Historical fiction should stick to historical fact

Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe
Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe

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:

Robin Hood, starting Russel Crowe, 2010

Robin Hood, TV series, 2006

Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner, 2003

Robin Hood, Men in Tights, starring Mel Brooks, 1993

Robin Hood – made for TV, starring Uma Thurman as Maid Marion, 1991

Robin and Marion, starring Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn, 1976

Robin Hood, TV series, starring Richard Greene, 1955-1960

The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn, 1938 – this particular DVD set has a documentary on the history of Robin Hood movies.

Robin Hood, starring Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., 1922 – the one that started it all

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.

Like what you read? Then you’ll love my award-winning Christian novel: Deo Volente! (God Willing): Love in the First Century a historical novel about the early church check it out! $1 from the sale of each book – not matter what format benefits StreetLight Phoenix to help eradicate child sex slavery. www.giselleaguiar.com/novel1
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Giselle Aguiar
Award-Winning Christian Author
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One comment

  1. I think that your evaluation was right to the point and helped me to understand better the Legend, The Man and the Facts. your point blank response, is Robin real, imagined, a conglomeration of many into one man, or just something fun to watch out of Hollywood. For me, historically speaking I liked this the best even though you point out there are factual flaws. So what, Maximus wasn’t real either and Patton as a film swept the Oscars and it to was a compilation of fact, friendship, envy, Hollywood “Wimsy” by its writers and what we wanted to hear about a twentieth century G A Custer that succeeded and failed. Patton as legend? This version of Robin Hood sets the stage as a pre-quil to answer the Question why and how? Before this I did not question King Richard’s return made safe by the outlaws of an olden aged “HOOD” or even that he returned at all. I did not know until this version and researching the facts about this version of Robin Hood’s facts vs. fiction back-story, did I even dare to believe King Richard died in mainland Europe let alone France, plundering his way back home; “…….who’ld of thunk it?”. Much more to say but I think you get my point; I and my wife loved the movie. Is there a sequel in the future, please!


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