Robin Hood – A Retrospective


Throughout the ages, certain outlaws have gained cult status as folk heroes. Perhaps not so much because of the individual himself. More in his actions and the interpretations by the public in the times they lived. Depression-era America had John Dillinger and Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd. They robbed banks. It was the banks full of greedy bankers foreclosing on properties across the country. An unknown score became destitute and homeless. Floyd’s deeds became memorialized in a popular song by Woody Guthrie. The same thought went into making Jesse James the most celebrated outlaw of the Wild West. The Civil War had been over a few years before James and his gang, supporters of the Confederacy, robbed banks and trains. Those same Union banks foreclosed and sold property the owners could only pay for in Confederate currency. Those are a few examples most would know. They are far from the first of their kind to achieve such celebrated stature. That honor goes to England’s acclaimed archer and legendary outlaw Robin Hood. Man, myth, legend, or any combination, all others find themselves compared to him.

The same elements that hold true of the others I’ve mentioned hold true for Robin Hood. His was a unique brand of social justice. While others robbed to line their pockets first, Robin Hood’s own interests went second. He targeted the wealthy aristocracy, tax collectors, and high-ranking members of the clergy. He upheld the role of chivalry and never harmed a woman, nor took from those who had nothing to spare. These things, and his stance against the clergy, brought the people’s admiration. Robin Hood’s was a time when the vast majority of the population were illiterate, poverty stricken peasants. These were the people he helped with his deeds, and they made his ballads the most popular songs of the day. So many centuries later, books, television, and film still carry on the legacy of the Sherwood outlaw and his merry band.

There is one key question regarding Robin Hood. Is he a man who lived at one time centuries ago, a myth, or a legend? I doubt we’ll ever know if such a man ever lived. While scholars seem to agree his origins are not from fanciful mythic folklore, there is much disagreement if he lived. A small list of possible candidates has formed along with the idea his true origin may not be a single man, but several. Does it matter who if the man lived or who the inspiration was? I don’t think so, and I believe the mystery adds to the appeal. If his true identity becomes fact, I doubt it would take away from the legend. Robin Hood is in the same select category as another Britain, King Arthur. While Arthur stories contain more fantasy and Robin Hood’s more reality, many, myself included, would like to know. Including the entire where, how, and who the actual basis is for all that followed.

I’ve always been a huge Robin Hood fan. Some of the modern adaptations of the legend fall short of the target. Whenever I see a new one I look to see what story it tells. Reading The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood written and illustrated by Howard Pyle and first published in 1883 inspired this piece. I’ll have a review soon. Also, I’ll have film and television reviews regarding the legendary outlaw. This was a fun piece to write, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. I’d like to think I’ve inspired a few of you to learn a bit more on your own.

Copyright © Drew Martin 2016


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