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Literature / Ivanhoe

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Ivanhoe and the Black Knight — Costumes for the 1828 Stage Adaptation

Ivanhoe: A Romance is an 1819 historical novel by Sir Walter Scott, set in the reign of King Richard The Lion Heart and largely concerning the long-smouldering antagonism between the Normans and Saxons in the centuries after the Norman Conquest — an antagonism which, at that date, is highly anachronistic (one might call it a sort of Hollywood History) and largely the product of Scott's teeming imagination. In the face of severe criticism by his own contemporaries on this and other historical inaccuracies, Scott himself admitted, "It is extremely probable that I may have confused the manners of two or three centuries," but comforted himself that "errors of this kind will escape the general class of readers." (And to be fair, this romantic idea of early British history remained popular enough that Arthur Conan Doyle used it 72(!) years later, in The White Company, which takes place centuries after the events of Ivanhoe). Despite the author's Whig history limitations and prejudices (which are evident), Ivanhoe is a stirring and colourful tale, with plenty of action, lovable heroes and heroines and hissable villains, and a real feeling for the genuine — if extremely exaggerated — romance of The High Middle Ages.


The novel was originally something of a Pot-boiler. Scott's popularity as a poet was waning in the face of the more exotic verses of Lord Byron, and his over-gentrified lifestyle and a life-threatening bout of illness had left his pocketbook in an equally sickly condition. His Scottish novels were popular enough, but of limited appeal; Scott felt, moreover, the need for a fresher source of inspiration — so he turned to History and The Middle Ages, the object of his lifelong and devoted (if not always pedantically accurate) study. The novel won immediate, long-lasting, and deserved popularity, restored Scott's fortunes, and helped to launch the entire Historical Fiction genre.

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Scott's novel has had a number of adaptations.

  • A stage version was prepared as early as 1826, the pasticcio opera Ivanhoé, which combined existing melodies by Gioacchino Rossini with new texts. Sir Walter attended a performance and was not impressed. The libretto, notably, changed Isaac and Rebecca into Muslims, Ishmael and Leila.
  • The opera Der Templer und die Jüdin (The Templar and the Jewess) by Heinrich Marschner had its German premiere in Leipzig in 1829 and was put on stage over 200 times in various German theatres during the following 70 years. It was first produced in English in London in 1840 and was first performed in America in 1872 (New York).
  • Another German composer, Otto Nicolai, wrote Il Templario (The Templar), which was first produced in 1840. Other operas based on the novel were Ivanhoé by Thomas Sari, Rebecca by Bartolomeo Pisani and Rébecca by A. Castagnier.
  • The French composer Victor Sieg won the prestigious Prix de Rome for his dramatic cantata Ivanhoé, which was first performed in 1864.
  • For English-speakers, the best known operatic adaptation is probably Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan's rather turgidly solemn 1891 adaptation, which impressed Queen Victoria and ran for over 150 performances.
  • In 1850, William Makepeace Thackeray produced the parodic Fan Sequel, Rebecca and Rowena: A Romance Upon Romance, in which Athelstane and Rowena die and Wilfred marries a converted Rebecca. This parody was popular enough that it was adapted to the stage in turn.

There have been several Film Adaptations.

  • Two appeared in 1913:
    • Ivanhoe was a US production, directed by Herbert Brenon, and starring King Baggot as Ivanhoe, Leah Baird as Rebecca, Herbert Brenon as Isaac, Evelyn Hope as Rowena, and Wallace Widdicombe as Bois-Guilbert;
    • Rebecca the Jewess was directed by Leedham Bantock and featured Lauderdale Maitland, Ethel Bracewell, Hubert Carter, Nancy Bevington, and Harry Lonsdale in the same rôles, respectively. (Oddly, both were filmed in the same locations at Chepstow Castle in Wales.)
  • In 1952, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced what is probably the best remembered film version, Ivanhoe
  • A loose Russian adaptation in 1983, The Ballad of the Valiant Knight Ivanhoe (Баллада о доблестном рыцаре Айвенго, Ballada o Dovlestnom Ryzare "Ayvenho") appeared, directed by Sergey Tarasov, starring Peteris Gaudins as Ivanhoe and featuring songs by Vladimir Vysotsky. It has Rebecca Demoted to Extra, with Bois-Guilbert desiring Rowena instead and the witchcraft trial cut out completely.

There have also been quite a number of Live-Action Television adaptations of the novel:

Tropes employed by this novel (and its various adaptations) include:

     The Book 
  • Adult Fear: Being part of a subjugated race. Check. Having arrogant aristocrats able and willing to do whatever they want to do to you with the approval of the law. Check. Having a Corrupt Church tell you that you are supposed to be subjugated. Check. Being mocked because your ancestors lost a battle. Check. Being kidnapped by a would-be rapist. Check.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Guilbert loves Rebecca who loves Ivanhoe who loves Rowena.
  • Anachronic Order: Scott does not tell the events in the chronological order. For example, after the abduction of Cedric and Rowena, he tells in successive chapters events that happen at the same time: the actions of Wamba and Gurth (chapter 20), the fate of Cedric and Athelstane (21), of Isaac (22), of Rowena (23), and of Rebecca (24). Then, in chapter 28, Scott returns to the tournament of Ashby to tell what happened to Ivanhoe.
  • Anachronism Stew: As Scott himself admitted. See above.
  • Anticlimax: In the trial by combat to determine the fate of Rebecca, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, the invincible Templar, is facing Wilfred of Ivanhoe, who is still recovering from his wounds — but when they actually joust, Bois-Guilbert simply keels over dead, "a victim of his own contending passions," and Wilfred is left standing there, looking awkward.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Until the fourteenth century, more than a hundred years after the novel takes place, the Catholic Church actually judged belief in witchcraft as heretical, so Rebecca wouldn't have been put on trial for it.
    • The idea of lingering animosity between the Saxons and Normans by the time of the novel is ahistorical, except for some diehard eccentrics.
  • Attempted Rape: Bois-Guilbert is foiled in this by Rebecca's threatening to throw herself off the tower.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: Happens to Athelstane who comes back to Coningsburgh when his funeral is in progress.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: How the narrator describes Wamba's "foolishness."
  • Badass in Distress: Ivanhoe is a strong knight (apart from king Richard, he is the only one able to defeat Bois-Guilbert), but he is wounded during the tournament, so Rebecca has to treat him, he is caught by De Bracy, he is held prisoner at Torquilstone and the Black Knight has to save him from the fire.
  • Badass Preacher: Friar Tuck actually takes part in the Battle of Torquilstone.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: During the siege of Torquilstone, Ulrica sets fire to the castle.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Rebecca and Rowena are both beautiful, each in her own way. Played with where Ulrica is concerned: she was once fair, but is now ugly and withered in every respect, reflecting her embitterment.
  • Being Good Sucks: One reason Rebecca doesn't really enjoy herself in the novel.
  • Berserk Button: For Gurth, Cedric attacking his dog Fangs.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Rowena, a Saxon like him, and Rebecca, a Jew, for Ivanhoe.
    • Ivanhoe, a worthy hero, and Bois-Guilbert, an unscrupulous knight templar, for Rebecca.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • During the tournament, Ivanhoe is overpowered and Front-de-Boeuf and Athelstane are going to kill him, when the Black Knight shows up to save him.
    • Ivanhoe is going to die in the fire of Torquilstone, when the Black Knight shows up to save him.
    • Rebecca is going to be burned alive by the knights templar, when Ivanhoe shows up to fight for her in a Trial by Combat.
  • Big Eater: Athelstane really, really loves banqueting.
  • Bigot with a Crush: Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert, who despises Jews, (in)famously develops feelings for the Jewess Rebecca. These feelings start as mere lust, but grow into more than that as he starts to see her character beyond her beauty. He never reaches a full Heel Realization, however, and ends up dying of a heart attack brought on by "his conflicting passions".
  • Black-and-White Morality: Certainly most of the Goodies are very good, and most of the Baddies very bad, but it does not prevent them from being memorable characters. One is inclined to say that, rather than being Black and White, they are all rendered in primary colours.
  • Black Knight: "Le Noir Faineant" (aka The Black Sluggard). In a more figurative sense, Ivanhoe's identity as the Disinherited Knight.
  • Blood Knight: Unlike the more cautious and pragmatic Bois-Guilbert, Front-de-Bœuf loves a good fight.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Perhaps the most outstanding examples are Friar Tuck and Cœur-de-Lion himself.
  • Buried in a Pile of Corpses: Happens to Athelstane at Torquilstone after being hit by Bois-Guilbert. This is the reason why he is thought to be dead.
  • Burn the Witch!: Rebecca's fate if her champion loses the Trial by Combat.
  • Byronic Hero: Bois-Guilbert is a villain who is male, charismatic, intelligent, self-centered, emotionally conflicted, over-indulgent towards himself, cynical, world-weary, jaded, and extremely passionate. He sees his own values and passions (lust for power and for Rebecca) as above those of others (he despises his fellow knights templars), manifesting as arrogance.
  • The Care Taker: Rebecca the beautiful Jewish maiden cares for Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe after he is wounded in the tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouche.
  • Character Development: Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert evolves from fully intending to rape the lovely Rebecca to trying to persuade her to turn Christian and voluntarily become his mistress to finally offering to throw away a lifetime of ambitions and plots and marry her if she will only accept him. The extent to which this is an improvement is questionable, however, since he remains unwilling to take "no" for an answer throughout and intends to let her be burned alive as a witch if she won't accept him. On the other hand it certainly demonstrates his sincere interest - which puts him one up on Wilfred who barely knows Rebecca's alive.
  • Character Title: Ivanhoe is our hero.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: As when Front-de-Bœuf threatens to roast Isaac alive on a grill.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Implied due to Rowena being Cedric's ward but we know not when exactly Cedric became Rowena's guardian so it is not unlikely that she and Ivanhoe could have known each other as children.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: The setting dictates this, though Sir Walter throws in a number of hints that "it ain't necessarily so."
  • Corrupt Church: Sir Walter, being a conventional if not convicted Presbyterian, invented quite a few corrupt churchmen as Take Thats against the Roman Catholic Church: the worldly Prior Aylmer, the proud, cruel, and lustful Bois-Guilbert, the ignorant and violent "hedge-priest" Friar Tuck, the unscrupulous Malvoisin, the fanatical Beaumanoir, the greedy and treacherous Abbot Wolfram who betrays Athelstane. Indeed, there is not a single completely decent cleric in the whole novel. To be fair, few are completely unsympathetic villains. Prior Aymer's faults are made up for to a large degree by his good nature. He is fonder of the wine, the women and the hunt more than a churchman should be but he is not cruel like many of the characters and not a Knight Templar. Beaumanoir for his part is one, but is portrayed as completely sincere rather than deliberately malicious, while Bois-Guilbert gets Character Development and becomes almost a Noble Demon. And of course, corrupt priests like this did exist—rather, it's the bias in favor of it without any good ones which is telling.
  • Courtly Love: Played straight by Wilfred and Rowena and Rebecca for Wilfred; subverted by Athelstane and de Bracy for Rowena; beaten all to hell and back by Bois-Guilbert for Rebecca.
  • Damsel in Distress:
    • Lady Rowena is kidnapped by three Norman knights. De Bracy wants to force her to marry him. Gurth, Wamba, Cedric, and the Black Knight will join forces with Locksley and the outlaws to free her.
    • Rebecca was kidnapped at the same time as Rowena, but nobody bothers about freeing her, so she does not really fit the trope at this point. Bois-Guilbert manages to get away from Torquilstone with her, and, finally, she is held prisoner by the knights templar who threatens to burn her alive. Then, her father, Ivanhoe and even King Richard come to her aid.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: While a Black Knight in other pieces of fiction would be a villain, here the Black Knight is a Hero Protagonist coming to Ivanhoe's aid during the melee at the Ashby Tourney and leading the Merry Men during the Battle of Torquilstone to rescue Rowena, Athelstane, Wamba and Ivanhoe.
  • Dated History: The view popularised by Sir Walter, of plucky "English" commoners still resisting their "Norman" overlords a century or two after the Conquest was questioned even in Scott's own time, and almost wholly abandoned by serious historians within the same century.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Athelstane dies at Torquilstone, so Rowena seems to be free to love Ivanhoe. Subverted, because Athelstane is revealed to be still alive.
  • Dies Wide Open: Bois-Guilbert dies with his eyes open.
  • Direct Line to the Author: Scott originally published the novel under the pseudonym Laurence Templeton, in which guise he claimed he was merely transcribing and editing an actual medieval document, the "Wardour Manuscript" note  — though the author’s actual identity seems to have been an open secret.
  • Disinherited Child: Ivanhoe has been disinherited by his Saxon father, Cedric of Rotherwood, because Ivanhoe allied with Norman King Richard to fight in the Crusades. Cedric would even deny Ivanhoe suitor status to his ward, Rowena; Cedric aims to wed Rowena to Athelstane to bolster the Saxon nobility. Upon returning to England incognito, Ivanhoe enters a combat tournament with "Desdichado" (unfortunate, wretched) printed on his shield.
  • Disney Death: Bois-Guilbert hits Athelstane at Torquilstone. The noble Saxon is said to be dead and his funeral is in progress when he comes back.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Athelstane wanted to execute the friars that didn't feed him properly when he woke up from his supposed death.
  • Distressed Dude: Besides Rebecca and Rowena, Cedric, Athelstane, Ivanhoe and Isaac are held prisoner at Torquilstone by De Bracy, Bois-Guilbert and Front de Boeuf.
  • Driven to Suicide: What Rebecca will be if Bois-Guilbert tries to seize her in the tower of Torquilstone.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Ivanhoe champions Rebecca, who is not his Love Interest. Of course, he owed her his life.
  • The Dung Ages: Averted in Scott's original novel, though some adaptations have depicted at least parts of the setting this way. They are sure not presented as sweet, kind, and pleasant ages though.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Rebecca of York is described as having "Bright eyes, black locks, and a skin like paper, ere the priest stains it with his black unguent."
  • Epigraph: There is an epigraph in the beginning of each chapter.
  • Estrogen Brigade: In-universe. In the first volume, the narrator spends a lot of time repeatedly pointing out how much the ladies enjoy tournaments and matches between knights even more enthusiastically than many men.
  • Evil Chancellor: Waldemar Fitzurse — not personally depraved, but certainly ruthlessly ambitious — and a heck of a lot smarter than nearly all the other baddies.
  • The Evil Prince: Prince John, whose taking of this role in the Robin Hood legend was cemented by Scott.
  • Fan Sequel: W. M. Thackeray's Rebecca and Rowena was written so Rowena and Athelstane could die, Rebecca could convert to Christianity and marry Ivanhoe. It features assassination of Rowena's character amongst other things.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Rape, emphasized by Ulrica and Rebecca. The latter, in fact, is so determined to avoid this - as well as being forced to convert - that she's ready and willing to throw herself out of a tower.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Rebecca treats Wilfred when he is wounded after the tournament of Ashby. She falls in love with him.
  • Foil: Rowena and Rebecca, as Scott shows by paralleling their reactions to their would-be-rapists.
  • Foreign Ruling Class: As a proponent of the Norman Yoke theory, Scott depicts a Norman overclass oppressing a Saxon native peasantry.
  • Freudian Trio: The three bad guys who kidnap Rowena and Cedric. Front-de-Bœuf is the id (he is impulsive: he killed his father in a fit of rage). De Bracy is the superego (he respects the chivalric code of honour; he is superstitious). Bois-Guilbert is the ego: in his mind, there is a fight between his desires (he covets, then falls in love with Rebecca) and his respect of social norms (his status as knight templar, his personal honour). This internal conflict kills him in the end.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: We're told that Reginald Front-de-Boeuf's scars would have made a positive impression if displayed on an entirely different kind of man. On Front-de-Boeuf, however...
  • Gratuitous French: Mort de ma vie! The Normans here are always bursting out with Gallic oaths and phrases — in fact, the novel practically opens with a long discussion between Gurth and Wamba of the intermingling of French words with English and the subtle distinctions of meaning between them both.
  • Gratuitous Latin:
    • The churchmen in this novel are very prone to lapsing into gratuitous Latin. Even Rebecca does it at one point.
    • Lampshaded by Wamba, who tells Cedric that repeating "Pax vobiscum" will be enough to make him seem like a authentic friar. So, not all churchmen were educated enough to indulge in this fluently.
  • Greedy Jew: Isaac of York in Ivanhoe is somewhere between an example and a subversion. He's a moneylender with seemingly unlimited stores of riches who is very concerned with his money, but he helps Ivanhoe out of gratitude when he is hurt and frequently expresses that his love for his daughter trumps all of his wealth and even his own life.
  • Happily Ever After: In the end, Ivanhoe gets married with Rowena.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Lampshaded. When Cedric offers Wamba his freedom Wamba asks that it be bestowed upon Gurth, joking that it is more pleasant to be a slave because no one asks slaves to go to war.
  • The High Middle Ages: To be exact, the year 1194 A. D. (But see The Middle Ages below.)
  • Historical Fiction: One of the Trope Codifiers. Nearly every modern portrayal of the Middle Ages (and, implicitly, every Medieval European Fantasy work that derives its imagery therefrom) owes something to this book.
  • Historical Domain Character: Prince John and Richard Cœur-de-Lion
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Richard I — though Scott's depiction is not uniformly a positive one; his Richard is proud, reckless, a bit sensual, rather violent, and perhaps on the whole not an entirely inaccurate depiction of the warrior king. Still, he does seem to leave out the king’s extreme arrogance, deviousness, intolerance, morbidity, and occasional bouts of almost insane fury (the theory, by the way, that Richard was a homosexual — which would doubtless have scandalized the strait-laced Puritan Scott — was not seriously advanced until after his time).
  • Honor Before Reason: Wilfred tries to explain this concept to Rebecca, who still insists on Reason before Honour.
  • I Can Still Fight!: What the wounded Wilfred asserts for Rebecca's trial by combat.
  • I Gave My Word: As Bois-Guilbert tells Rebecca: “Many a law, many a commandment have I broken, but my sworn word, never.”
  • It's All About Me: Brian de Bois-Guilbert, who is too blind to even be aware of it.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: In the end, Rebecca accepts the fact that Ivanhoe gets married with Rowena.
  • Kick the Dog: Gurth doesn't care how badly you treat him, but throw a javelin at his dog, and he's lost all respect for you.
  • King Incognito: Richard The Lion Heart is disguised as the Black Knight .
  • Knight In Shining Armour: Ivanhoe represents the idealized image of the moral and strong knight.
  • Knight Templar: Lucas de Beaumanoir, who is a Knight Templar in both senses of the term — indeed, the Grand Master of the Order.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Virginal Rowena (light) and desirable Rebecca (dark).
  • Love Dodecahedron: Rowena for Wilfred; Athelstane for Rowena, Maurice de Bracy for Rowena, Wilfred for Rowena; Rebecca for Wilfred; Bois-Guilbert for Rebecca.
  • Lust: Exemplified by a number of the baddies, perhaps most egregiously by Brian de Bois-Guilbert.
  • Matzo Fever: The Jewish Rebecca is desired by gentiles, including a lot of chemistry with Ivanhoe himself.
  • Medieval Morons: Averted for the most part; though some play is made of the credulity of the crowd during Rebecca's trial, it is made clear that the accusing witnesses found by Malvoisin are acting more out of greed, envy, and political corruption rather than out superstition (Beaumanoir, though a fanatic, is not exactly a moron).
  • The Middle Ages: Scott's Early Romantic, "Look-to-the-Knight-of-the-Fetterlock-Fair-Rebecca" conception of the 12th century England veers at times very close to the Theme Park Version of the mediæval period.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: A lot of these. The Templar Preceptor Albert de Malvoisin ("bad neighbour") and his brother Philip; Reginald Front-de-Boeuf ("Or 'Beef-head'" as Richard Armour put it, in The Classics Reclassified). Waldemar Fitzurse's last name means "Son of the Bear" — which was also the surname of the ringleader of St. Thomas Becket's assassins. Scott states outright that Waldemar is the assassin's son.
  • Never My Fault: Bois-Guilbert, refusing to realize that Rebecca is in danger of being sentenced to burn mainly because he kidnapped her.
  • Noble Bigot: Cedric, who is enraged against the bigotry of Normans, sometimes has trouble not being bigoted against Jews. As one of the major themes of the book is bigotry, such things are not surprising.
  • Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!: How Wilfred goads Bois-Guilbert into dueling him in the third volume.
  • Not So Different: Bois-Guilbert tells Rebecca several times that she is like him.
    "The idea of death is easily received by the courageous mind, when the road to it is sudden and open. A thrust with a lance, a stroke with a sword, were to me little —-To you, a spring from a dizzy battlement, a stroke with a sharp poniard, has no terrors, compared with what either thinks disgrace. Mark me—-I say this—-perhaps mine own sentiments of honour are not less fantastic, Rebecca, than thine are; but we know alike how to die for them."
  • Now, Let Me Carry You: Rebecca nurses Wilfred back to health. Later he comes to save her from being burned as a witch.
  • Obliviously Evil: Bois-Guilbert so thoroughly buries himself under the tropes of Never My Fault and Playing the Victim Card that he honestly doesn't seem to understand that what he does to Rebecca makes him a villain, not her Knight in Shining Armor.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: As the Palmer, Ivanhoe somehow manages to sneak back into his own home, where absolutely nobody recognizes him until he finally identifies himself to Gurth.
  • People of Hair Color: Although Scott’s assertion of a lingering racial animosity between Normans and Saxons was not absolutely without basis (there was in Henry II's time a Saxon noble called "William with the Beard" who refused to shave as a protest against the Conquest), there can be absolutely no doubt that such feelings were highly eccentric, uncommon, and of no practical social or political importance by the reign of Richard I.
  • Perverse Sexual Lust: William Makepeace Thackeray was in love with Rebecca.
    "... ever since I grew to love Rebecca, that sweetest creature of the poet's fancy, and longed to see her righted."
    Excerpt from Rebecca and Rowena
  • Pinball Protagonist: One of Scott's calling cards is the passive protagonist, who often spends most of the novel being carted around by the Action Hero. Ivanhoe is one of the best-known examples, and famously spends a battle sequence flat on his back in a tower, unable to see anything that's going on.
  • Playing the Victim Card: After Rebecca has been sentenced to death, Bois-Guilbert sees himself as the injured party because the girl still refuses to love him. Sure, it's his fault she's in this mess in the first place, but he would save her if she would just agree to reward him.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: The jester Wamba, the always-hungry Athelstane, and the always-drunken Friar Tuck.
  • Prince Charming Wannabe: Bois-Guilbert just can't seem to wrap his head around the fact that "Marry me, and I'll save your life; refuse, and I'll let you die" is something villains, not heroes, do.
  • Protagonist Title: There is in total three protagonists: Wilfred of Ivanhoe, Richard Coeur-de-Lion and Rebecca. It is the first of them that the name of this romance comes from.
  • Public Domain Character: Robin Hood and Friar Tuck. Scott was not the first, by any means, but he is probably the most influential author in linking the outlaw's legend with Richard The Lion Heart and Prince John; more original with Scott was the linking of the legend with a supposed racial animosity between the Normans and the Saxons. Scott also popularised the name "Locksley" as associated with the outlaw.
  • Purple Prose: As an example, Ulrica’s parting Take That! to Front-de-Bœuf:
    Farewell, Front-de-Bœuf! May Mista, Skogula, and Zernebock, gods of the ancient Saxons — fiends as the priests now call them – supply the place of comforters at your dying bed, which Ulrica now relinquishes! But know, if it will give thee comfort to know it, that Ulrica is bound to the same dark coast with thyself, the companion of thy punishment as the companion of thy guilt. And now, parricide, farewell for ever! May each stone of this vaulted roof find a tongue to echo that title into thine ear!
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The almost impossibly noble Rebecca is said to be the only character based directly one of Scott's contemporaries — a friend of Scott's friend Washington Irving — a Jewish lady from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, named Rebecca Gratz.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Rebecca constantly tries to acquaint Brian de Bois-Guilbert with how wrong he is about his actions and motivations regarding his treatment of her, to no success.
  • Retcon: Sir Walter invented a role for Robin Hood against Prince John in Richard The Lion Heart's absence to plug some holes in his plot.
  • The Reveal:
    • The Palmer/El Desdichado is revealed to be Ivanhoe in the end of the tournament at Ashby.
    • When he gets to York, De Bracy tells Prince John that the Black Knight is King Richard the Lion Heart.
    • After Locksley and his men save Richard from an attack of Fitzurse, he confesses that he is Robin Hood.
    • Bois-Guilbert did not kill Athelstane at Torquilstone.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: The novel includes a number of poems and "songs" recited or sung by the characters.
  • Rightful King Returns: "Take heed to yourself, for the Devil is unchained!"
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge / Roaring Rampage of Rescue: The storming of Front de Boefs castle. Probably quite a few readers were pleased with that one.
    In that war-cry is the downfall of thy house. The blood-cemented fabric of Front-de-Boeuf's power totters to the foundation, and before the foes he most despised! The Saxon, Reginald! The scorned Saxon assails thy walls! Why liest here, when the Saxon assails thy place of strength?
  • Royal Brat: Prince John, who is constantly referred to as petty and spoiled, is an unusual adult version of this trope.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: Two:
    • Maurice de Bracy to Rowena: "Marry me, or I'll kill your guardian and your boyfriend." (This is over in the same chapter it appears in.)
    • Brian de Bois-Guilbert to Rebecca: "Marry me, or at least have sex with me, or I'll let them kill you." This lasts until Bois-Guilbert's death.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Maurice de Bracy's reaction to King Richard's return.
  • Secondary Character Title: Wilfred of Ivanhoe is physically present only for about 25% of the book and unconscious or incapacitated for half of that.
  • Servile Snarker: Wamba — it's probably in his job description as a jester.
  • Sex Slave: Ulrica was used as one by Front-de-Boeuf's father after he took Torquilstone from her father Torquil Wolfganger. She later became the unwilling mistress of Front-de-Bouef himself.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Shylock from The Merchant of Venice lurks just behind Scott's Isaac, who is partly a subversion of the figure. Lampshaded by Scott in one of the epigraphs.
  • Shown Their Work: Scott appended notes to later editions, justifying some of the historical assertions he made, or at least showing what historical incidents had suggested them.
  • Splitting the Arrow: Robin Hood does this. Although not the originator of this trope, it is a Trope Codifier.
  • Storming the Castle: Occurs during the Battle of Torquilstone
  • Swashbuckler: More in its adaptations than in Scott's original novel.
  • Those Two Guys: Gurth, a swineherd, and Wamba, a jester, whose conversation opens the novel.
  • Token Good Teammate: King Richard is like this to Locksley's men.
  • The Tourney: Appears in the first volume with the first day involving jousting and the second day a melee and archery.
  • Trial by Combat: The climax of the novel Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe fights on behalf of Rebecca, the daughter of Isaac of York, who has been accused of sorcery.
  • Unfortunate Names: De Bigot, Prince John's seneschal, mentioned in a throwaway line. Very nearly a Mel Brooks character.
  • Unrequited Love: Quite a lot, so the point of creating a Love Dodecahedron.
  • Useless Protagonist: Wilfred. Not completely useless, but bedridden for most of the book.
  • Vague Age: In contrast to Ivanhoe who is stated to be twenty-five and Cedric who is stated to be approaching his sixtieth year, telling us he is fifty-nine, the most we get for Bois-Guilbert is "past forty."
  • Villainous Rescue: Bois-Guilbert saves Rebecca in the fire of Torquilstone.
  • Warrior Prince: Cœur-de-Lion takes part in the melee and leads the Merry Men in the Battle of Torquilstone. He is even the one to deliver the fatal blow to the brutish Front-de-Bouef.
  • Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: Rowena, especially when she tells off de Bracy.
  • Wrecked Weapon: The Black Knight winds up breaking his sword. Twice.
  • You Can Barely Stand: Wilfred of Ivanhoe meets Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert as challenger in a trial by combat despite barely having recovered of his wounds from the tournament.
  • You Got Spunk: Brian de Bois-Guilbert's opinion of Rebecca's attempted suicide to escape him.

    Tropes Present in the 1975 TV Adaptation 
  • Adaptational Wimp: Front-de-Boeuf to the point that he needs assistance in the Ashby tournament, wants to return to France the moment he hears Richard is returning to England and doesn't even participate in the battle of Torquilstone.
  • Composite Character: Front-de-Boeuf is combined with Fitzurse. Until his name is given as Front-de-Boeuf one would think he was Fitzurse.
  • Demoted to Extra: Athelstane goes from Rowena's arranged betrothed to Cedric's second-in-command. Although the role sounds larger it really isn't as he becomes less important a figure to the story and is not even among the prisoners held at Torquilstone but one of the army attacking Torquilstone. Due to him never getting a blow hat stuns him and makes him seem dead, there is never any funeral for him either. His role in the special amounts to him challenging Bois-Guilbert at Ashby, losing and then aids the Black Knight, Cedric, Robin Hood, Friar Tuck and a host of Saxon soldiers and Merry Men attack Torquilstone to free Ivanhoe, Rowena, Gurth and Wamba.
  • Spared By Adaptation: Bois-Guilbert; it is rather ambiguous with Front-de-Boeuf on the other hand. The last we see of the latter is Ulrica holding a torch before him. Later, Bois-Guilbert tells Prince John that Torquilstone has been captured and Front-de-Boeuf has gone missing. By extension we never see Ulrica again after that aforementioned scene involving Front-de-Boeuf.
  • Spiritual Successor: To API's previous The Legend of Robin Hood. One can't help but think if the animation style used in "The Legend of Robin Hood" had been used in this then there would be less characters with black hair.

    Tropes Present in the 1982 TV Adaptation 
  • Adaptational Heroism: Sir Brian in this version did not die "a victim to the violence of his own contending passions", but rather died heroically. Though he could easily have defeated Ivanhoe, who was fighting as Rebecca's champion, he let himself be struck down for Rebecca's sake.
  • Adapted Out: Ulrica is not present and most of the castle is still standing, with only thatch roofs getting set on fire by Saxon archers.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: A mixed example: While Ivanhoe does love and marry Rowena in this version, he kisses Rebecca and shows a large amount of romantic affection for her, believing that he could wed and love her if only she were not a Jewess. The show even ends with Ivanhoe lamenting what could have been.
  • Butt-Monkey: Athelstane is hit in the groin with the wood end of a spear, knocked away by Sir Brian when he flees with Rebecca and gets hit by a fleeing Norman soldier, causing him to hit the side of a lean-to, which collapses on him. All in about two minutes.
  • Color Motifs:
    • Yellow for Ivanhoe, coupled with blue for his time as the Disinherited Knight.
    • Red, White and Black for Bois-Guilbert, befitting his status as a Templar.
    • Magenta and Red for De Bracy.
    • Yellow and Black for Front-de-Boeuf.
  • Cool Helmet: The helmets the three antagonists wear. Bois-Guilbert has a blackbird atop his, while De Bracy has a dragon and Front-de-Boeuf has a pair of horns.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Sir Brian spreads his arms wide as he deliberately leaves himself open to be stabbed.
  • Dual Wielding: Front-de-Boeuf wields a sword in one hand and an axe in the other in his fight with the Black Knight.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: The breath holes are only on the right side of the helmet.
  • Groin Attack: Athelstane is hit in the groin with the blunt end of a spear.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Sir Brian, who deliberately leaves himself open to being stabbed to death by Ivanhoe in the final duel so Rebecca can live.
  • Leitmotif: The Black Knight has a fanfare on trumpet, heard as he enters the tournament melee and climbs the ladders during the attack on Torquilstone Castle.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: De Bracy's surcoat is magenta.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The castle is in much better shape than in the book.
  • Spiritual Successor: To The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men; the Doctor Who episodes The Lion, The Knight Of Jaffa, The Wheel Of Fortune and The Warlords; the miniseries The Legend Of Robin Hood. It later received a successor of its own in the 1997 Ivanhoe miniseries, the 1984 Robin Hood series and Hellbound.
  • Truer to the Text: It is vastly superior to other adaptations because of this. The 1952 film is too condensed and the 1997 miniseries has been expanded too much. All is as it should be because of this.

     Tropes Present in the 1997 Miniseries 
  • Adaptation Expansion: The longer running time gives more space for characters to be fleshed out.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Bois-Guilbert starts out merely lusting after Rebecca, but grows to appreciate her intelligence and spirit; by the end he's genuinely in love with her, aids Isaac's escape from the Templars so he can attempt to get some help, tries to help her escape the night before her execution, and allows Ivanhoe to kill him during their duel so that her life will be spared.
    • Most of the protagonists are generally far nicer to Isaac and Rebecca than they were in the novel and their differing religions never seem to be too much of an issue.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Bois-Guilbert not only betrayed King Richard to the Austrians but pinned the blame for it on Ivanhoe to conceal his own treachery, leaving the latter disgraced and needing to clear his name.
    • Instead of being “merely” a literal Knight Templar, Lucas de Beaumanoir is power-hungry and sadistic without even the redeeming qualities he had in the book. Especially noticeable after the final battle of Bois-Guilbert and Ivanhoe: in the book, Beaumanoir immediately accepts the result as the judgment of God and declares Rebecca innocent, but in the series he plans to kill her and Ivanhoe and would have done so, if not for Robin Hood’s men providing backup.
  • Age Lift: Reginald Fitzurse was born in 1145 and marrying age for men at that time was seventeen, thus Waldemar has to be thirty-two at the oldest. Waldemar is played by Ronald Pickup who was fifty-seven at the time, though really Waldemar has never been played by a man in his thirties.
  • Animal Motifs: Prince John is identified with a falcon, and has a little monologue about training and rewarding birds of prey — while talking to the men he's hoping will assasinate his brother.
  • Almighty Mom: Eleanor of Aquitaine is the one who ultimately puts the conflict between Richard and John to an end and gets the two to embrace as brothers.
  • Artistic License – History: Cedric and Athelstane are shown having their beards tugged at the banquet of Lord John, as he was historically called due to being the first Lord of Ireland. This episode actually happened in real life, many times in fact...except John's courtiers were doing it to Gaelic Irish men, not Saxon men.
  • Artistic License – Religion: It's said the sacrament of penance (i.e. absolution) can only be received once in a person's lifetime. Whoever wrote that clearly didn't know even the most basic facts of Catholicism. There's no limit, and in fact shortly after this is set the Church actually mandated people have the sacrament at least once a year because many had been neglecting it. Heresy trials didn't really occur yet at the time either by the Church, so the forced baptism of a Jew (itself not considered valid) so he can then be tried for this over rejecting Christ would not work.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Robin and the outlaws arrive at Templestowe in order to ensure Rebecca and Ivanhoe's safety, just ats Beaumanoir attempts to have them killed.
  • Canon Foreigner:
    • An extremely strange case: Little John. Yes, he's a famous member of Robin Hood's band of merry men, but he's not in the novel (he's mentioned once, but only in the capacity of Robin telling the others that he's somewhere else entirely). Yet in this particular adaptation he's given a large part to play.
    • Another that fits the definition of "extremely strange case": would be Eleanor of Aquitaine showing up. Yes, she was a historical figure who was alive at this point in time, but she didn't appear in the original novel. The only members of the House of Plantagenet to appear, be it from being born into the house or marrying into it, are Richard and John. Of course, with her making appearances in Robin Hood adaptations it was only a matter of time until she appeared in an adaptation of Ivanhoe.
  • Chess Motifs: Prince John and his retainer share exposition over a game of chess.
  • Clear My Name: Bois-Guilbert covers up his own betrayal of Richard by claiming it was Ivanhoe who committed the betrayal, leaving Ivanhoe to try and salvage his name and reputation.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The first episode opens with Ivanhoe being brutally flogged by his captors in the Holy Lands.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Wamba plays the fool very well in order to thwart those he doesn't care for, and steps up to the plate in order to save his master.
  • Death Seeker: By the end of the story Bois-Guilbert, wretched from the mess he's made of his life and knowing that he's the reason Rebecca's life is at risk, urges Ivanhoe to kill him so that the woman he loves will be spared.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade / Historical Villain Upgrade: Quite an interesting case, as this is actually discussed and deconstructed near the end of the series. Eleanor of Aquitaine confronts both her sons and chews out not only John, but Richard as well. If anything she's more annoyed with the latter, since he's spent all but three or four months of his reign in the Holy Lands and has near bankrupted England to pay for his wars - leaving John to do the unpleasant but necessary task of raising the money for these wars and Richard's ransom, as well as keeping the country running. As she points out, 'John may be a miserable little runt, but at least he's been here!'
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Rebecca. She swears to the jealous Rowena that she had never loved Ivanhoe or vice versa – and then confesses to her father that though she lied, it was “for the noblest cause of all”.
  • Important Haircut: Ivanhoe's transformation from the Palmer to Disinherited Knight and, well, himself involves this. He cuts his hair to a shorter length than it had previously been and shaves, signifying his ultimate return to England.
  • It's Personal: This time around Ivanhoe has a personal vendetta against Bois-Guilbert, as the latter was the one who betrayed King Richard and pinned the blame on Ivanhoe, leaving him trying desperately to salvage his ruined reputation.
  • Kick the Dog: An usually literal and cruel variant as poachers pull Fangs' claws out early into the first episode of the miniseries, meaning every step would be painful for him.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Bois-Guilbert is about to force himself on Rebecca, she tells him that "Reason is a gift from God to civilized men; it has no place in this room." When Rebecca is on trial, Bois-Guilbert repeats this nearly word-for-word to Beaumanoir.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Bois-Guilbert is horrified when Beaumanoir has Rebecca put on trial for witchcraft, knowing that the woman he's grown to love is in danger because of his own selfishness and lust.
  • Oh, Crap!: How Prince John reacts when de Bracy warns him that Richard is back.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Little John defending Rebecca from a random lech at the tournament; and later, helping Gurth carry the injured Fangs.
    • Prince John does actually seem to be somewhat sympathetic towards Rebecca during her trial; he mocks a lot of the evidence and knows it's pretty much a sham, but there's not a lot he can do about it.
    • When Beaumanoir is outraged at Rebecca, a 'heretic', singing psalms, Montfitchet points out that they belonged to her faith first.
    • In fact, all the villains get at least one Pet the Dog moment save for Lucas de Beaumanoir, who is even worse than in the novel.
  • The Resenter: John is very aware that few people like him, and that part of that is because he's had to increase taxes to pay for the ransom of his much more popular brother.
  • Sadistic Choice: Presented by Beaumanoir to Bois-Guilbert. Either Bois-Guilbert fights against Rebecca’s champion and potentially ensures her death, or he’ll have to light the fire at her stake himself and then be sentenced along with her.
  • Sanity Ball: John, Fitzurse, and Bois-Guilbert juggle it.
  • Slouch of Villainy: John during Rebecca's trial, in contrast to Beaumanoir who is sitting up straight. Ironically, John's more sympathetic towards Rebecca.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Rebecca and Bois-Guilbert play a few games while he's holding her captive; he tries to seduce her with each move, but she doesn't reciprocate.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in a way, which is in turn a spiritual successor to both Robin of Sherwood and Robin and Marian. It is also a successor to the 1982 film adaptation of Ivanhoe.
  • Xanatos Gambit: As one of the Templars points out, if Bois-Guilbert had managed to become Rebecca’s champion and won the trial by combat, Beaumanoir would have simply attributed it to sorcery and burned Rebecca anyway.
  • Xenafication: One gets the sense that the attempt was made to do this with Rowena before someone came to their senses. She is portrayed as much more fiesty and spirited than her book counterpart, and at one point she wields a sword in her own defence - only for the need to use it to never truly arise.


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