Thursday, June 3, 2010
The Real Robin Hood
Though modern-day versions of the Robin Hood story often portray the man as the original Socialist, Ridley Scott’s new film, starring Russell Crowe, is purported to be provocatively more authentic. Here is are some shortened excerpts of Kathy Young's fine article about it:
Scholars note, the earliest [13/14th century] Robin Hood ballads do not mention ‘robbing the rich to give to the poor’.
The one person Robin assists financially is a knight who is about to lose his lands to greedy monks at an abbey. (Corrupt clerics using the political power of the Church are among Robin Hood's frequent targets in the ballads.) The Sheriff of Nottingham is Robin's chief opponent; at the time, the sheriffs' role as tax collectors made the object of loathing by peasants and commoners. Robin Hood is also frequently shown helping men who face barbaric punishments for hunting in the royal forests, a pursuit permitted to nobles and strictly forbidden to the lower classes in medieval England; in other words, he is opposing privilege bestowed by political power, not earned wealth.
Though by the 17th Century the legend was adapted to more aristocratic tastes, the fight for liberty against tyrannical authority remained central to the story, portraying a man fighting to reclaim his unjustly confiscated lands -- and against high taxes.