Who Was Robin Hood? And How This Character Developed Overtime?
Over the years, Robin Hood has been the subject of ballads, books and films. He is popular culture’s one of the most enduring folk heroes. Everyone knows that he is a noble outlaw in Sherwood Forest, who fights the oppressive evil Prince John by robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. But in reality Who Was Robin Hood? And How This Character Developed Overtime? This character represents many different things to different people. For many he is a classic freedom fighter, a person who works against the system to solve injustice and for others he is a rebel, an activist or a noble protector.
The legend of Robin Hood has changed with the time. He has been a yeoman, a knight, an earl, a courteous robber, an outlaw, a medieval revolutionary and even a woman in man’s clothing. The story can be traced back to the beginning of the 14th century. The early reference of Robin Hood in literature is in the alliterative poem ‘Piers Plowman’ by William Langland. In the poem Robin Hood is shown as distinctly unfriendly but still against the wrongful and repressive authority. The post medieval and medieval ballads of Robin Hood were a poetic expression of aspirations.
Most ballads had the theme of free but persecuted outlaws enjoying the forbidden hunting of the forest and outsmarting or killing the forces of law and order. The best know ballads are Robin Hood and The Monk, Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne, Robin Hood and The Potter and Lytyll Geste of Robin Hode. In 16th century, this character was made a fallen nobleman. Many playwrights adopted this new element and added the romantic appeal to the stories.
In most versions of the stories, he is a nobleman who gives up his title and land in order to achieve social justice outside of the law, which he thinks is corrupt and illegitimate. The main story of Robin Hood is set during the post Norman invasion years of English history. Robin of House Locksley discovers the falsehood in the rule of Prince John who is using taxation as a way to oppress the native Saxon people. He uses his expertise as a knight and archer to overthrow the usurper king and restore the throne to the more fair-minded King Richard, who is returning home from the Crusades.
He is both, a crusading hero and a romantic. In most stories he is interpreted as a charming and playful character who is also noble. It is the reason this character has been liked by readers and audiences for centuries. It can be said that the early ballads gave this character a plot and an identity; Renaissance writers made him charismatic and respectable; romantic writers combined the brave outlaw with gentle lord and finally Hollywood, made the story of Robin Hood more compelling by adding some present-day elements and turning it into films and television shows.
Robin has many cinematic variations. In most films, the essential aspects of his story are mostly unchanged. In each film, Robin robs the rich and gives to the poor, woos the beautiful Maid Marian, restores the throne to Richard the Lionheart and brings peace and prosperity back to the land. However, one thing that changes in each film is Robin Hood’s nemesis. The villains in the film are usually Prince John, Sir Guy of Grisbourne or the Sheriff of Nottingham. This character made the first appearance on the screen in a silent film titled ‘Robin Hood and His Merry Men’ in 1908.
There have been many adaptations of the story since. Some notable adaptations are; Robin Hood (1922), in the film Robin Hood has to accomplish many death defying feats to save his love Maid Marian from the devilish Sir Guy of Gisbourne. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1939), where he fights Prince John and the Norman Lords, who are oppressing the Saxon people in the absence of King Richard. The film won 3 Academy Awards. Disney’s Robin Hood (1973) is based on Robin Hood and Reynard the fox, a 12th century Alsatian fairy tale character.
The animated film has a cast entirely made up of animals playing all the characters. Robin Hood is played by a cunning fox. Disney’s version of the classic character is the most popular version amongst people. There are other films on Robin Hood such as; Robin and Marian (1976), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) and Robin Hood (2010) and most recent one Robin Hood (2018). The character of Robin Hood has also appeared on television series in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955) Robin of Locksley (1996), Back to Sherwood (1999), Once Upon a Time (2011 – 2018).
The development of Robin Hood is visible in the narrative form; from ballads and poems to novels, novellas and children stories to television and films. The character and story is a combination of different aspects, opinions and viewpoints of hundreds of writers, poets and filmmakers from all eras.
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