Ivanhoe by Walter Scott, is set in England during the reign of King Richard , who is away on the Crusades to the Holy Land , leaving the administration of the country to his scheming brother , John , and his corrupt court cronies like Waldemar Fitzurse , Malvoisin and Front-de-Bouef.
Meanwhile a mysterious Disinherited Knight, aided by another anonymous Knight in black amour (Le Noir Fainéant) defeats all of King John's favorite knights at the jousting tournament at Ashby.
The challenger is revealed as Wilfred of Ivanhoe, the disinherited son of the Saxon nobleman, Cedric, who is the beloved of his father's charge, the comely Rowena.
The character who was for me, the most interesting, was the beautiful `black eyed' Jewish beauty, Rebecca, the daughter of the merchant Isaac of York. Compassionate and yet fiery, humble yet proud, sensual and yet modest, it is not hard to understand the passion for her felt by the Knight Templar, Brian De-Bois Gilbert. She and her father must try to survive in a violently anti-Semitic society, in which they are rendered defenseless, as members of a humbled nation. Rebecca, faced with a horrific fate, refuses to renounce her faith, right until the end. In a sense she represents the Jewish Nation, or the Nation of Israel, right through the exile (Galut), and also today as the international community unjustly pillories the Jewish State, and plots her destruction.
Rebecca thus says during her trial by the order of Knights Templars: " ` To invoke your pity' said the lovely Jewess, with a voice tremulous with emotion `would I am be aware, , be as useless as I should hold it mean...Nor will I even vindicate myself at the expense of the oppressor which seem to convert the tyrant into the victim."
So you see how timeless words of wisdom can be.
Also thrown into the book are Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and the witty Jester Wamba . A quotable quote from Wamba from Wamba is " To restrain them by their sense of humanity is the same as to stop a runaway horse with a bridle of silk thread.
The book is a pleasure to read. As Herbert Strang wrote in an early 20th century edition of Ivanhoe: "In introducing this great story to a new generation of boys and girls, I find myself wishing that I too, where about to read Ivanhoe for the first time"
After having read Ivanhoe , I can understand exactly why he wrote that.