I was only nine years old when I watched this Ivanhoe TV show in 1958. Loved it, of course. But the abridged version they had us read in high school was wretched enough to sour me on it for several decades.
Well, I’m reading it again now, in all its original glory, and loving it again. Like all great novels, it has something new to offer every time you read it.
What impresses me this time out is Sir Walter Scott’s depiction of an England that’s still in the process of being born, it’s not quite England yet. A hundred years or so after 1066, the country has a Saxon populace and a Norman French ruling class. It’s still a conquered country, still without real law (despite the honest efforts of Henry II), and being a conquered country really sucks. It also has a population of Jews ground down by persecution. All of this was missing from that warped edition they imposed on us in high school.
We Americans founded our country and gave it a legal framework, the Constitution. But countries in Europe weren’t so blessed. Ivanhoe shows us some of England’s birth pangs. These countries had a long way to go before they became the countries that we see today: they could have easily turned out to be very different from the European countries that we know.
History lives. It’s always being made. It always needs God’s blessing. The Lord has abundantly blessed our country, sparing us much of the pains suffered by the European countries in their formative centuries.
History should teach us to be grateful for that. And to avoid mistakes!