Category Archives: Robin Hood

mythological integrity

The trend of The BBC to take mythological themes and warp them into some strange mix of adventure and soap opera continues with Atlantis on Saturday nights. These types of series’, which include Merlin and Robin Hood seem to take the bare bones of an established mythology and mix them up, throwing in odd historical characters, most of whom had nothing to do with the original mythology and creating new characters and storylines that have little to do with the original stories.

Being too fussy?

Maybe, I am but as T.S Eliot once made comments about the poetical tradition along the lines of; if you write poetry on certain themes or subject matter, it not only adds to the stream of previous poets and their work, it changes it. This is true of mythology too.

Now, I do not want or expect mythological teachings to be a stagnant unchanging entity. Each generation reads, digests and, I suppose, has the right to add to the story, but that comes with the sort of responsibility Eliot comments upon in regard to poetry. Personally, I think the way these mythologies are handled by some contemporary scriptwriters is irresponsible, in respect to the way they treat the original and twist it out of shape. The latest version of Robin Hood was little more han a third rate pantomime, Merlin altered the context and storyline as well as falling into the usual traps with regard to the female characters.

This is not adding to an existing mythology in an enriching way, it is changing it totally. It is nothing more than taking well known names from tradition and hanging a soap opera on them.

Perhaps, the counter argument is that relationships, soap opera dynamics, lack of regard for the preciousness of mythological story, etc, do, in fact, represent our times and it is these things that we are compelled to add to the tradition. Personally, these tales mean more to me and I feel they should be treated with more respect.

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Carry on Robbin’

The legend of Robin Hood is a rich and varied mix of mythology and may well be one I return to on this blog at some point. Having written about the portrayal of the character on screen many years ago, I realise the intricacies of the story. On one level it is a seasonal cycle mythology: Summer/Winter Kings dying and being reborn. On another level, I wonder if there are not one or two jokes running just below the surface. The British have always enjoyed bawdy humour, the “Carry On” of double meaning and postcard innuendo, and it occurs that names such as Will(y) Scarlet and Little John could be humorous references to the penis. In some ways, so to, could be the main character: Robin Hood. Or this could be a reference to parts of the female sexual anatomy. The name Friar Tuck can also be played around with. The most intriguing is Maid Marion. In some ways she pulls this interpretation together. On a shallow level there is the wordplay in “made Marion”..a similar slang etymology to “had Marion”, ie, a boast of having enjoyed thre sexual favours of a particular woman, but a deeper reading is also possible. Beltaine, the Celtic festival from which the modern May Day derives was, in essence a fertility festival, where men and woman would frolic and “marry”, ie, have sex and, possibly, become partners awaiting births, etc. There are aspects associated with “a year and a day” concerning a man and a woman remaining together after their first union at Beltaine. I wonder if the name of Maid Marion is a corruption of May Marry-on, or May Merry-on, a distant memory coming down from pre-calander days but associated with the time of year that become our month of May and a festival full of bawdiness, sexual innuendo and carefree fun and games.

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Filed under Celtic, Robin Hood