I’ve always been a fan of Robin Hood stories. Roguish heroes living in England’s Middle Ages make my anglophilic heart happy. Recently, I ordered Hood from my library to see how it held up to legend.
(I love the library delivery service…I do believe I will be using it even more in the near future.)
Anyhow, Hood by Stephen Lawhead was a mixed bag in my opinion. Lawhead is an expert in Celtic mythology, so major points for historical authenticity. That certainly provides a richness of detail and underlining continuity of setting. This is I think why the author has been compared to Tolkien. He also sets the story in Wales instead of the traditional England. The book contains his explanation of why he chose this as the setting, and I find it very interesting. Anyone who enjoys history, Robin Hood, legends, etc. will enjoy Lawhead’s explanation.
The main thing I didn’t enjoy about the story was the pacing. The first three fourths of the story simply felt slow. I have no idea how this could have been improved, and I don’t claim to have Lawhead’s credentials by any means; it just didn’t grab my interest in the vice grip I was expecting.
But I’d like to highlight the two main female characters in Hood. They are better written than another female character of Lawhead’s and deserve attention. Secondly, one of them illustrates an important theme in Lawhead’s writings.
Merian (pretend her name has an accent) is patriotic and sensitive to duties. I found her to be a good change of pace from the female character of Lawhead’s Taliesin, Charis (the only other Lawhead female character I’m familiar with). Unlike Charis, Merian is a believable character because the reader is given a look into her thoughts and perceptions on the world around her. We’re shown her struggles. She has a consistent character, illustrated by her values and the decisions she makes based on them. Merian undergoes realistic changes without losing her identifiable personality.
I always find the religion in Lawhead’s stories intriguing as well. In Hood, one of the most obvious and interesting examples of Lawhead’s understanding of Celtic religion and his own Christian worldview is found in the character Angharad. Old, ugly, and practicing mysterious rituals, she appears to fit the stereotypical witch, or druid. Fulfilling a nurturing, healing role, readers will recognize that there’s more to her than first meets the eye. As the story progresses, she stands as the protagonist’s advisor, a quiet but powerful and undeniable force.
Angharad illustrates what I believe is one of Lawhead’s greatest strengths as an author. He’s not merely giving an example of early Celts who added Christianity into their religion; he’s doing something far more difficult and complex. By creating a druid character who acknowledges the God of the Bible as the one true God, it seems as though Lawhead is illustrating his belief that where truth and God are supreme, cultures are redeemed without losing any true uniqueness or flavor. To me, this is one of the most important and beautiful realities that art can communicate.
There’s much more to Hood than this, of course. It is also the first of the King Raven trilogy. If I read the others, you’ll be sure to know about it!
Any thoughts on Lawhead or his writing? Have you read any of his other books? Do tell!