Day 41 – Lincoln to Nottingham

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Given those two cities I bet you can guess what I’m going to write about! A hint – who wore Lincoln Green clothing and detested the Sheriff of Nottingham?

Five points to anyone who said Robin Hood. Gentle slap on the wrist to anyone who said Kevin Costner.

So Robin Hood – a subject chosen purely because while I don’t know anything about Lincoln or Nottingham – my bad because I’m certain they are lovely cities and well worth the visit – the thought of a bunch of hardy and healthy young men hanging out together merrily in the greenwood is a gift to any m/m writers imagination.

Mmm, men in tights. Click on the link for a reminder of how the story goes.


Robin Hood – did he exist? Probably not in the form we would recognise. No conflict with Prince John, no Maid Marian, no hide out in Sherwood Forest, probably no tights, either..

The earliest mentions we have date from the thirteenth century when the names Robehod, Robbehoode, Robert Hod, Robinood begin to crop up in assize reports from Berkshire to York, generally referring to outlawed fugitives. The spread of dates [80 years] as well as distance make it unlikely they refer to the same man. Robert was a very popular name and its most common diminutive was Robin. Hood, Hode, Hod didn’t just refer to headgear. In some dialects the pronunciation of hood and wood was identical. In the days before the spelling of vernacular English was set in stone the monks who made the records merely recorded what they heard. The law of the land was strict and unforgiving. There must have been dozens of men called Robin Wood or Hood who fell foul of the authorities.

Everyone loves a bad boy. Or not as the case may be.

As with King Arthur there must have been some kind of basis for the stories. A 13th century tradition in France had lovers called Robin and Marian who presided over the May Day games. A man called Roger Godberd led a life very similar to Robin’s – rebelling against Henry III, settling up as an outlaw in Sherwood Forest, scrapping with the Sheriff of Nottingham, being arrested and tried but pardoned by a Edward I who had just returned from the Crusades [possibly – scholars disagree on the details]. William Langland mentions Robin Hood in his work Piers Plowman [c.1377]  linking him with Ranulf, Earl of Chester, a contemporary of Kings Richard and John. It’s easy to see how confusion could have arisen and a 13th century story been moved back 100 years.

But whether he was real or not, I doubt there’s a person in the Western hemisphere who has never heard of him – Robin Hood is the hero of so many films and tv shows and has been played by a number of truly stunning young men, and a few older ones. I love Robin Hood films and never miss a depiction if possible. Richard Todd  such a gentleman,  Micahel Praed wispy and other worldly with BIG 80s hair, Douglas Fairbanks click to watch him camping it up in the Greenwood in 1922 for free, Patrick Bergin‘s Robin Hood was infinitely preferable to the better known Prince of Thieves that came out the same year, Richard Greene hands up anyone who can still sing the theme tune, Sean Connery heartbreaking as old Robin,  Russell Crowe with his ‘truly authentic Barnsdale accent’ and  Jason Armstrong who I didn’t much like but have put in for the fangirls. I have to admit to having preferred Guy of Guisbourne, purely on aestethetic grounds. But the best known Robin is surely Errol Flynn in the definitive Robin Hood movie of 1938, which has some of the best archery going. I have a house full of longbows – other half being a Master Bowyer accredited by the Craft Guild of Bowyers and Fletchers – and those arrows are being shot for real by one of the best archers who ever lived. Howard Hill was an American and a phenomenal archer. Below is a picture of him showing flynn how to handle a bow. click on it for one the cheesiest videos ever!

 

But if you can get past the awful narration and the winsome and adoring misses it’s worth it for the the bit with the apple at 6.20 and the classic splitting the arrow trick at 8.05.

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About Elin Gregory

Elin writes fiction when she isn't working in a museum or doing the tedious every day stuff everyone has to do, like washing dishes or doing the laundry. Her family don't mind her writing as long as there's food in the cupboard and clean clothes in the drawers.

4 responses »

  1. I’ve become more interested in Robin Hood since I moved to the East Midlands quite a few years back. I think you’re right that while there may have been one Robin Hood at one point in time, the name probably became symbolic – and maybe there’s a parallel with the much more recent ‘Captain Swing’, a signature used on warnings issued by intending rioters to landlords and magistrates in what came to be known as the ‘Swing Riots’ in 1830?

    I was recently out at the ‘Major Oak’ in Sherwood Forest, which may (or may not!) have been the area where an outlaw by the name of Robin Hood had a camp – but even though it’s estimated at 800-1000 years old, it would it would have been a much smaller and less memorable tree at that time.

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