robertisenberg

Why Robin Hood?: 1

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2010 at 1:48 pm

From an editorial submitted to The New York Times, Slate, and Salon, to celebrate the new version of Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe. No reply received from any of these publications. Photograph of Tower of London, 2006.

We all love Robin Hood. We love his archery and pointed hat. We love his battle against the Sheriff of Nottingham. We could watch him ride horses through Sherwood Forest all day. No matter how many Robin Hoods grace the screen, there’s always room for one more. This time, it’s Russell Crowe. Next time – who knows? Maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in curled shoes and a green jerkin.

But it begs the question: Why do Americans love Robin Hood?

We could argue that Robin Hood reminds us of our Revolutionary days. King George was greedy, he over-taxed his peasants (just like Prince John!), and the Colonists formed militias and fought the English in the leafy wilderness. In both myths, there’s an organized army of ruthless Brits on one side, and a ragtag bunch of clever rebels on the other. We Americans like to see ourselves as loners, fighting a legion of enemies. We also love Westerns and Star Wars. So why should Robin Hood be any different?

For one thing, the Robin Hood legends take place 900 years ago, in Norman Britain. This is one of the bleakest, most feudal periods in world history – a period that has nothing to do with the Enlightenment, religious freedom, the New World, or anything else Americans take pride in. If there was a Robin of Locksley, he spoke guttural medieval English (or, given his noble birth, guttural medieval French). He was Christian, but before there were such things as Catholics and Protestants. He is removed from our experience in almost every way.

Meanwhile, the man stole from the rich and gave to the poor.

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