Jousting matches, kidnapping, daring escapes, and violent sibling rivalry--Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott has it all. Set in the age of Robin Hood, Richard the Lionhearted, and Prince John, the book tells the story of the conflict between the Normans and the Saxons in Medieval England. As Brian de Bois-Guilbert of the Knights Templar clashes with two Saxon peasants, the nobleman Cedric the Saxon and his ward, Rowena, struggle to make a life for themselves among the often arrogant Normans. Isaac and Rebecca, an elderly Jew and his daughter, also struggle to survive as they deal with contempt and persecution from the people around them. The story follows Rowena's fortunes as she longs for the return from war of Cedric's son, Wilfred of Ivanhoe, and Rebecca's adventures as she struggles for safety and happiness.
The arrival of pilgrims at Cedric's house introduces the
mysterious Ivanhoe, who appears in his own character only later in the story. Wilfred of Ivanhoe was banished by his father and has been gone for years, but Rowena longs for the return of her first and only love. Meanwhile, Isaac and Rebecca are forced to flee from Cedric's house for fear of being kidnapped by Normans. A jousting tournament emphasizes both the grandeur and the disreputable state of society under Prince John as knights argue over whether Rowena or Rebecca is more beautiful.
The title character, Ivanhoe, seems strangely absent in the first part of the book. However, at the jousting match, Rowena recognizes Ivanhoe as the disguised Disinherited Knight, and his identity becomes clear. Ivanhoe is a loyal subject of King Richard, and he opposes the cruelty and greed of Prince John's rule. When Cedric and Rowena are kidnapped and held hostage, Ivanhoe joins with Robin of Locksley, also known as Robin Hood, to free them. Isaac and Rebecca also receive Ivanhoe's help when first Rebecca disappears and then Isaac is captured and tortured. Rebecca falls in love with Ivanhoe, but she bravely puts aside her feelings to fight with the knight against the followers of Prince John in the struggle between the prince and his brother. As Ivanhoe, Rowena, and Rebecca cross paths with each other and with the surrounding Saxons and Normans, they each show the strength of their characters in the many adventures they encounter.
This report prepared by Susan Huebert