Introduction For several years, I have pondered the differences between heroic figures in different cultures and in different eras of human history. Given my current work schedule, it would probably take me several more years to fully research every aspect of that topic, and the subsequent product would be a scholarly book. However, I don’t have time to fully research the topic nor time to write a book, so it’s been my plan for several weeks now to write a quick overview of my ideas about heroes by comparing and contrasting the 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood and the 1940 film The Mark of Zorro. While The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Mark of Zorro came out just two years apart, Robin Hood is a medieval English folk hero while Zorro is an American pulp fiction hero first published in 1919 but set in Los Angeles during the early 1800s. Thus, these two films and their respective protagonists allow us a glimpse into the heroic concepts of medieval England (and by extension medieval Europe) as well as early 19th- and early 20th-Century America. Of course, an actual scholarly analysis of cultural heroes requires more than these two films, but it’s a start in which I can make some broad generalizations about the heroic concept in these cultures and eras. For my purposes, then, Robin Hood stands as the representative of medieval European folk heroes in contrast to Zorro representing melodramatic American pop-culture heroes—and “pop-culture” is essentially the contemporary equivalent of “folk culture.” I started working on this column three weeks ago, but it became too involved and I wasn’t able to complete it in time—which is why there wasn’t a Spontaneous Quixote column for March 12. Two weeks ago I postponed the Robin Hood vs. Zorro match again because my review of episode 3.07 of The Americans contained a spontaneous divergence into a monologue about temporal anomalies and parallel universes that became the column for March 19. Last week I completed this column that you are reading, but I missed the deadline by five hours—so Psycho Drive-In’s managing editor, Paul McCoy, and I agreed to hold it for another week, which is why there wasn’t a Spontaneous Quixote column last week. I missed the deadline by five hours last week because I had struggled for two weeks to try to find a way to get this team-up of the millennium to fit into one weekly column. I finally realized I couldn’t do it; there is just too much material here for me to squeeze into one column. Thus, I finally decided to send Robin Hood and Zorro to their separate corners of the ring and present each in his own column—Robin Hood this week and Zorro next week. Then I’ll bring them together for the final showdown in the week after that. Three consecutive columns for this titanic team up of the millennium: So . . . in this corner, wearing green and brown togs and portrayed by Errol Flynn (one of Hollywood’s top leading men of swashbuckling films) please give a warm Psycho Drive-In welcome to Robin Hood! The Adventures of Robin Hood is an amalgamation of historical fact (the conflict between King Richard the Lion-Heart and his brother Prince John), the various Robin Hood folk tales that date back to at least the mid-1400s, and the later Robin Hood narratives that emerged in the mid-1500s. The movie may also incorporate some of the material from the 1883 children’s book, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by noted American illustrator and writer Howard Pyle, as that was a popular volume in America well into the mid-20th Century. While the film is obviously a product of 1930s Hollywood, it tells the tale of an English folk legend through a mostly faithful rendition of the original medieval folk ballads and the Elizabethan era narrative. A Brief History of Robin Hood The oldest folk ballad of the character is “A Gest of Robyn Hode,” which was published as #117 in Francis James Child’s The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (thus, it is also known as Child Ballad 117). It is also called “A Lyttell Geste of Robyn Hode” in Thomas Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry that was published in 1765. However, the ballad was first printed between 1492 and 1534 (the exact date is in question), and there are textual indications that it was assembled from several earlier ballads. James Holt believes the oral ballad was composed around 1450 but not printed for another 50 years or so. However, we also know that the folk hero existed before 1450, as he is mentioned in William Langland’s The Vision of William Concerning Piers the Plowman (c. 1377): I can noughte perfitly my pater-noster- as the prest it syngeth, But I can rymes of Robyn hood-and Randolf erle of Chestre, Ac neither of owre lorde ne of owre lady-the leste that evere was made. (emphasis added) Thus, though we do not have examples of the 14th-Century ballads of the hero, we know he dates back to at least the last half of the 1300s. Additionally, the folk ballads from the 15th Century reference actual places and indicate that Robyn Hode lived during the time of King Edward. However, those 15th-Century ballads don’t specify which King Edward. Obviously, though, the reference is to one of the six Edwards who ruled England before the mid-1400s: Edward the Elder (900–924) Edward the Martyr (975–978) Edward the Confessor (1042–1066) Edward I (1272–1307) Edward II (1307–1327) Edward III (1327–1377) Robin Hood scholars have debated which of the six is the monarch mentioned in the Robyn Hode ballads. I tend to think it is likely to be Edward II, but there are certainly valid arguments for it being Edward III. Edward III was the English king for 50 years from 1327 (when he was 14 years old) to 1377 (when he was 64 years old). A reign of 50 years in medieval Europe is remarkable, and would certainly allow a wider timeframe in which the early folk ballad tales could be set. Additionally, the 1377 date is around the time that “Robyn hood” was mentioned Langland’s book. Thus, Edward III would have ruled England nearest to the date when the ballads were first transcribed and when the character was mentioned in Langland’s Piers Plowman. However, rather than Edward III, I think it’s more likely the King Edward in the ballads is his father, Edward II. Some scholars are convinced the folk hero in the ballads was based on a real person, and that the ballads present him accurately as an outlaw who was opposed to aristocratic tyranny. Due to his disastrous reign as king and his losing war against France, Edward II’s wife, Queen Isabella of France, deposed her husband with the help of her lover, Roger Mortimer. Thus, with the Robin Hood legends having the outlaw hero involved in stealing from the aristocracy to give to the poor, it makes more sense for the English king in the ballads to be Edward II—a man whose reign was so bad that his unfaithful wife and her lover were able to remove him from the throne. Edward III was then crowned king when his father was deposed—but not with his mother’s blessing. Isabella and Mortimer ruled England for three years despite Edward III being the legal king and old enough to rule on his own rather than have a regent rule for him. Thus, when he was 17, Edward III launched a successful coup attempt to remove Mortimer as ruler, which would have included removing his mother from court as well. This situation with Edward II and Isabella (as well as Mortimer and Edward III) has some parallels with the conflict between Richard the Lionheart, his brother Prince John, and their mother Eleanor of Aquitaine. Additionally, both of Prince John’s consorts were named Isabella. All of these coincidental points could indicate that recasting the time period in which Robin Hood operated from the 14th Century to the late-12th Century was at least partially due to these somewhat parallel situations. I point out this English history partly to indicate the context of the situation of a “historical Robyn Hode” and partly as a way to understand the later narratives that were created about Robin Hood that inform a large portion of the 1938 film. Those later narratives (and most, if not all film and television adaptations) place Robin Hood during the time of King Richard I, also known as Richard the Lionheart—essentially placing Robin Hood in a political situation that occurred about 160 years before the historical Robyn Hode’s actual life. Having Robin Hood interact with Richard the Lionheart is akin to having President Barak Obama interact with Frederick Douglass in a story set the 1850s—not in some sort of science fiction time-travel adventure, but because the creator of the story just had no idea that the 2010s were significantly different from the 1860s even though the role of an African American man is a topic in both decades. Thus, the Robin Hood story that most people know (his interaction with Richard the Lionheart and Prince John) is historically inaccurate—even if there was not an actual historical Robyn Hode. The earliest ballads have Robyn running around during the reign of one of the kings named Edward—not one of the kings named Richard. This obvious historical inaccuracy means the 2010 Robin Hood film starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ridley Scott is inaccurate as well—despite it being marketed at the time of its release as “the untold story of how the man became the legend.” Of course, there are scholars who doubt there is a historical basis for Robin Hood at all—that the original ballads were complete works of fiction created by peasants who crafted a tale of a hero who would take from the rich and provide for the poor. Child declared in his book that “Robin Hood is absolutely a creation of the ballad-muse.” However, while Child’s view is certainly valid, it is equally valid to think the ballads were based on one or more actual men whom the peasants championed for stealing from the rich (regardless of whether they then gave anything to the poor or not). Some of the theories regarding a historical Robyn Hode posit that “Robert” was his actual name; others suggest that “Robin Hood” may have been merely a nickname for a medieval outlaw who was known by another name. Regardless, whether a historical figure or a fictional character, the folk ballads and subsequent narratives are examples of the “Good Outlaw” tale in which the hero breaks social laws by committing actual crimes, but who is supported by the common people. Additionally, the hero in a Good Outlaw tale must challenge a corrupt socio-political system that has committed “ethical crimes” against the hero and his friends and family, or against society in general. As an outlaw, the hero cannot commit crimes for the sake of committing crimes. Instead, he must display such honorable characteristics as loyalty, courage, and cleverness in contrast to the corrupt system he opposes as he outwits his opponents and reveals his moral and/or ethical integrity. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) As this column is now a multi-part piece that I will compose for the next few weeks, I am not clarifying why the social structure depicted in The Adventures of Robin Hood is important in considering Robin Hood as a hero. For now, I will simply point out that the film depicts a three-tiered social structure that is historically accurate for the late 12th and early 13th centuries but which was also somewhat unique for medieval European societies that operated under a feudal structure. During the reign of Richard the Lion-Heart (sic), English society broke down into three social categories: Norman Aristocracy Saxon Aristocracy Serfs (mostly Saxon peasants) Following the Norman conquest of England in the 11th Century, the French aristocrats from Normandy had ruled England for approximately 100 years by the time of Richard the Lionheart’s reign. After 100 years, the Saxons still greatly resented their French rulers—even though all the Saxons at the time had never known anything other than Norman rulers. It was their ancestors of four or five generations earlier who had lost England to the Normans. To make matters worse, the Norman rulers had not bothered to learn the English language—as Germanic people and Germanic languages were considered barbarous and thus beneath the concerns of people who spoke one of the Romance languages. Ironically, the Normans were not originally French; they were the descendants of the Viking Norsemen (and thus, Germanic)—the marauders who came down from Norway and other regions in Scandinavia to conquer the area of France that they renamed Normandy. This then is the situation in the 1938 film: Robin of Loxley is a Saxon aristocrat (thus, a member of the middleclass) who learns that Prince John has arrived in England from Normandy to take command as Regent while his brother, Richard the Lion-Heart, is in Palestine fighting in the Third Crusades to reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims (called “Infidels” in the film) who now control the Holy city. Before leaving on the Crusades, Richard named his Lord Chancellor, who was also his friend and trusted advisor, William Longchamp as Regent to govern while he was away. Thus, Prince John, resentful of both his brother and Longchamp, arrived in England (probably with the aid of his and Richard’s mother Eleanor of Aquitaine) to imprison Longchamp in the Tower of London and name himself Regent. Meanwhile, during his return from the Crusades, Richard is taken captive by Austria and held for ransom—most likely as part of an arrangement between Prince John and Austria as a plot against Richard. Save for the presence of Robin Hood as a Saxon nobleman named Robin of Loxley, the situation presented in the film is reasonably accurate historically—just overly simplified. Thus, as Robin of Loxley, Robin Hood is essentially a middleclass outlaw and revolutionary who leads a small army (his “band of merry men”) against Prince John’s oppressive Norman forces in order to restore “good King Richard” to the throne. The Rhetorical Situation of the “Argument” in Robin Hood A rhetorical situation arises due to a conflict that can be analyzed and then addressed through a civil discussion between the two or more sides involved in the issue. One or more of the sides presents an argument regarding the cause of the conflict and a way of resolving it (or a way to view the conflict from a different perspective even if the solution is not evident). For instance, “capital punishment” can become a rhetorical situation following a particularly heinous murder. The horrific aspect of the crime is a “conflict” that has led to a discussion between two or more opposing sides regarding the murderer’s right to his own life and the role of society in killing one of its members for killing one of its other members. All rhetorical situations will five components: The text is the specific issue that can be analyzed (capital punishment). The exigence is the part of the situation that indicates that some sort of “conflict” has occurred and that a problem needs to be resolved (a heinous murder). The author is a person who develops an argument about the rhetorical situation in order to bring about change or convince people to at least see the issue from a different perspective (a person either for or against capital punishment). The audience is comprised of people who have a reason to be interested in the situation (members of society who participate in the governance of the society and are thus interested in the issue of capital punishment). The constraints are the people, events, circumstances, and/or traditions that limit either the author or the audience (or both) from accepting opposing views or from initiating change (the mother of the murdered victim might be constrained by the desire for vengeance and so will not listen to views opposed to capital punishment while the mother of the murderer will be constrained by love for her son and so will not listen to views supporting the execution of murderers). Okay, with all of that information out of the way, let’s consider the rhetorical situation at the center of the story in The Adventures of Robin Hood. The rhetorical situation is the issue of the oppression of the Saxons by the Norman aristocracy under the leadership of Prince John. As the author of one side of the argument, Robin Hood wants to bring about change in the society by overthrowing Prince John and his Norman oppression in order to create an England in which all men (Saxons and Normans) are free under the rule of the rightful king, Richard the Lion-Heart. However, Robin Hood cannot do it alone, so he needs to persuade others to follow him. He then delivers a speech as he stands atop the boulder at Gallows Oak: I’ve called you here as freeborn Englishmen, loyal to our king. While he reigned over us we lived in peace, but since Prince John has seized the regency, Guy of Gisbourne and his traitors have murdered and pillaged. You’ve all suffered from their cruelty—the ear loppings, the beatings, the blindings with hot irons, the burning of our homes, the mistreatment of our women. It’s time we put an end to this! ———– Aye! Now, this forest is wide. It can shelter, clothe and feed a band of good, determined men—good swordsmen, good archers, good fighters! Men, if you’re willing to fight for our people, I want you. Are you with me? ———– Then kneel and swear this oath—that you, the freemen of this forest, swear to despoil the rich, only to give to the poor, to shelter the old and helpless, to protect all women. Rich or poor; Norman or Saxon. Swear to fight for a free England. To protect her loyally until the return of our king, Richard the Lion-Heart, and swear to fight to the death against our oppressors! Thus, in relation to the five elements of a rhetorical situation, The Adventures of Robin Hood can be broken down this way: The text of the situation: There are two possible duties of a government toward its citizens: To protect property and resources so that society can thrive; To provide protection and support to the less fortunate in society so they may become useful members of society. Prince John’s government is fulfilling neither of those two duties. At best, Prince John is only interested in protecting the property and resources of his Norman followers. The exigence: The oppression of the Saxon citizenry by the Norman aristocracy under the orders of Prince John is a way of protecting the property and resources of the Norman aristocracy while making the Saxons even less fortunate than they already were. The author of one of the arguments is Robin Hood, who is trying to convince his fellow Saxons to help him overthrow Prince John. He is also trying to convince Normans who are faithful to King Richard to reject Prince John’s leadership. The audience: The Saxon citizenry whom Robin hopes to convince to take part in his rebellion against Prince John and his forces, and the Norman aristocrats who disagree with Prince John and who still support Richard (though they might do so secretly). The constraints: The audience may fear losing their lives and property to Prince John and his forces. As a person who openly opposes Prince John, Robin has forfeited his property and aristocratic title; he has lost the resources that could have aided him in his seditious attempt to overthrow a corrupt system that is oppressing his fellow Saxons. Subsequently, he realizes he cannot bring about his desired change by himself. Thus, he must create new resources by inspiring others to join with him—to follow him into battle against oppression and injustice. In terms of the four categories of moral response (based on Lawrence Kohlberg’s Six Stages of Moral Development), Robin’s moral response is either one of a deference to a higher authority (King Richard) or he has his own internalized ethical principles. I argue that it is the latter because at one point he tells Richard (who was disguised as a member of the Catholic clergy) that he doesn’t blame John for the problems in England; he blames Richard for leaving to fight a war in a foreign land when his duty was to the people of England and not to the Pope in Rome. In negatively criticizing Richard and the Crusades, Robin shows he has no true deference to any authority. Instead, he has his own internalized ethics. He is at the highest point of moral response. Few people reach that level—and those who do are not necessarily socially “ethical,” as internal ethics is not the same as external ethics based on social standards. Thus, Robin is an Outlaw Hero who commits criminal acts because the laws are unjust and his own internal ethics allow him to view his criminal acts as justified means in achieving the desired end of social change. Robin is a hero, too, because he knows that he cannot act alone in doing what must be done. He must persuade other people to his cause and then provide them with ethical and just leadership. In fact, at the end of the film, Richard praises Robin for showing him that a king’s true duty is to his own people. Essentially, Richard acknowledges that Robin showed him how to be an ethical and just king. In contrast to Robin’s highest moral response of internalized ethics, Lady Marian’s initial moral response is at one of the two lowest levels—or halfway between the two lowest levels. She initially sees nothing wrong in maintaining the social order of Norman dominance over a mostly Saxon citizenry. Marian is a Norman who is a ward of King Richard (essentially, she is Richard’s “foster daughter” due to a situation that is never explained). Thus, even though she is surprised at Prince John’s decision to place Longchamp in the dungeon and name himself Regent, she goes along with the wishes of the man who is essentially her “foster uncle.” She maintains the social order and never truly questions whether John has the legal authority to oppose his brother. She definitely has no internalized ethical principles of her own. In fact, she seems to have a view that is partly based in the lowest level of moral response—punishment and reward. People who have the lowest form of moral response act as they do for no other reason than to avoid punishment or earn a reward. This level of moral response is common in young children, as they either want to avoid being punished (which may mean avoid getting caught in a “crime”) or they want to be rewarded for their good behavior. Marian exhibits this lowest level of moral response when she finds herself in the camp of Robin and his Merry Men after she is abducted along with Sir Guy of Gisbourne and the Sheriff of Nottingham. During the celebratory victory feast of his men, Robin convinces Marian to visit the oppressed Saxon serfs he is feeding and housing so she can see for herself what Prince John’s policies are doing to the people. She is moved by the experience, but perplexed at the same time. She calls Robin “a strange man.” When he asks if she thinks he’s strange because he cares about other people she says, “No, you’re strange because you want to do something about it.” She then points out that his actions have cost him his land and title (i.e., he has been “punished”) when he could have just ignored the situation and lived in luxury and comfort (i.e., he could have been “rewarded”). Through his own internalized ethical principles, Robin has caused Marian to examine her own values, and she begins to alter her own moral responses. She doesn’t rise to the heights of having her own ethical standards that she will follow regardless of the views of others. However, she sees that maintaining the social order is not necessarily the best moral response. She begins to see that she should at least have deference to ethical authorities. Thus, when Robin is captured by Sir Guy and sentenced to execution, Marian concocts a plan to free him, but she knows she will need help in carrying it out—so she goes to Robin’s men in the tavern where they are meeting to tell them of her plan. However, they do not trust her due to her Norman heritage and her previous compliance with her foster uncle’s wishes. To test her moral response, Friar Tuck asks if she is a true daughter of the church. When she nods in agreement that she is, the men trust her. Of course, such quick trust is not realistic, but this is a two-hour Hollywood movie from 1938 that must move the plot along at a quick pace. Thus, they accept her moral response of deference to a higher moral authority (the Catholic Church) and they follow her plan to free Robin before he is executed. Ironically, due to her switched allegiance to Robin and his cause, Marian is subsequently accused and convicted of high treason. She is then sentenced to await her own execution that shall be carried out once John is coronated as king (because he believes his plot to have Richard assassinated has been successful). In facing Prince John and Sir Guy, Marian delivers a speech that indicates she has begun to move toward having her own internalized ethical principles—which means she is becoming more than Robin’s romantic interest; she is becoming his equal and the true partner in life that the later Elizabethan narratives of the legend presents her as being. Next Week: A similar-but-different type of heroism in The Mark of Zorro (1940).  Into that mix, I might toss in the 1997 film GATTACA as well. See larger image The Adventures of Robin Hood [Blu-ray] New From: $11.48 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... 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