJ posted about the characters in The Count of Monte Cristo, a novel which, sadly, I have never read. However, I have seen the movie, and have been meaning to get around to reading the book at some point. One of the characters he mentioned was Edmond Dantes, the wrongfully accused young man who spends years in prison, loses the woman he loves, and undergoes a drastic transformation from simple sailor to wealthy and vengeful Count. This description put me in mind of the main character in Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead. There are differences, of course, but the changes the characters go through, and the misery that precipitates those changes, are very similar.
Hood is a retelling of the legend of Robin Hood, but told in much more historical form. The main character, Bran, is the prince of Elfael. At the beginning of the book he is a spoiled, charming, irresponsible prince who has about as much respect for his position as a cat has respect for anything. He has no desire to be king, because he has no desire to be anything like his father. However, when his father and their entire army is ambushed by the Normans and slaughtered on their way to pledge allegiance to King William the Red, Bran must grow up swiftly. Although Bran, unlike Dantes, is an almost detestable character at the beginning of the book, like Edmond Dantes, Bran ap Brychan begins the story by losing everything. He loses his father, his army, and discovers that his kingdom has been awarded to some Baron who has never set foot in Elfael. He eventually loses his health as well, and is nursed back to health by a wise old woman who, in addition to helping him regain his health, also teaches him what it means to be king. The tale focuses mostly on Bran and how his sense of justice, nobility, courage, and faith grow to maturity, but the tale is not without its other characters.
In addition to Bran, all the normal characters from the Robin Hood tale also show up. Merian is present. Bran has been attempting to woo her for a while, but in addition to being beautiful, Merian is wise and cautious, and has been discouraging his advances, knowing the prince to be less than noble at the beginning of the book. You get to know her better in the rest of the trilogy, and she is noble and courageous and lovely, a character certainly worth rooting for.
We also see Iwan, the only one of King Brychan’s army to survive the ambush and massacre. He is an excellent warrior and a loyal friend. Iwan is steadfast and true, and exactly the sort of man Bran will need as his right hand if he ever decides to grow up and take his rightful place on the throne protecting his people from the tyrannical rule of the Normans.
Another notable character is Angharad, the wise old woman who find Bran when he is wounded in the woods. She is a sorceress of sorts, and
possesses great healing arts. But her mission is not simply to restore Bran to health, but to guide him towards being the king that Elfael needs.
We also meet Brother Aethelfrith, who soon becomes referred to by Iwan as “Friar Tuck” because he cannot pronounce the priest’s name. The companions meet him as they flee Lundein (London) and take refuge in the good friar’s oratory. Aethelfrith takes pity on their plight and urges them to stay the night so he can feed them and tend to Iwan’s wounds. You learn a lot more about Tuck in the final book of the trilogy, but he remains a stalwart supporter of Bran, a wise counsellor, and a true friend. He also has a quick wit, which can often provide relief for the companions in the face of danger and treachery.
The cast list is pretty short, especially in Hood itself, and the only character that really gets well-developed is Bran… the other characters need to percolate a bit and really come into their own in Scarlet and Tuck. But hopefully something in there will spark a link to next week’s round of Six Degrees anyway. It’s a very different take on the Robin Hood legend, but it is an enjoyable tale. The story meanders a bit in the middle, but it’s the sort of meandering that a reader can get lost in, if they will let themselves.