I’ve been thinking a lot about Robin Hood lately, now that I’ve completed Villain, number three in my novel series The Chronicles of Robin Hood.
The final book in the sequence will be out next summer.
When you consider it, Robin Hood is quite a remarkable guy – with King Arthur one of the two essential British myths. For darned near a thousand years, the people of Britain, and then the citizens of the world, have been entertained by his exploits.
He reaches out and says something to us all to this day.
What’s the attraction?
Well, Robin Hood appeals perhaps to the rebel in all of us, the man who’s prepared to champion the poor and powerless against the uncaring rich and powerful. Mind you, if you read the original ballads he’s not quite so selfless. But it doesn’t matter. People need a champion and Robin Hood’s quite a good one.
I think it’s interesting that you could take a medieval peasant away from his plough, transport him through time and put him down in front of a television and let him watch Robin of Sherwood say, or Richard Greene in The Adventures of Robin Hood and he’d get the point. (Assuming he wasn’t overcome by technology or changes in the English language, of course. I frequently am!
I have always enjoyed the tales of Robin Hood, and my novels Loxley, Wolfshead and Villain, have been decades in the making.
It probably all started watching episodes of the Richard Greene series. Playing at Robin Hood was always the favourite game in our neighbourhood – in those happy days when children could make a longbow or wield a wooden sword without social services coming round to take you into care as a potential menace to society.
Unlike so many children today, our lives were spent mostly in the great outdoors, where we would vanish for hours on end, building dens and taking massive treks across the countryside. The countryside where I lived became Sherwood Forest during these youthful expeditions.
In the 1980s, the whole myth received a tremendous boost with Richard Carpenter’s imaginative remake Robin of Sherwood, which took the story in such interesting new directions.
In many ways, in the years since my first encounter with the man in Lincoln Green, I’ve led a rebellious life.
I’m sure it all started under the subversive influence of Robin Hood!
I spent a year living – mostly alone – in a wood back in the 1980s. Park Wood, at Spitchwick on Dartmoor, just across the River Dart from Holne Chase, an old Norman hunting ground.
I’d practised archery over the years, and learned many of the arts of fighting. I took up fencing at university. I’d already practised a variety of martial arts. One or two of these skills I’ve had to use in anger.
Every writer on Robin Hood takes a different tack. Some of my fellow authors portray him as a saint or sinner, or, like me, a mixture of both. Some writers prefer Robin in Barnsdale rather than Sherwood. I chose Sherwood out of sentimentality, I guess.
In some versions, the villains, such as Guy of Gisborne and the Sheriff are out and out rogues.My versions aren’t quite as clear cut as that. And I’ve been kinder to Prince (actually Count) John than a lot of other writers. My Robin questions the hierarchy of the society of his time much more than most Robins.
There have been thousands of interpretations and no doubt there are thousands still to come. We all have our own vision of Robin Hood.
If you want to read mine, the first three novels in the sequence are available in paperback and on Kindle.