Morpurgo’s tale focuses strongly on Hood’s relationship to his father along with an emphasis on his companions. His story takes us on a path of discovery into understanding just who the merry men where and how they individually contributed to the legend we know so well today, alongside learning of Hood’s outlaw conviction and his fight for his father’s freedom. It is not often we get a novel focused purely upon these attributes as we rarely hear of Hood having any living family members. Morpurgo’s family friendly retelling demonstrates and teaches the importance of familial bonds and determination and this is what makes the novel so great for young readers.
Of all the legends surrounding Robin Hood, Morpurgo has chosen his climax to center around the famous archery contest. The contest is widely known as the Sheriff of Nottingham’s attempt at reeling Hood in for capture by staging an archery contest in the center of town with the reward for the winner being a solid silver arrow. The legend of this event typically tells us of the many talented townsfolk who attempt the challenge while Hood plans to appear at the last second and win the prize with an elaborate plan to avoid his arrest. Morpurgo doesn’t disappoint as his re-writing of this historical moment rounds off his book perfectly.
The form of this novel appears as a dream bracket around the main content. We begin with a young boy in present day, called Robin, discovering a skull and silver arrow buried beneath an old tree. We are awoken from the enrapture of Robin Hood tales with the same young boy beneath the tree which reminded me a lot of Alice in Wonderland. After both the reader and the protagonist have awoken, we are given details of the tree being the last of Sherwood Forest and as Robin Hood’s final resting place, amongst new buildings and roads that now dominate the historic ground. We then find out modern day Robin is a descendant of Robin Hood and Maid Marian. I loved this element and this has made the book a brilliant read for children. It encapsulates the modern day with the history of Britain in a way that is fully relatable. Across the globe we are told of famous resting grounds, but they are now surrounded by our man made structures and this makes it difficult to imagine how the land once was and why that particular spot has been chosen. In Outlaw, we are taken back in history and are able to imagine this seamlessly.
Michael Morpugo has an impressive list of publications all aimed at children. This includes the widely known Beowulf and the award winning War Horse. I definitely recommend looking at his other works and I’m glad I stumbled across Outlaw. He has a wonderful talent of drawing in readers of any age and has a collection of historical based fiction such as; Sparrow: The True Story of Joan of Arc, which has also been published this year, which I think is a great way to get children interested in history.