Monday, October 24, 2011

The Phony King of England

These past few weeks I've been rediscovering some old loves--blogging, I guess, but also Modest Mouse and Sharon Kay Penman's historical fiction and cottage cheese. I could eat cottage cheese all day long. When I was little and my family went out to eat at Ruby Tuesday (we were high-class people, clearly), I would order the salad bar and then load a plate full of cherry tomatoes and cottage cheese. Yum.

The biggest rediscovery, though, is audiobooks, specifically a little site called Librivox: free audiobooks in the public domain, read by volunteers. It neatly combines my love of reading, multitasking, and free things, with a tiny dash of the ridiculous, since the volunteers are often trying to practice their English: with Librivox, I used to listen to The Portrait of a Lady read by someone with a heavy Chinese accent while I ran endless miles training for a half marathon. Don't knock it if you haven't tried it.

Fast forward to now. I have a whole shelf of books I've bought but never read, and since Mike is obsessed with seeing the "finished" stack grow, I've promised that I'll actually work on my shelf. (It needs no more description, in this house: "my shelf" is enough.) Since I haven't been reading as much this year due to a certain New Year's resolution, Librivox is a great way to catch up on my backlog and, little by little, clear the shelf.

So I'm listening to Ivanhoe, a book I bought at 13 and have been meaning to read ever since, and I have to say, I'm a little surprised at how entertaining it is, considering how many times I've started and rejected it in the past. The prose is pretty florid, but there's a decent adventure story under all the 19th century romanticism, and besides, who can resist a good Robin Hood reference? I didn't know before how many of the current Robin Hood legends came from Ivanhoe, and I was pleasantly surprised to suddenly be hearing the old stories about Prince John and King Richard the Lionheart and Robin of Locksley trouncing all challengers in a shooting contest. I found myself picturing the scenes in my mind's eye, more than I usually do: Prince John, wily and incompetent, with his crown falling down around his eyes; King Richard, big, bluff, blond, and lionlike; Robin Hood, a brilliant archer but somewhat wobbly on his long, spindly legs...

Wait. Spindly legs? Lions? Prince John's crown falling over his ears? As it turns out, all of my images of the Robin Hood story are taken straight from Disney.  Not that that's a bad thing: Disney's version is a lot funnier than Sir Walter Scott's, and I have to admit to mild disappointment when Ivanhoe's tournament scene didn't end with rhino guards running wild. That scene always cracks me up. 

(A note on the video, if you click through: it's in Danish. This is partly because it's the best version I could find, and partly because of a game that I got from my friend Alea, where you try to find clips from Disney in their "original" language. You know--The Jungle Book in the original Hindi.  The Hunchback of Notre Dame in the original French. Hercules in Greek, Mulan in Chinese, Pocahontas in Algonquian. I couldn't find Robin Hood in Early Middle English, so Danish, being the original homeland of the Jutes, will have to suffice.)

So there I am, listening to Ivanhoe via Librivox and imagining one of my favorite childhood movies. It's like a smorgasbord of old loves! Next time I'll throw in some cottage cheese as a snack.


6 comments:

Jen said...

Oodelally!

FoxyJ said...

When I was a young child we did not own a television set. My parents had a record player, and among their large rock-n-roll and honky tonk collection were a few kid records. One of those few was a recording of Disney's Robin Hood. We listened to it so much that my brother and my sister and I can recite the entire movie from memory. Only in English, though, not Danish.

Diane said...

We were classy people when you were little. We just didn't have any money. Plus, it was the one place where you and I could get the salad bar, the boys could get hamburgers and your Dad could try to order the shrimp and steak fajita combo which never, ever worked out for him.

Recession Cone said...

We had a TV, but no VCR. So we watched Disney's Robin Hood every time we visited grandparents. I'm completely nostalgic about that movie...

Confuzzled said...

I somehow have ended up listening secondhand to a friend/coworker's Librivox audio...It's something we sometimes do when we have a break at work at the same time. (Which, alas, isn't always the case.)

We got more than a few odd looks from people passing through the break room while we listened to someone attempting to read "The Raven" from her The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe.

The reader was so bad it was riotously funny. We got more than a few odd looks from the people who asked what we were listening to. (One of them even asked: "Who giggles at 'The Raven'?")

Also, I'm right there with you: most of my Robin Hood images are rooted in Disney as well.

Seagulljaap said...

Alea's obsession with dubbed Disney comes from me!