Pirates fight over treasure in a Howard Pyle illustration from Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates
- John Howard Pyle, commonly called Howard Pyle, was a Republican governor of Arizona in the 1950s
Howard Pyle (March 5, 1853 – November 9, 1911) was an American illustrator and writer, primarily of books for young audiences. A native of Wilmington, Delaware, he spent the last year of his life in Florence, Italy, where he died.
In 1894 he began teaching illustration at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry (now Drexel University), and after 1900 founded a school, where his students included Olive Rush and N. C. Wyeth. He taught others of the Brandywine School, including N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Frank Schoonover, and Jessie Willcox Smith.
His 1883 classic The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood remains in print to this day, and his other books, frequently with mediaeval European settings, included a four-volume set on King Arthur that cemented his reputation.
He wrote an original work, Otto of the Silver Hand (1888). He also illustrated historical and adventure stories for periodicals such as Harper's Weekly and St. Nicholas.
His Men of Iron was made into a movie in 1954, The Black Shield of Falworth.
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood is Pyle's distillation of many Robin Hood legends and ballads. He modified to make them suitable for the child audience he envisioned: he took the story of Robin's outlawry from the ballad Robin Hood's Progress to Nottingham, but where the ballad said that Robin had killed fourteen foresters for not paying on a bet, Pyle added that they threatened, and one shot at, him, and only the man who shot at him was killed. Again, tales where Robin stole all that a traveler carried, such as Robin Hood and the Bishop of Hereford, were changed so that the victim kept a third, and a third was dedicated to the poor.
Pyle did not have much more concern for historical accuracy than the ballads, though he did alter Robin Hood and Queen Katherine to have the queen be Queen Eleanor, historically compatible with the king with whom Robin made his peace being King Richard the Lion-Hearted.
Other ballads that Pyle used included:
- Robin Hood and Little John
- Robin Hood and the Tinker
- Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow
- Robin Hood Rescuing Will Stutly
- Robin Hood and the Butcher
- large portions of A Gest of Robyn Hode, although its archery contest gave way to that in the Golden Arrow
- Robin Hood and the Newly Revived
- Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar
- Robin Hood and Allen A Dale
- Robin Hood's Golden Prize
- Robin Hood's Chase
- Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne
- Robin Hood Rescuing Three Squires
- The King's Disguise, and Friendship with Robin Hood
- Robin Hood and the Valiant Knight
- Robin Hood's Death
Indeed, none of the tales in the book were Pyle's own invention. However, he wove the tales together to form a unified story. The adventure with the Curtal Friar, for instance, was not an isolated tale, but undertaken to bring back Friar Tuck, because a priest was need to marry Allen A Dale to his sweetheart Ellen. Again, in A Gest of Robyn Hode, the knight saved an anonymous wrestler, who had won a bout but was likely to be murdered because he was a stranger, and Robin says that this excuses his delay, and that anyone who helps good yeomen is helpful to him; Pyle adapted it so that the wrestler was David of Doncaster, one of Robin's band in Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow.
Several characters that had had only appeared in one ballad -- such as David of Doncaster, and Arthur a Bland -- were more fully developed in this novelistic treatment of the tales.