Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why I Love Sherwood: History

Part 1 of 4.

One reason I love the legend of Robin Hood is that it is that--a legend. A legend, unlike a myth or a fable, usually has some basis in reality. The fact that it is rooted, however lightly, in reality makes it intriguing. Being able to visit Middle-Earth would be a dream come true for many LotR fanatics, but it's not a possibility--however, seeing Nottingham and Sherwood is. I won’t go into all of the different theories about who the “real” Robin Hood was--what makes the most sense to me is that there were actually several--but the fact that we have these theories and these names makes it interesting to me. I like reality. And though a legend has overrun and overblown its original roots, it still has roots--and that appeals to me.

Another aspect of this broad “umbrella” of history and the nature of legends is that it is a living thing. The first written stories about the outlaw of Sherwood came from a 14th century manuscript called A Lyttle Gest of Robyn Hode. The latest include Hawksmaid, Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood, and even a graphic novel. A legend is alive. It grows and changes, and that too is exciting.

In this growing and changing there is also the constancy. The characters may take on new faces, personalities, backgrounds, and even names, we know who they are and where they come from. We expect such events as the archery tournament, Robin and Little John’s quarterstaff bout, dramatic escapes from the holds of evil knights, abbots, and a certain Sheriff, money to the poor, and the king’s deer that are fated to fall to outlaw arrows. In all good adaptations, even if most of these familiar events and people are stripped away, there is still something you recognize, that you can point out and say: “oh! I know where she got that from! How clever!”

An aftereffect of this ability and acceptance for change enters another element, especially appealing to a writer: the ability to join in. Everyone is welcome underneath Robin’s or Robyn’s or Robert’s spreading oak tree, to share their tales of adventures, adding their own twist and their own voice to the great canopy of stories.

Image of Major Oak of Sherwood taken from Wikipedia: released to the public domain.


StoryGirl said...

The "flexibility" of the legend is one thing I love about it. Even though it's been told so many times by dozens of people, YOU can still take it and make it fresh. Put your own spin on it and weave in your own mysteries. Even remake the characters. I love doing that. :)

Katie Oostman said...

I completely agree! I hope to visit Sherwood someday. :)

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