Fantastical Reimaginings: Robin Hood 

Fantastical Reimaginings

Fantastical Reimaginings: “Robin Hood”
by Elizabeth B.

I don’t know where I first encountered the legend of Robin Hood; probably in Disney’s animated film about the clever kind-hearted fox and his best friend Little John, outwitting the wicked Prince John, fighting for the good King Richard and giving money to the poor. 
Disney's Robin Hood
Image from The Verge
 
Of course, that’s not how the real story started at all! The first Robin Hood wasn’t kind-hearted, didn’t like any kings, and didn’t even give money to the poor. Medievalists and Robin Hood scholars have struggled for years to find the “real” Robin Hood, but one thing’s for sure: Robin Hood’s history and retellings are all worth their weight in stolen gold.

History
Robin Hood may have started as a drinking song! In Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales”, a monk who spends too much time drinking at the pub knows Robin Hood songs better than his Bible. Robin Hood quickly grew to be a folk hero, a commoner and thief who defied kings and outwitted sheriffs by using clever disguises. Games and songs about the clever thief were wildly popular, but he didn’t start becoming the Robin Hood we know today until a high-profile fan started dressing up as the outlaw: King Henry VIII. Robin Hood needed a virtuous makeover to fit in at a noble court, so over the centuries Robin Hood gained a love interest, a religious side, a generous nature and even a noble backstory. Eventually, Robin Hood, former drinking song thief, became the kid-friendly hero he is today. 

The Original
So which story is the *real* Robin Hood? Did he ever really exist? Maybe. “Robin” and “Hood” were both common names in medieval England, and medieval records mention several outlaws named “Robin Hood.” Were any of these noble thieves who robbed the rich to feed the poor? Who knows! In every story, Robin Hood lives in the forest with Little John and other outlaws, but unlike many other legends and fairy tales, there are *so many* versions of Robin Hood: the commoner and the noble, the lover and the loner, the rebel and the royalist. No matter which legend you love, your Robin Hood can be the “real” story.

Robin Hood Variations
Which versions of Robin Hood can you watch and read right now? Is the outlaw or the nobleman more popular? Find out more about similar tales below!
***
 Robin of Sherwood
Image from hoopla
Robin of Sherwood
Available through Hoopla
“They’re here with us, in Sherwood, and they always will be because they’re free.”

When Robin of Loxley, a commoner, is chosen by the mystical Herne the Hunter to become champion of the oppressed, he gathers a band of outlaws to fight against the oppressive Normans. Later in the series, Robin Hood’s mantle passes on to Robert of Huntingdon, a young noble chosen by the same mystical Herne to fight for the Saxon peasantry.
This 1980’s television show may look familiar: its aesthetic later influenced 90’s shows like “Hercules” and “Xena”. Among Robin Hood retellings, this one is unique because it has both Robin Hood figures: commoner Robin of Loxley is the hero of the first two seasons, while season three stars the noble earl’s son version of Robin Hood. Both Robin Hoods are anti-royalty, though: their loyalty is to Herne. The series added magic swords, mythological figures, and magicians to its story, creating an interesting Robin Hood remix.    

***
 BBC's Robin Hood
Image from hoopla
Robin Hood (BBC)
Available through Hoopla
“Will you stand for this injustice? I, for one, will not.”

Robin, Earl of Locksley, has just returned home from fighting in the Crusades with his best friend Much. When he returns to his village, though, the Sheriff of Nottingham is running Locksley and overtaxing its people, and all of his villagers are surprised to find him still alive. Robin has to choose between being a noble and sitting by while injustice continues or becoming an outlaw to fight for his people from the forest.
BBC’s “Robin Hood” follows the nobleman version of Robin’s legend. Robin Hood is a nobleman in episode one, but his inability to stay silent in the face of injustice means that he’s banished to the forest. While BBC’s Robin Hood hates war and suffers PTSD from his time with the Crusades, he’s loyal to King Richard. Finally, he’s a hopeless flirt, and his attempts to woo a no-nonsense Maid Marian makes for a compelling Season One romance.

***
"The Outlaws of Sherwood" by Robin McKinley 
Image from hoopla
"The Outlaws of Sherwood" by Robin McKinley
Available on Hoopla
“You don’t exactly tell Marian she may or may not do things.”

Robin Longbow, apprentice forester, isn’t a good archer: when a mis-aimed arrow turns deadly, he and his two friends Much and Marian become outlaws in Sherwood Forest. His two friends are quick to present this misfortune as an opportunity: there are plenty of Saxons discontent with Norman rule, and Robin can serve as a rallying point for many of them. The friends start to build up a merry band of outlaws, ready to take on tyranny in any form.
Robin McKinley’s “Outlaws of Sherwood” makes Robin Hood a commoner again, but more importantly, it changes a key element of Robin Hood’s legend. Robin’s not the best fighter in his band, and he’s not a defiant revolutionary. Instead, Marian goes to town disguised as a boy to win archery contests; Little John fights for equality, and each member of the band brings something new. Robin Hood is a collaborative legend in McKinley’s telling, created by the band of outlaws working all together.
***

So, which is your favorite Robin Hood legend? Do you have a preferred version of the legendary outlaw? Tell us in the comments!
Enjoy these retellings and TV shows, and happy reading!

Sources:
“Robin Hood: A Study of the Evolution of the Legend in Britain 1400-2018 into History and Context"
Robin Hood Legend 
"Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales" by Stephen Knight and Thomas H. Olgren
“Wolfshead Through the Ages: The History of Robin Hood”
“Yeoman Justice: The Robin Hood Ballads and the Appropriation of Aristocratic and Clerical Justice” by Megan Elizabeth Woosley
“The Real Robin Hood,” History.com
Dr. Mikee Delony’s medieval literature courses, Abilene Christian University

Posted by svanholb@auroragov.org On 12 June, 2020 at 2:19 PM  

Leave Your Comment
Security Measure