November 18, 2022

#08-257: Ivanhoe

The Disinherited Knight unhorses Bois-Guilbert

Note: Sir Walter Scott's 1819 historical novel has given rise to many films, the earliest in 1911; and many television adaptations, including three series, the latest in 2002.

Get Ready: What is the attraction of historical novels? Why do we wish to read about the (real or imagined) activities of (real or imagined) people of the distant past?

As mentioned in Lesson #08-256, American author George R. R. Martin cites Sir Walter Scott's 1819 novel Ivanhoe as an inspiration for his eventually seven-book series, A Song of Ice and Fire (best known as the source material for the TV series A Game of Thrones). Let's take a look then at Ivanhoe, which became one of Scott's best-known and most influential novels.

The story portrays a rivalry between the Saxons and the Normans in England. In 1066, William the Conqueror, a Norman, had beaten King Harold II, a Saxon, changing English society forever. Over time, of course, these two cultural strains blended together to become "the English." Scott, however, keeps the rivalry going about 100 years longer than it actually did. This is just one of the main anachronisms in the novel.

As the story begins, approximately one hundred years after William's victory, the Norman King Richard the Lion-Hearted has been taken prisoner in Austria, arrested there on his return from the Crusades in the Holy Land. This happened partly because Richard's brother, the evil King John, wanted the throne for himself, and colluded with the Duke of Austria for his capture.

Traveling with Richard had been Wilfred of Ivanhoe, son of the Saxon Cedric of Rotherwood. Ivanhoe had been disowned by his father, partly because he supported the Norman king, and partly because he wished to marry Rowena, Cedric's ward. Cedric had intended her to marry Athelstane, a descendant of Saxon royalty.

Ivanhoe returns to England incognito, calling himself "the Disinherited Knight" (which he was). He wins a tournament, aided by another mysterious figure called "the Black Knight," and chooses Rowena as his patron. Wounded in the fight, Ivanhoe is tended to by Rebecca, whose father is a Jewish moneylender named Isaac of York.

As the Saxons, with Rebecca and Isaac, are returning home, they are captured and imprisoned by an ally of Prince John, Maurice de Bracy, who wishes to marry Rowena. They are imprisoned in the castle of Front-de-Boeuf, but the Black Knight and Cedric (who has escaped the castle by a clever ruse), along with a man named Locksley and his band, attack the castle and free the prisoners. Brian de Bois-Guilbert, another recently-returned Knight, takes this opportunity to escape with Rebecca.

Unfortunately, Rebecca--who has special talents in the area of healing--is accused of being a witch and is sentenced to die. Ivanhoe, grateful for Rebecca's previous help, champions her in a trial by combat. Bois-Guilbert is killed, and Rebecca is set free.

In the end, The Black Knight turns out to be King Richard, freed from the Austrians. Their ally Locksley is none other than the famous Robin Hood (another anachronism, as his legend is set about two centuries after these events). Ivanhoe and Rowena are married, and Rebecca and her father leave for Granada to escape the increasing persecution of the Jews in England.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. anachronism
  2. disowned
  3. incognito
  4. moneylender
  5. persecution
  6. rivalry
  7. ruse
  8. strains
  9. tended
  10. trial by combat

  1. taken care of
  2. a trick
  3. kicked out of the family
  4. a test of strength
  5. in disguise
  6. competition
  7. like a banker
  8. something placed in the wrong time
  9. bad treatment of someone because of their religion
  10. aspects; threads

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for November 18, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. h; 2. c; 3. e; 4. g; 5. i; 6. f; 7. c; 8. j; 9. a; 10. g