Sunday, 25 November 2012

British Mythology

Shakespeare mentions Robin Hood in As You Like It. Why do Shakepeare's Histories or Comedies not include a Robin Hood play? That would have lifted the outlaw out of doggerel - "Rimes of Robin Hood" - into literature. He did make it into Ivanhoe as "Locksley." Thus, Hood is mentioned in a play by William Shakespeare and appears in a novel by Walter Scott.

Poul Anderson mentions King Arthur in The Boat Of A Million Years, in The Merman's Children and in the Notes to The Dog And The Wolf (co-written by Karen Anderson) but Anderson's heroic fantasies and historical fictions do not include a King Arthur novel because Anderson was busy writing about many other characters, whether legendary or invented.

However, the Andersons indirectly link Arthur, King of Britain, to (their version of ) Grallon, King of Ys. In their King of Ys tetralogy, the Romans withdraw from Britain. The Romano-British Gratillonius, no longer King of the now inundated city of Ys but still a popular leader (Dux/Duke) in Brittany, expels the Romans and organizes local defense against barbarian incursions. Meanwhile, the British defense effort generates the Arthurian legend. Thus, the blurb on my The King Of Ys rightly says, "Before King Arthur, there was the King of Ys..."

Arthur and Robin prefigured two later social policies -

Arthur: the Round Table = equality.
Robin: robbing from the rich to give to the poor = redistribution of wealth.                                                         


  1. Hi, Paul!

    Perversely, perhaps, my sympathies lie with Robin Hood's archfoe, the Sheriff of Nottingham! I cannot approve of bandity or theft by anybody, no matter the alleged motives for doing so. Why should law abiding travellers be forced to pay for OTHERS misdeeds? It's still WRONG to use force or the threat of force to rob people. Therefore I would side with the Sheriff of Nottingham's efforts to put an end to Robin Hood's (or "Robber wearing a Hood"?) banditry.


  2. I think there must have been a lot of oppression, deprivation, injustice and poverty for the legend of Robin Hood to become so strong and to challenge conventional morality. Amazingly, I was taught "Thou shalt not steal" but was also told by my conservative, law-abiding mother that what Robin did was ok!

    Of course, what happened in reality is another matter. Law abiding travellers should not be forced to pay for others' misdeeds. On the other hand, if the outlaws really did re-appropriate wealth that had been exploited from serfs and returned it to those serfs, then I would support that.

  3. Hi, Paul!

    I'm sorry, but I still disagree with much of what you said. I do not in the least believe that bandits gave a whoop for the serfs. And they certainly did not distribute the loot to the serfs. And I disagree with your mother, no offense! Theft is still theft, no matter the age we live in.

    My vague recollection is that the Robin Hood legend began during the anarchy of King Stephen's reign (r. 1135-1154). Stephen was a weak king who was unable to keep a strong hand on his barons. That meant many barons simply went wild and became no better than bandits themselves. It needed a strong king like Henry II to restore order and rein in his barons.


  4. Sure, I don't think that real bandits really did help the serfs!