Visiting my sister in her care home we sat round watching TV and chatting. We were half-watching ‘Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves‘, the old film with Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Alan Rickman and local Bristol actor the great Nick Brimble. It’s an entertaining enough film in its way, if you like that sort of thing but seems very dated now as it was released in 1991. As we were watching it, my sister and I talked about the story of Robin Hood, a story which in different ways was part of our childhood.
All kids then knew the story of Robin of Locksley whose lands were stolen by the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham, in league with cruel King John and Guy of Gisburn while Robin was away on crusade. We all knew the story of Robin’s return to find England ruled by King John, his father dead and his sweetheart the courageous Maid Marion held prisoner in Nottingham Castle. Robin Hood enters his family lands in Sherwood Forest and is confronted by Little John, leader of a band of outlaws, on the other side of a make-shift bridge, a log, crossing a rivulet; they battle with their staves and Robin ends up in the water, however this is the beginning of their friendship and Robin becomes leader of the merry men. Us kids knew the names and characters of all those merry men – Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, Alan-a-Dale and Much the Miller’s son, and we would take those parts in our games, firing pretend bows and arrows, and pretend sword fights – using sticks, or maybe just our imagination!
The story of Robin Hood was so dominant, and its message, fighting for what was right and what were our rights, protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves, helping others in need, taking from the rich to give to the poor… It was all part of our childhood, as well as the idea of living free and in the woods, round campfires and in dens, in tree houses and shelters – we may not have done that in real life but we did in our imagination!
As we watched the film on and off with Alan Rickman’s ludicrous performance and Kevin Costner’s non-English/definitively American accent and Morgan Freeman being benign (is he ever a baddie in a film?) I asked my daughter if she knew the stories of Robin Hood. I’ve heard the name, she replied…
On the way home I probably got a bit boring about it and said I thought it was sad that there weren’t those myths and stories in her childhood. She grinned.
“Oh well, we had ‘Friends‘! you didn’t have ‘Friends’ when you were young, did you?” she added pityingly.