Friday 14 March 2014

History - Robin Hood

Today's History Lesson is about a character in English folklore called Robin Hood and his band of Merrymen.

First of all, let me clear up a common misconception. This is not a musical band like Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman or such old style musical bands from long time ago. Albeit Robin Hood and the Merrymen are at least of that period and beyond.

Robin Hood is believed to have lived in the late-12th-century; at the time of King Richard the Lionheart of England. Now some people believe this is all a tall-tale and he never actually existed. But he really did, because I have seen a statue of him in Nottingham, England. So he must have modelled for the statue, don't you think?

Also, there have been many films made about him - so there! he must have existed all those years ago.

Robin and his Merrymen lived in Sherwood Forest and they robbed the rich to help the poor. His companions were called Will Scarlet, Much the Miller's son, Little John and a monk called Friar Tuck. His girlfriend was Maid Marion. And his enemy was the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Robin and his men always wore green. Some believe it was to camouflage themselves in the forest from the Sheriff's soldiers; but truth be known it was because washing machines had not yet been invented, and clothes do get dirty when you spend your life climbing trees like a monkey.

There have been many adventures written about Robin Hood and his Merrymen and all of them seem to have a similar theme. They lived in the forest, they stopped bad rich men travelling through the forest, took their money and gave it to the poor. Every so often the Sheriff of Nottingham works out a plot on how to capture Robin and the plot always seems to fail at the end and they all live happily ever after.

But reality was far different from what we are led to believe in the cinema or in books. The reality is that they lived in a damp and wet forest which froze them to death in winter and gave most of them rheumatism and aches and pains. One day Robin was in such back pain that Friar Tuck, who was a part-time doctor as well as a monk, suggested he stays away from all dampness. He couldn't even take a bath in the nearby river. So for weeks Robin sat in an empty tub and vacuum cleaned himself.

Many ballads and songs have been written about Robin and his Merrymen being ace swordsmen and great archers able to shoot an arrow through a castle window from a great distance. But again that's an exaggeration.

On one occasion Maid Marion was imprisoned by the Sheriff of Nottingham in a room high up in a tower with her lady-in-waiting Matilda Woodenleg. (They all had rather peculiar names in those days).

Robin Hood and his Merrymen gathered outside plotting on how to release them. The idea was that Robin would shoot an arrow with a string attached to it through the narrow window up in the castle where Maid Marion and her lady-in-waiting were there waiting. The lady-in-waiting was waiting on Maid Marion and Maid Marion was waiting for the arrow to fly in through the narrow window.

I hope you're paying attention to all this; because I'm getting rather confused.

Anyway, in those days windows were narrow vertical appertures in the big thick stone walls with no glass as we have now. The always-open windows allowed air to circulate throughout the castle and enabled soldiers to shoot arrows from the windows down on anyone attacking the castle; without themselves being seen or risking being hit by arrows aimed up at them by the attacking armies.
Robin's plan was to shoot an arrow through the window. Maid Marion would pull the string attached to it, which in turn was attached to a rope, which Maid Marion would tie one end to the bed tightly. Robin Hood would then climb up the rope to the window and rescue Maid Marion and her lady-in-waiting, Matilda Woodenleg, who would both be still waiting in their prison room.

After he explained his plan one of the Merrymen, Little John, said "You'll never make it mate! The window is too narrow and too high up. No one could shoot an arrow through that from this distance!"

"Except Robin Hood !!!" exclaimed Friar Tuck with a smile.

Robin replied "I bet you a squirrel's leg I could do it blinfolded".

He was blindfolded and he shot an arrow which hit one of his Merrymen in the backside giving him a scar to be proud of many years later when he related the story and showed his scar to anyone interested in hearing about Robin Hood and his Merrymen.

Robin took off his blindfold and shot a second arrow high up, which entered the window and hit the lady-in-waiting, Matilda Woodenleg, in her good leg making her cry out in agony and bite hard on her wooden leg to stifle her screams.

With no more waiting Maid Marion got the arrow out of Matilda's leg, and pulled up the string and the rope attached to it. She then tied the rope to the bed for Robin Hood to climb up to the window.

When he reached the top Robin found out that the window was too narrow for him to get in or for Maid Marion to get out of; which proves that being a big shot does not stop you from being stupid too.

It is believed that this experience was the precursor of modern slimming diets which we now follow even today to no avail to help us in and out of tight corners. However, since there are no more narrow vertical windows in modern houses and apartments most people prefer eating delicious fast-foods instead which were not invented at the time of Robin Hood. Given a choice any sane person will choose a good hamburger to a slimming diet. 

And so over the years many more ballads and stories got written about the various adventures of Robin Hood and his prowess as a swordsman and archer. But these were all for the benefit of the book and film industries and their authenticity is often disputed.

For example, there is no truth in the legend that Robin once shot an arrow with an apple on his head.

Nor is it true that he once threw an apple with an arrow on his head.

In fact there's no recorded incident of him having anything on his head apart from his hood when it was cold.

There is some truth however about his burial place; which authenticates the fact that he actually lived.

When Robin Hood got very old, (18 November 1247, about 87 years of age), he lay on his death bed breathing lightly and reminiscing about "olde tymes" when he could climb trees without the aid of an elevator.

His Merrymen surrounded the bed and regaled in "olde tales" about how they got the better of the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Maid Marion was there too making endless cups of coffee to keep everyone awake until Robin went finally to sleep.

Anyway, the Merrymen whispered to themselves about where they would bury Robin when he died.

Little John suggested a nice spot in Sherwood Forest.

Friar Tuck preferred a burial in Nottingham itself, to make a political point so to speak.

Others suggested a burial at sea would be more fitting ... there's no record as to why they wanted this, but then we can't assume that those people were either intelligent or logical.

Much the Miller's son suggested cryonics preservation but this was dismissed since the fridge was broken at the time.

Robin Hood tapped his hearing aid gently to hear them better and then said: "I know what you're talking about ..."

They all looked innocently at the ceiling and whistled or hummed silently.

The ceiling needs repainting, thought Maid Marion.

Robin continued: "Give me my bow and arrow. I shall shoot an arrow high in the sky. Where it lands that's where I wish to be buried!"

They gave him his bow and arrow. He put on his spectacles and weakly pulled back the string on the bow with his shaking hand. They all looked silently in anticipation. He raised his arm high, still shaking, and released the arrow.

And that's how Robin Hood came to be buried on top of the wardrobe.


  1. Cute. Do you live around the Nottingham/Sherwood Forest area of England, Victor? Just curious.

    1. Not very far from there.

      Robin is one of the tourist attractions, and there IS a statue of him in Nottingham.

      God bless.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I had a typo in my original reply. What I meant to say was:

      The reason I asked was that I did my Literature master's thesis on a writer from that area, D.H. Lawrence. So I have images in my head of the countryside, though I bet it's changed in these hundred years.

    4. D H Lawrence was born and educated in Nottinghamshire.

      There's still a lot of nice countryside in the UK; but unfortunately we're building more and more all the time.

      God bless.

    5. Thank you for this entertaining post Victor, but I'm afraid you have wasted your time. We Americans already know everything about Mr. Hood from Kevin Costner. Our cinemas never stretch the truth for entertainment value. Thanks anyway.

    6. Wasn't Kevin Costner a fox? Or is that Brian Bedford? I like the Walt Disney version of this film.

      God bless, Michael. More History Lessons to follow.

  2. However the legend of Robin started, it still a marvelous tale for young and old alike to dream of a time when Richard the Lionheart ruled the Kingdom and men such as Robin and his band of merry men helped him to upheld the law. So much better than all the science fiction animated characters invented today!
    We had Thierry La Fronde and I well remember my brother and I practicing with sling shot in the backyard (I kept successfully the neighbour's cat from our cherry tree and the birds!).
    Good versus evil, history always repeats itself, does it not?
    I too prefer the Walt Disney version to Mr. Costner on stage!
    Thanks for the memories Victor!

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed my version Noelle. Not as good as Walt Disney's; but still good.

      God bless.

  3. I love Benny Goodman & Glenn Miller!

  4. They played really good tunes Hand-Maid.

    God bless.

  5. Funny take on Robin Hood, Victor! Thanks for the smiles!

    1. It's all true Mary. Believe me.

      More History Lessons to be published here soon.

      God bless.



God bless you.