Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Nothing to Hide in the Hood

A little while ago I posted that I am enjoying the BBC Robin Hood series.
I began to get curious about the origins of this tale. Just my natural inquisitiveness.

Since this new series fiddles with and adds new ideas to the story, I figured it would be good to know the source.

What I discovered I suppose I should have known, or at least realized. There is no “source” for the adventures of Robin Hood. It’s simply a folktale from way back. No one author wrote it that we can pinpoint. Just a tradition of telling the story and adding or changing things along the way. Don’t get me wrong, I did know that Robin Hood is a legend. I just figured that there would be a “definitive” version of the story, along the same lines as Le Morte d'Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory’s respected transcription of the King Arthur legend. Okay, yes, written forms (prior to “modern”) of Hood do exist. But these are merely the oldest surviving takes on the story, they did not define it any more than the telling of the legend itself.

The excellent part is that the story evolved. For example, originally Robin had been a simple peasant. Now his mythos includes him being the displaced Lord of Loxley/Locksley. Maid Marion did not originally appear and crept into the story. There are even more contemporary embellishments now widely accepted as part of it all.

Bart and I saw a fantastic original musical about Robin Hood. Unfortunately it happened many years ago and I do not recall the production company nor the playwright/composer. But our friend Lil’ Red played one of the Merry Men. I recall some of the lyrics: “Would you like to be a Merry Man? I sure would! I shur would!” and “Marion, my Marion…. Merry Man, my Merry Man….” Silly, yes, but in the “we know it is, so laugh along with us” way. The play opened with a minstrel saying he’d tell us the story of Robin Hood. It revolved around a guy who wanted the girl, but to do that he had to bring down the Sheriff’s tyranny. The minstrel helps him “become” Robin . Even here, Hood is a legend. He suggests that If you say you are he, then people will believe. Along the way minstrel helps things “happen” to give him the clout he needs. Quite a charming show.

Also, director Ridley Scott and writer Brian Helgeland are coming out with a movie called Nottingham in 2009. It takes a different approach. Its sympathies lie with the Sheriff, thwarted by the outlaw. It seems that Robin will be painted in a dark light. Not sure I like that idea, but then I admire the right and the gumption to do it.

As to whether or not a historical figure of Robin Hood ever existed, join the debate.

I find it rather refreshing that such a beloved character can have such an open status. In other words, having spent so much energy into preserving and upholding the facts of a creation whose creator is known, it’s nice to see something that belongs to everyone. One that for the most part, has been mutated but never destroyed. Okay, yes, I’m sure you know of a portrayal you did not care for. And we do have indisputed classic versions...need I even mention Errol Flynn? On the whole, Hood's popularity remains and his storyline develops and progresses.

Robin Hood is truly the stuff of legend.

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