Robin Hood Remade – The Portrayal of Robin Hood in Film – by Stephanie Reed
Robin Hood and his portrayal in film
The most recent Robin Hood interpretation is Robin Hood (2010) directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Russell Crowe as Robin Hood and Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian.
Robin Hood is everyone’s favourite outlaw and in today’s society almost everyone knows the name Robin Hood, which is an amazing feat given his origins in ballads and folk tales from early medieval times. He has become one of modern day’s most enduring heroes. Many characteristics of the medieval Robin Hood character are still present in today’s modern portrayal; and many of these characteristics have become defining features of Robin Hood by which he is instantly recognisable.
Physically some of these are his green clothes and hat that blend with the forest, and his bow and arrow. His bow and arrow are key symbolic representations of Robin Hood. He is known as an expert archer and many of the medieval ballads have Robin participating in an archery contest, such as Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow. The competition is usually for a silver and gold arrow with the sheriff attempting to deceive Robin, but he usually shows up in disguise and wins the competition. This is also portrayed in many films, but more recent films have actually foregone the famed archery contest including the most recent Ridley Scott version.
The most famous characteristic about Robin Hood is the fact that he steals from the rich and gives to the poor, but interestingly the medieval Robin Hood did not overtly do this. The earlier Robin Hood was described as a yeoman who stole from the dishonest and gave when it pleased him, but in time Robin Hood has become famed for his generosity. The figure of Robin Hood has been made more virtuous as time goes on to fit in with modern societies view of what a hero is. In early ballads such as Robin Hood and The Monk, Robin is somewhat of an anti-hero with questionable actions, morals and motives. Yet in films today robin has turned into a very generous character, and stealing from the rich to benefit the poor is one of his most defineable characteristics. The most recent Robin Hood film, Robin Hood (2010), directed by Ridley Scott has veered away from thie typical Robin Hood characteristics. Only one scene in the movie has Robin stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Another major element of the Robin Hood story is the idea of saving Nottingham and Sherwood forest, usually from an evil sheriff and King John. Ridley Scott focuses on this main plot throughout the fim. In many stories Robin is known to be a follower of King Richard the lionheart and enemy of King John, whereas this film eventually has Robin an enemy of both.
Robin Hood has been known by many names and in this film alone he goes by three, Robin Longstride, Robert Loxley and Robin of the hood. He was often depicted as a dispossessed noble man or under the guise of being a nobleman, which you can see in Robin Hood and Maid Marian, and in this most recent Robin Hood interpretation one of the elements taken from the medieval ballads is that he impersonates a knight. This all adds to the mysteriousness of the Robin Hood character who is loved for his mischievous ways.
Marian is depicted in many ways in the ballads, from an outlaw with fighting skills as good as Robin, to a damsel in distress who needs Robin to save her, which is the stance taken by most films. Yet in most cases Marian is usually portrayed as having great strength of character and self sacrifice, in Robin Hood the Prince of Thieves she agrees to marry the sheriff in a bid to save some of the outlaws. In Robin Hood (2010) she plays the very male role of looking after and working the land. She also defends the property from a group of plundering orphans, and at the end of the film rides into battle just as bravely as Robin does, but true to form Robin has to save her, physically but also saves her land. Marian was not in the earliest ballads but her character has become central to the Robin Hood story, as Robin’s love interest.
The merry men in the medieval ballads are depicted as brave fighters who often save Robin Hood himself but the merry men in this Robin Hood film seem to take a back seat and many plot points associated with them are left out, such as how they came to be merry men byt Robin challenging them in the forest. This scene is included in most Robin Hood films such as Robin Hood the Prince of Thieves. The merry men we see in this version are portrayed as men who are interested in getting drunk and chasing woman. Whilst in the ballads Robin would not last very long without his merry men and can be seen blowing his horn three times if in trouble and his merry men come to his aid, such as in Robin Hood and The Curtal Friar. Yet in this film they become a bit unnecessary and serve more as a bit of comic relief.
Overall it seems many of the main characteristics that define Robin Hood have been left out of this film in a bid to be original and to not sound too cliché, but those characteristics are why we love Robin Hood and it doesn’t feel like a true Robin Hood story without them. From Maid Marian to the Merry Men everyone loves the original or more typical characters.