As a history buff and novelist, I respect history. I love historical fiction – how a writer weaves a fictional story amidst historical fact. But when that fact is fudge for dramatic effect – well, I have a problem with that.
Take the latest contribution to the many Robin Hood flicks starring Russell Crowe. The story is a prequel to the Robin Hood tales depicted in other films and shows – sort of telling how Robin became “Robin Hood”.
The whole Robin Hood story is just that – a tale. Historians have tried to find a “real” Robin Hood, but all we know is that the tales, legends, folklore, ballads and stories began being told not at the turn of the 12th century when they take place, but in the 15th and 16th centuries. Robin Hood was a literary creation.
One thing all the Robin stories have in common is that Robin was a friend and loyal subject of King Richard I of England, aka Richard the Lionheart. Richard spent many years fighting in the Crusades in the Middle East and on the way home, stopped to reconquer Normandy in France.
The latest Robin Hood movie starts at this point with Robin serving in the King’s army storming a castle in France. It has the king dying in battle. That’s where they fudged the historical fact for drama’s sake. King Richard did die in France, but in a castle he had already taken over. He was walking one morning without his armor and was shot with an arrow by a boy seeking revenge for his father’s death during one of the castle plunderings. Richard’s mother was there and he died in her arms on April 6, 1199.*
Robin’s mission in life was to avenge the poor from Richard’s tyrannical brother, John. Hollywood has told the story and will continue to do so since that period in history with knights and ladies in peril will always be romantic. But, please, stick to the historical facts – since Robin’s story is fiction, it can be twisted around for dramatic effect, but history is history.
After seeing the latest Robin movie, I watched some of it’s predecessors – some for the first time and some again with an open mind.
Here’s a short list of Robin Hood movies:
The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn, 1938 – this particular DVD set has a documentary on the history of Robin Hood movies.
They all vary in one way or another, but here are some stories that most have in common:
- The poaching of the king’s deer
- The river fight with Little John
- Saving Maid Marion or a maiden from life of servitude and marrying her true love. In the case of Marion, Robin was the true love.
- Jumping from a castle tower into a hay cart.
Not all have a Friar Tuck, not all have Marion as Robin’s love interest. One thing, they are all fun to watch and wonder if there ever was a Robin Hood or was it all really just folklore.
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