Who was Little John, the man who stood at Robin Hood’s right hand, the giant of a man Robin trusted with his life? Where did he come from, and why did he choose the life of an outlaw?
Life takes sudden and unexpected turns, changing everything in just an instant. John Little was tall and strong, a giant of a man. He was a wanderer and a thief, but he was also a man of honor. When the knight set his knife against Simon’s throat, John couldn’t tell if his master’s life was in danger or not. But he acted quickly, not taking chances. He grabbed the knight by his hair and jerked back, hard. The man’s neck snapped, the sound ugly. He crumpled to the ground. And in that quick moment, John became an outlaw, fleeing for his life.
That was one beginning, one instant that set his life on another course, but there was another beginning, weeks later, in Sherwood Forest. John had heard tales of Robin Hood and his band of men who lived in the forest, and lived on the king’s deer, and the coins they took from travelers. But he had thought that they were just that, tales, until the day he ran into the forest, following the deer trails, to escape the men determined to hunt him down. The deeper he went into the forest, the fainter the sounds of his pursuers became, until they vanished altogether. Not long after that John saw the first sign that indicated that the tales might be true. In a small clearing, a log lay across a brook, creating a makeshift bridge. It was worn smooth with time and travelers’ feet. And as he approached it, a man dressed in green stepped out of the trees on the other side of the clearing. They reached the ends of the log at the same time.
“In this forest, we make a game of crossing bridges,” the man said cheerfully. John wasn’t really interested in games, but the stranger left him no choice. Meeting in the middle of the bridge, their only weapons thick wooden quarterstaffs, they fought fiercely, back and forth across the bridge, until John knew his strength was almost gone. But then a lucky blow toppled the stranger into the brook, and John was the winner. Strangely though, the man in green acted as if their battle had really been just a game, laughing at himself, and climbing out of the brook. He poured water out of the hunters’ horn he wore at his waist, and blew a long blast. It was answered by others, and the man turned to ask John his name. After he replied, John asked the stranger’s name, although he was sure he had guessed it already. “Folk along the High Way,” the man said, “call me Robin Hood.” That night, Little John – for that was what Robin decided to call him – was their guest, and soon after, one of them. And it wasn’t long before the folk along the High Way told tales and sang songs about Little John, who stood at Robin Hood’s right hand.
This Booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart