December 10, 2020

#08-021: Robin Hood

Douglas Fairbanks as Robin Hood

Note: For centuries, the dashing figure of Robin Hood, the legendary outlaw, has inspired stories, films, and songs. In fact, not a few real-life heroes have emulated his habit of "robbing the rich and giving to the poor." Let's learn more about this fascinating character.

Get Ready: Can a bandit ever be a good guy? Do we ever root for heroes who operate outside the law?

In the second tier of literature, after the Big Stories about King Arthur and Romeo and Juliet, we find characters like Robin Hood.

The milieu is the 12th century, during the reign of King Richard I "the Lionheart" of England, but the tales date to a few centuries later. They say that Richard was away on the Third Crusade (1189-1192), so his brother Prince John tried to usurp his lands. This is where the fiction starts: Richard spent most of his adult life in the southwest of France, and in his entire reign (1189-1199), spent less than six months in England. It's even doubted that he could speak English! (Note that some of the better-known elements of the stories are later accretions to the original ballads.)

Anyway, the Prince makes a handy villain, since, as Richard's successor King John, he is historically considered one of England's worst kings. He lost most of England's possessions in France, and in 1215 had to sign the Magna Carta, a guarantee of rights forced on him by a group of rebellious barons, who were fed up with his abuses.

Into this historical situation strides the legendary Robin Hood, originally a man of the yeoman class: non-noble landowners who farmed their own land. (Later legend changes him into a nobleman.) Skilled with the bow and the sword, he and his "Band of Merry Men" live in Sherwood Forest (in Nottinghamshire, England), where according to tradition they "rob from the rich and give to the poor."

Robin and his Merry Men have a mortal enemy, the Sheriff of Nottingham. He is the Prince's supporter, and a petty tyrant who collects exorbitant taxes from the common people; these are the funds which Robin et al confiscate for "redistribution."

Accompanying Robin are the ironically-named Little John, a giant of a man whom Robin first met when John bested him in hand-to-hand combat with long staffs; Friar Tuck, a jovial "holy man" who has a taste for good food and wine; Will Scarlet (with various spellings), whom some sources say was Robin's nephew (the uncle-nephew relationship is very important in late medieval literature); and last but certainly not least, Maid Marian, Robin's "love interest" who was brave and independent as well as beautiful.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. accretions
  2. et al
  3. exorbitant
  4. friar
  5. jovial
  6. milieu
  7. sheriff
  8. tier
  9. tyrant
  10. usurp

  1. a social situation
  2. an oppressive ruler
  3. a kind of Christian monk
  4. additions
  5. jolly; cheerful
  6. level; rank
  7. take away; replace by force
  8. a kind of law officer
  9. excessively high
  10. "and other people"

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for December 10, 2020

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. d; 2. j; 3. i; 4. c; 5. e; 6. a; 7. h; 8. f; 9. b; 10. g