Great children's novel - Bows Against the Barons

Gerrard Winstanley office at
Fri Jul 25 00:28:24 BST 2008

Bows Against the Barons

Bows Against the Barons is a 1934 children's novel by British author
Geoffrey Trease. Based on the legend of Robin Hood, it tells the story
of an adolescent boy who joins his outlaw band and takes part in a
great rebellion against the feudal elite. As Trease's first novel,
Bows Against the Barons marks the start of his prolific career as a
historical novelist. It is notable for reinterpreting the Robin Hood
legend from a leftwing perspective and revitalizing the conventions of
children's historical fiction in 20th-century Britain.

Plot introduction

Set in medieval England, Bows Against the Barons relates the
adventures of a peasant boy who becomes an outlaw and joins the band
of Robin Hood. Together, they take up arms against the masters of
England and fight for the rights of the common people. The
protagonist's former master tries to suppress them, but at great cost.

The title refers to the primary weapon of the outlaws - the longbow.

Plot summary

Bows Against the Barons takes place during the final months of Robin
Hood's life, beginning in early June, and ending in the following year
during or after February. It is largely told from the viewpoint of
Dickon, a sixteen-year-old peasant boy from the village of Oxton.

Chapters 1-9

The novel opens by depicting Dickon's hardships as a serf on a
baronial manor. It shows the boy being whipped by his bailiff for
missing work and harassed by his village priest for the tithe. Despite
his youth, Dickon has to serve as his family's breadwinner because his
father Dick has been conscripted as an archer for the Crusades. His
troubles are compounded when the King's deer from nearby Sherwood
Forest ravage his garden's crops.

Moved by anger, Dickon kills one of the deer with an arrow. He flees
into Sherwood to avoid the penalties of poaching. Eventually, he meets
Alan-a-Dale, who leads him to Robin Hood's band. Proving adept at
archery, Dickon is welcomed into their company.

Disguised as a weaver's apprentice, Dickon embarks on a mission as
Robin's messenger to Nottingham's rebels. Led by a bridle-smith,
Dickon and the populace assemble in the market-place to protest
working conditions and demand the release of imprisoned workers. The
Sheriff of Nottingham attempts to disperse them. Robin and his outlaws
arrive to help the protesters, who overwhelm the Sheriff in the
resulting riot and free the imprisoned workers. However, mounted
soldiers from Nottingham Castle arrive to quash the riot.

Pursued by a horseman, Dickon escapes through secret passages and
reaches Sherwood. There, he is captured by royal foresters and
escorted north to be tried for poaching. However, Alan manages to make
contact with Dickon, having disguised himself as a blind minstrel and
his messages as doggerel. On Alan's instructions, Dickon attempts to
delay the foresters' journey. His plans almost go awry when he meets
his former master Sir Rolf D'Eyncourt, who has returned from the
Crusades and now attempts to reclaim Dickon. Fortunately, the head
forester refuses to hand over the boy, insisting on the priority of
royal justice. As his journey resumes, Dickon learns that his father
has been killed in battle and vows revenge.

Dickon and the foresters eventually reach a village. Led by their
blacksmith, the villagers protest Dickon's captivity. In the ensuing
struggle, a forester almost kills Dickon, but Alan arrives in time and
saves him. Together, they join the villagers in defeating the
foresters. Later, soldiers are dispatched from Nottingham to punish
the villagers. However, Robin and his band ambush and defeat the
soldiers before they reach their destination.....

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