Robin Hood – by Fiachra Devlin

Almost everybody has grown up with and is familiar with some version of the Robin Hood myth. I certainly remember spending my childhood watching the Walt Disney adaptation of the outlawed hero’s tale in all it’s animated glory. In fact, this particular version is a perfect example of just how timeless the tale really is; by virtue of the fact that even though it was created in 1973, it was still extremely popular and widely available on VHS throughout the 1990s. While this is very interesting (and a little bit nostalgic), this is a subject which should be examined in an objective and un-biased manner, so that we can uncover the true reasons that this is such an incredible myth.
The main reason for the durability of the Robin Hood story is that it reaches out to the majority of the world’s population, in no small part due to the “take from the rich to give to the poor” philosophy which has become so renowned, which certainly has an influence in modern times, and of course, it is especially resonant in recessionary times such as these. For example, in the context of Irish politics, the Labour party is one group who have adopted a sort of modern political variation of this philosophy in the hope that it will win over the majority of the Irish electorate. My point in this digression is, I believe that the equal distribution of wealth is a sentiment that people will always agree with, regardless of the time period.
There were many ballads and tales written about Robin Hood in the Medieval time period. The earliest known ballad is “Robin Hood and the Monk” [1], written sometime after 1450 AD. In this particular ballad, Robin orders Little John to carry his bow, “But Litull John shall beyre my bow, til that me list to drawe.” but Little John Refuses refuses. “Thou shall beyre thin own.” This sparks an argument between the two, causing them to separate. Robin is then captured by the sheriff, and placed in prison. When Little John hears this, he swears to rescue him. This ballad has been recognised as a very influential text, and has had much praise heaped upon it.
After this ballad, came a collection of tales, called “A Gest of Robyn Hode”, and then “Robin Hood and the Potter”, circa 1503. Between these texts, the story and myth of Robin Hood was firmly established, along with the  philosophy of stealing from the rich to give to the poor.
Another major factor in the popularity of the myth is of course, its continued use in modern film. Indeed, it can be found that each of these films keep the famous philosophy of “taking from the rich to give to the poor”. One difference I have found, however, is that the films don’t necessarily seem to keep the traditional image of Robin Hood’s unique green suit. As I have already mentioned, Walt Disney created the version with which I am most familiar. I think that the animation played a huge part in its 20 year lifespan, and the use of anthropomorphic animals was extremely clever. What child doesn’t like the idea of a heroic fox with a bear as a sidekick?[2]
Robin Hood had a cameo appearance more recently in another well known animated film; Shrek. This was quite a humorous portrayal, in which he is given a slight French accent, presumably to accentuate the humour[3].
And of course, it would be silly to forget the portrayal of Robin Hood in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as Sir Robin the-Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir-Launcelot.[4] The more serious adaptations of Robin Hood, however, such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,[5] and the most recent version, Robin Hood[6] (2010) are just as enthralling, as they stick more closely to the original portrayal of the myth.
We have now seen how popular and enduring the tale of Robin Hood is, and how it is a tale that will always prove popular among every age group, and in any era. On a personal level, I find it absolutely fascinating how there can be so many different cinematic interpretations of a single myth, which range from purely comic, to serious representations. I think that this apparent popularity is a true indication of how many future generations will also be enriched by this tale of such a fantastic hero.
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