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Ivanhoe by Walter Scott

Ivanhoe (1819)

by Walter Scott

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7,04264511 (3.76)1 / 318

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Another wonderful work by Scott. Ivanhoe, the last of a Saxon noble family splits with his father by his allegiance to the Norman Richard the Lion Hearted. The events take place after Ivanhoe's return to England where he confronts a conspiracy keeping Richard prisoner in Europe. This work is considered not only the revitalization of England's love of things medieval but of the modern rendition of Robin Hood. The characters are believable and the story captivating. Too bad it is often considered a young adult novel. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
This classic historical romance (pretty much the inspiration for the whole genre of medieval historical fiction) is extremely well written and, from a linguistic point of view, an excellent example of the complex sentence structure often used in 19th century novels and not often today, demanding much of the reader; it is as a consequence, a challenge to read, and it took me a fortnight to get through, though this edition was only some 350 pages, and it did get a bit dull and somewhat confusing in places. Ivanhoe himself is actually a fairly minor character throughout most of the novel, and is overshadowed by a number of other characters. For much of it, the novel is actually about oppression - the oppression suffered by the Jewish characters, Isaac of York and his daughter Rebecca at the hands and tongues of Norman and Saxon alike (though the author clearly disapproves of this anti-Semitism, an opposition which is a refreshing attitude for an author of this period, it does get quite dispiriting to read when this prejudice is displayed even by characters with whom the reader is supposed to sympathise); and the oppression suffered by Saxons at the hands of their Norman conquerors (though, given that the events take place some 130 years after the Norman Conquest, the starkness of this conflict was much less clear in reality than depicted in the novel). The novel is also famous, of course, for popularising the legend of Robin Hood and coining the epithet, Robin of Locksley. Good stuff, though it drags in places. ( )
1 vote john257hopper | Jun 7, 2014 |
Who wouldn't love the story of the Disinherited Knight? I love adventure stories that are also about love. This one is great! ( )
  Laurie.Schultz | Mar 15, 2014 |
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

I have been wanting to reread this book about medieval knights, damsels in distress, honor, chivalry, strange heroes, etc. Ivanhoe, with the dialogue written in Old English, does not disappoint. Although the characters never spoke in less than a paragraph and the author describes every single person, setting, and event to the Nth degree, these carefully fabricated words serve to make the reader feel as though they are right there cheering in the lists alongside the populace. Ivanhoe is & has been since I first read it in 2nd grade, one of my favorite historical novels.
Though Ivanhoe does not even seem to have a major role, he is worthy of the heroism we place upon his head. I loved Wamba. What a funny & odd little hero this village idiot turns out to be. The Lady Rowena as the love interest of Ivanhoe is a bit disappointing and the fact that she seems a rather flat character is probably my only complaint about this book. Rebecca is a much broader player and as such is more interesting as a lead female character.
I am very happy that I read this again but do wish I had not waited so very long. Highly recommended for those who do not tire of the 'old English' language. ( )
2 vote rainpebble | Jan 13, 2014 |
When I was a youngster, one of our favorite family activities was to play the then-familiar card game called Authors, which was basically "Go Fish" with the likes of Hawthorne, Tennyson, Longfellow, and Dickens in sets of four instead of numeric rank within suit. (Where else would you find James Fenimore Cooper on a peer footing with William Shakespeare?) Thus the face of Sir Walter Scott was more familiar to me than that of my own deceased grandmother.

Scott was, in fact, an icon of classic entertainment, an author whose works were among the staples of childhood and young adult reading, with their jousting knights in armor, their chivalrous deeds and dark intrigues, their acts of high valor and foul treachery, their political allegiances and divided loyalties, their spirited damsels and their swashbuckling heroes.

In ninth grade, when my classmates and I were assigned to read Ivanhoe, I met Scott like an old family friend. The affectionate greeting, however, was not returned with equal warmth. In fact, the language and substance of this novel were both so alien to me that I honestly don't know how I managed to read it at all.

In those days, meaning the end of the Eisenhower administration, Ivanhoe was required reading in public schools across the U.S. I can't imagine why. I didn't hate it--I never hated anything we read in school. I was a straight-A English student throughout my scholastic career and later made language the basis of my profession. But the necessary knowledge of British history and traditional social structure, command of an archaic vocabulary, and ability to parse the convoluted style and grammar of the early nineteenth century in another culture all seem like formidable obstacles to comprehension for young teenagers, even without the adult themes and conflicts, the violence, and the very disturbing vein of institutionalized antisemitism that prevail throughout the novel.

How many 14-year-olds could have been expected to get much of anything out of this? All else aside, how much knowledge of medieval England and its politics was any American highschooler expected to have? I'm amazed that there weren't dozens of more recent, more generally readable, and more culturally apt choices that were considered to be essential to the education of American young people. I got through it somehow, along with the rest of my ninth-grade class, but I missed all the adventure in a sea of confusing language, lost context, and bewildering names. What a shame that curriculum requirements, both then and now, should serve to foster lifelong antipathy toward certain works and toward reading in general when, now more than ever, literacy is an essential skill and severely weakened cultural bonds could use reinforcement.

In intervening years I have read quantities of British literature and older literature and older British literature, and I feel very much at home with it. I'm comfortable with both a nineteenth-century prose style and a medieval setting. Archaic vocabulary does not trip me up, and I don't mind protracted descriptions, windy commentary, or so-called author intrusion. Still, it took me a long while to come back around to Scott.

A couple of years ago I enjoyed The Bride of Lammermoor, followed by The Heart of Midlothian. After that it seemed to be time to revisit Ivanhoe. I finished it a week ago.

From my present perspective, Ivanhoe is a relic, not so much of the historical period of its setting (with which Scott admitted to having taken considerable liberties) or even of the literary era in which it was written (early nineteenth century) as of a period in our European-American cultural and educational history in which youngsters read romances such as Ivanhoe voluntarily and for pleasure. Those same audiences these days would be viewing action movies for which you don't actually need a vocabulary at all.

Or maybe those aren't the kids avidly watching car chases and explosions and splattering pixels of gore in first-person-shooter video games. Maybe they're among the considerably smaller number who play chess and Magic: The Gathering and Sodoku: a relatively privileged, nerdy set (privileged if only with the motive, means, and opportunity to do those things) who don't gravitate toward the lowest common denominator. In any event, their path to imaginative excitement and adventure is not via such printed words as these:

=====(Excerpt begins)

"I am indeed bound to vengeance," murmured Cedric; "Saint Withold knows my heart."

Front-de-Boeuf, in the meanwhile, led the way to a postern, where, passing the moat on a single plank, they reached a small barbican, or exterior defence, which communicated with the open field by a well-fortified sallyport.

"Begone, then; and if thou wilt do mine errand, and if thou return hither when it is done, thou shalt see Saxon flesh cheap as ever was hog's in the shambles of Sheffield. And, hark thee, thou seemest to be a jolly confessor---come hither after the onslaught, and thou shalt have as much Malvoisie as would drench thy whole convent."

"Assuredly we shall meet again," answered Cedric.

"Something in hand the whilst," continued the Norman; and, as they parted at the postern door, he thrust into Cedric's reluctant hand a gold byzant, adding, "Remember, I will flay off both cowl and skin, if thou failest in thy purpose."

"And full leave will I give thee to do both," answered Cedric, leaving the postern, and striding forth over the free field with a joyful step, "if, when we meet next, I deserve not better at thine hand."---Turning then back towards the castle, he threw the piece of gold towards the donor, exclaiming at the same time, "False Norman, thy money perish with thee!"

Front-de-Boeuf heard the words imperfectly, but the action was suspicious---"Archers," he called to the warders on the outward battlements, "send me an arrow through yon monk's frock!---yet stay," he said, as his retainers were bending their bows, "it avails not--we must thus far trust him since we have no better shift. I think he dares not betray me---at the worst I can but treat with these Saxon dogs whom I have safe in kennel. Ho! Giles gaoler, let them bring Cedric of Rotherwood before me, and the other churl, his companion---him I mean of Coningsburgh ---Athelstane there, or what call they him? Their very names are an encumbrance to a Norman knight's mouth, and have, as it were, a flavour of bacon. Give me a stoup of wine, as jolly Prince John said, that I may wash away the relish---place it in the armoury, and thither lead the prisoners."

His commands were obeyed; and, upon entering that Gothic apartment, hung with many spoils won by his own valour and that of his father, he found a flagon of wine on the massive oaken table, and the two Saxon captives under the guard of four of his dependents. Front-de-Boeuf took a long drought of wine, and then addressed his prisoners---for the manner in which Wamba drew the cap over his face, the change of dress, the gloomy and broken light, and the Baron's imperfect acquaintance with the features of Cedric (who avoided his Norman neighbours, and seldom stirred beyond his own domains) prevented him from discovering that the most important of his captives had made his escape.

=====(Excerpt ends)

That lengthy and randomly chosen passage depicting a tense, suspenseful escape is adequately representative of the flavor of the whole. I would be willing to wager that no reader in 2013, no matter how widely read and how well versed in older literature, would have difficulty understanding how daunting four hundred pages of the same would be to today's young reader.

Did I enjoy the book? I did. I was sorry when it ended. And naturally it is no fault of the author and no criticism of his literary tradition to anticipate that the present generation of readers will have little appetite for this work. Whether that should be so is irrelevant; the truth is that it is.

I wonder how much longer there will be readers outside of academe who can read it at all. ( )
  Meredy | Nov 23, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Walter Scottprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davidson, FrederickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dettore, UgoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Page, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tulloch, GrahamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, Edward A.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster. The remains of this extensive wood are still to be seen at the noble seats of Wentworth, of Warncliffe Park, and around Rotherham. Here haunted of yore the fabulous Dragon of Wantley; here were fought many of the most desperate battles during the Civil Wars of the Roses; and here also flourished in ancient times those bands of gallant outlaws, whose deeds have been rendered so popular in English song.
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This is the main work for Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott. Please do not combine with any adaptation, abridgement, etc.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140436588, Paperback)

"Ivanhoe" (1819) was the first of Scott's novels to adopt a purely English subject and was also his first attempt to combine history and romance, which later influenced Victorian medievalism. Set at the time of the Norman Conquest, "Ivanhoe" returns from the Crusades to claim his inheritance and the love of Rowena and becomes involved in the struggle between Richard Coeur de Lion and his Norman brother John. The gripping narrative is structured by a series of conflicts: Saxon versus Norman, Christian versus Jew, men versus women, played out against Scott's unflinching moral realism.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:45 -0400)

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The epitome of the chivalric novel, Ivanhoe sweeps readers into Medieval England and the lives of a memorable cast of characters. Ivanhoe, a trusted ally of Richard-the-Lion-Hearted, returns from the Crusades to reclaim the inheritance his father denied him. Rebecca, a vibrant, beautiful Jewish woman is defended by Ivanhoe against a charge of witchcraft -- but it is Lady Rowena who is Ivanhoe's true love. The wicked Prince John plots to usurp England's throne, but two of the most popular heroes in all of English literature, Richard-the-Lion-Hearted and the well-loved famous outlaw, Robin Hood, team up to defeat the Normans and reagain the castle. The success of this novel lies with Scott's skillful blend of historic reality, chivalric romance, and high adventure.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140436588, 0451531361

Columbia University Press

An edition of this book was published by Columbia University Press.

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