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Medieval England in the 12th century. The evil Prince John rules England in place of his brother, the noble Richard the Lionheart, who is being held in an Austrian prison by Duke Leopold of Austria, while returning from one of his Crusades. Under the avaricious and Machiavellian John, the Norman aristocrats are in constant conflict with the native Saxon people. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott is set in these turbulent times. The eponymous hero, Wilfred of Ivanhoe, the son of a Saxon nobleman has been disinherited by his father for following King Richard into war. Ivanhoe is in love with his father's beautiful ward, Rowena, who is betrothed to a noble Saxon. Ivanhoe returns secretly to England and fights in a tournament disguised as a Knight. He wins the admiration and help of a mysterious Black Knight and together they vanquish their opponents. Meanwhile, Prince John and his nefarious coterie plot to usurp the throne, and Ivanhoe is unwittingly drawn into events that leave an indelible impact on his life. This historical novel by a master of the genre was first published in 1820. Filled with memorable characters including the legendary Saxon hero, Robin Hood (called Robin of Locksley here) and his band of Merry Men, historical figures like King Richard, Prince John and the Knights Templar and many others, the story takes some exciting twists and turns before racing to its unexpected climax. There are magnificent depictions of jousting and knightly tournaments, court scenes, portrayals of Saxon and Norman politics all of which bring to life a most interesting period in English history. Sir Walter Scott was famous for his Romantic novels, which in fact evoked great interest in the periods in which they were set. They also deal with conflicts between society and the individual, the ancient codes of honor and chivalry and are usually set in actual locations. Ivanhoe is set in South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, with various castles and monuments being mentioned. Our idea of Robin Hood as a laughing outlaw who robs the rich to help the poor is also based on what Scott has depicted in Ivanhoe. Several sequels have been attempted in later years, along with events and other works inspired by Ivanhoe. The novel has been adapted for film, television and stage since 1911 and has also been the basis of comics, animated films and video games. The book is an exciting read for all ages, full of atmosphere and transports the reader back in time to an age of valor, courage, honor and swashbuckling gallantry!
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