07 November 2009

Riding Through the Glen

I've always been a sucker for the whole Robin Hood malarkey. I'd say 'mythos', but that's obviously the wrong word, though a passable holiday beer. But yeah, when I was small one of my prize possessions was a hefty Robin Hood comic, bought at a fete in Celbridge if I remember rightly, and I followed it up by reading Robin Hood books by Enid Blyton, of all people, and by the wonderful Roger Lancelyn Green.

Robin of Sherwood was on the telly, of course, with the peerless Judi Trott playing Marion, being almost as foxy as the heroine of the Disney version of the tale.

I'm afraid my weakness for the legends didn't die with my childhood; over the years, for very different reasons and in very different ways, I've been deeply fond of the gritty Patrick Bergin take on the story, the swashbuckling Errol Flynn version of the tale, and the beautiful, tender, and heartbreaking Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn version.

I'm afraid, however, that I've not been won over by the current BBC attempt at the legend, and not just because of how one of the cast was once mean to someone very dear to me when she was four. No, I just think it's naff.

Not as naff, mind, as the Kevin Costner absurdity that was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Oh dear me, no. Not as naff as that.

All of which is a clunky way of saying that earlier today, chatter here in El Casa led me to discover the Guardian's hilarious Reel History series, which comically shreds various pseudo-historical films. The piece on Prince of Thieves has some gems:
'Before you know it, Robin of Loxley has escaped a Turkish (or possibly Saracen) jail, along with improbable Moorish sidekick Azeem. They arrive back at Dover, where Robin cheerfully proclaims that it will only take them until nightfall to walk to his father's castle. Even if you had a car, from Dover to Loxley would take you five hours. Robin and Azeem only have feet. Worse still, Robin takes the scenic route, via Hadrian's Wall – a diversion of another 300 miles...

Having bonded over anachronistic swearing, Robin and his band build a sort of Ewok village in a bosky glade, complete with rope ladders, engineered lifts, mood lighting, canopy-level walkways, and a mosque for Azeem. If medieval peasants, with nothing but the natural resources of the forest around them, could build this sort of thing, why did they mostly live in filthy huts made of sticks and manure?

... The Sheriff's scribe frets about the cost of Robin's larceny: "We reckon he's nicked three to four million in the last five months, sire." Bearing in mind that the exchequer receipts for all of England in 1194 came to £25,000, this is impressive thievery. Even if the scribe is counting in pre-decimalisation pennies, Robin has managed to steal more than the entire crown revenue for five months, notionally equivalent to around £250bn today. Admittedly, with that sort of cash, Robin probably could have had as many canopy-level walkways as he wanted. Still, you'd think people would stop driving money carts through Sherwood Forest after the first billion or so.'
And so forth. To be fair, the cliffs at the start aren't those of Dover in Kent, but are the Seven Sisters in Sussex, but the point stands, I think: you'd have to be a hell of a walker to make it from Sussex to Hadrian's Wall and back to south Yorkshire in under a day. Read it and snigger.

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