THE PRESENT AND FUTURE
Robin Hood at today? In just the past few years, he's been the star of
a cartoon show, another TV series, new pantomines, and several novels and
short stories. Many Robin Hood musicals are racing towards production.
Robin Hood's 20th century descendant, Robyn, teams up with the Merry Men's
children for time travelling adventures in the Canadian children's TV series
to Sherwood. People have done science fiction versions of the legend,
like in the novel, The Sherwood Game. Or "historical" novels like
Nicholas Chase's Locksley, Parke Godwin's novels and Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead. Robin and Marian
are even medieval detectives in a series of mystery stories by Clayton
Emery. Humourist Spike Milligan took Roger Lancelyn Green's The Adventures of Robin Hood children's book and rewrote it full of modern gags, jokey rants and silly names in his 1998 book Robin Hood According to Spike Milligan. I'm told there's even a Robin Hood romance novel or three out there.
Modern Robin Hood scholarship really took off in the 1950s with a debate being Rodney Hilton and J.C. Holt. There have been numerous recent books and articles taking a critical look at the legend. The tales once considered "good enough for fools" are finally getting some respect in academia. Since this website began in 1997, there have been four international academic conferences devoted to the outlaw hero.
is Robin Hood headed?
recently, there have been many feminist takes on the legend, like Robin
McKinley's novel, The Outlaws of Sherwood. Here, it's Marian who
shoots for the golden arrow. Marian's also the star of Theresa Tomlinson's
The Forestwife. In this young adult book, Marian is a healer and
leader in her own right. Marian is also the main character in Jennifer
Roberson's novels Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood. And 2004 saw the publication of Maid Marian by Elsa Watson.
Robin Hood's daughter Gwyn (played by Keira Knightley) was the main character
in the 2001 TV movie
Princess of Thieves. And Stephen Knight hopes
and expects to see more feminist re-workings of the legend. And ecological
ones and gay ones.
the summer of 1999 there was a controversy in the mainstream media when
Stephen Knight suggested that there were gay themes in the Robin Hood legend.
Since then I've heard of three new Robin Hood tales to be published using
previously a cardboard bad guy, the sheriff's been portrayed in a more
positive light. He's an honourable man in Parke Godwin's novels, just a
guy doing his job in In a Dark Wood by Michael Cadnum, and a good
and uncorruptable man fighting against the corruption around him in The
Sheriff of Nottingham by Richard Kluger.
the most part, there's a trend towards more real history. In most recent
movies, he's not wearing lincoln green tights. Novels like Sherwood,
which sets the Robin Hood story right after the Norman Conquest, weaves
Robin in and out of historical events in a much more "realistic" way than
some versions. [As an example of an unhistorical Robin Hood, in Princess
of Thieves, John doesn't become king and his place is taken by Prince
Philip, the highly-fictionalized version of Richard I's illegitimate son.
King Philip is Gwyn's romantic interest.]
the other hand, in The New Adventures of Robin Hood, you can find
Robin wearing pseudo-medieval fashions straight from an LA clothing store
and Maid Marian dressing like Xena. And dastardly Prince John gleefully
sacrifices peasants to Celtic goddesses. This show cashs in on the popular
trend of shows like Xena and Hercules. But to be honest, I don't think
it captures the charm of the shows which started the trend. Still, it does
have a strong following online. Obviously some people like it, and it should
introduce new fans to the legend.
suspect this series will have little impact on the legend as a whole. But
who knows for sure? I wouldn't have expected the Arab Merry Man to be come
such an essential element to modern versions of the legend.
I first wrote the words above - with some later rewriting - in the late 1990s. In 2006, a new Robin Hood TV series premiered on BBC One and later on BBC America. It capitalizes on current political issues with allegories to the war in Iraq and anti-terrorism legislation, and features a youthful (almost "boy band") Robin to appeal to younger audiences. In 2010, Russell Crowe will play an older Robin Hood in a new feature film. (Originally he was cast as a heroic Sheriff of Nottingham.)
Also, recent novels such as Adam Thorpe's Hodd (based in part on Robin Hood and the Monk have shifted Robin closer to the violent outlaw he was in the earliest ballads. The cover of Angus Donald's novel Outlaw invites the reader to "Meet the Godfather of Sherwood Forest". In a sense, the history of the Robin Hood legend is eternally in the present. New writers can borrow any aspect of the character's 600-year biography.
Hood will continue to take on new forms. I wonder what Robin will be like
when I am old and grey. Well, he'll be eternally young and fresh. Of that,
I am certain.
Sources and Further Reading:
Click here to view the sources used to write Wolfshead through the Ages: The History of Robin Hood.
Text copyright, © Allen W. Wright, 1997 - 2010.