Maid Marian – by Natalie O Regan

“The middle Ages as always been a site of heroic fantasy producing a wide range of heroic character types who quest and battle for various causes”.[1]

The hero has always played a huge role in storytelling for childhood fairytales to university level texts; one will always come across a hero. Therefore, this article is going to focus on the hero but with a twist it is going to focus only on the heroine instead of the typical male representation of the hero. The article will explore what makes a heroine and how they differ from the typical male hero with strong focus point of Maid Marian from the Robin Hood tales. Women are usually represented as the love interest or the peace giver rather than the hero that the saves the day. Therefore, this article is going to look at the exception which is the heroine. Although in older texts the male hero is undoubtedly far more prominent, in today’s society, texts and films the heroine is really starting to strongly shine through. However, they were heroines in medieval texts and stories but they were understated but if you are willing to look closely they are clearly there. Is article is going to explore the heroine that is Maid Marian because she is the understated heroine.

Gender seems to be a problem in the typical representation of the hero this is because men are seen as the stronger sex and willing to stand up and fight in the face of danger. Of course in the world we live in today we know that women can do anything men can do but in earlier medieval texts they were just not seen like this. They were seen instead as the love interest, the hostess or the peace-weaver but as stated above there is the exception. What makes a hero is a character who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, displays courage and the will for self-sacrifice – that is, heroism – for some greater good for all humanity.[2]

Maid Marian’s main strength is her fearlessness, she does not act how women of her time acted instead she follows her heart and goes after Robin. She turns her back on the life she knows and goes to the Forrest. One might say this is not a big step but for her it really was it was a huge decision, she turned her back on everything she knew to follow her heart. Women of her time were not seen as heroes or warrior’s they were seen as wives and a love interest or peace-giver or a hostess, their role was to look after their men and stay at home not to stand out and fight. This is what makes Maid Marian difference and a hero of her time. Although some might say but she is Robin Hood’s love interest so she does play the typical female rule this is not true. She is Robin Hood’s love interest of course but her role is not just that simple. Even though her character has changed over time, each time she is represented, she is represented as a lady-like woman but also as a strong and courageous woman too.

It is the ballad of Robin Hood and Maid Marian that she proves herself  as a hero. In this ballad she disguises herself as a page and fights with Robin in the wood. Although of course he does not know who she is but what is interesting about this ballad, is that she is able to beat Robin in this sword fight. He has to ask her to stop as she draws blood for him in the sword fight. This ballad represented her as equal to the men even though she had to disguise herself as a man. However, when put to the test of fighting she does not disappoint she is able to hold her own. This shows that the only credible way to join the outlaws is to fight with the leader: this is a “Robin Hood meets his match” ballad in a wider sense.[3] Although this ballad is seen by some as foolish ballad, the notion of the hero’s fight with his lover is a potent one[4] also if one is focusing on the heroine that is Maid Marian this ballad is then very important in showing her strength as a woman and it shows her as a heroine.

As stated above Maid Marian is represented differently through the ages her character changes but she always remains courageous and loyal and she follows Robin hood and the merry men. Even the fact that she is tough enough to leave in the Forest with them shows that she is equal to them and although she is seen as a lady, she is a tough lady. It would take a very special and strong women to life the life of a outlaw but it is something that Maid Marian easily handles. She is can handle the life of the outlaw because she is a strong and powerful woman even though she might not always stand out in each representation of her. This brings us to her 2010 representation in the new Robin Hood film. In this new film she is seen swinging her sword alongside the merry men.[5] This Maid Marian is not the understated heroine, she is the outspoken heroine. In this film Marian is fighting her enemies or arguing with the male authority figures around her. However, the fact still remain in this film along with the main other stories of Robin Hood she is still the love interest in this tale and maybe if you were to look for weakness in Marian this would be it.

One can not help but think that if Marian had not been so love with Robin would she have chosen to live as an outlaw and although she lived the life of the outlaw did she just do so to please her lover. It makes one think that maybe Maid Marian lived her life the way she did just because she loved Robin and wanted to make him happy. However, being a woman myself I would like to think that loving Robin Hood did not make her act this way just to please. That she in fact lived the life of an outlaw an fought alongside Robin because she was a heroine and therefore, a strong woman with her own mind.


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