Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Robin Hood

A few weeks ago Uncle Pookie and I watched The Adventures of Robin Hood--that's the 1938 film with Errol Flynn. Despite watching Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny in parodies of it when we were children, neither of us had seen the original. And I have to tell ya--Technicolor-look or not, lack of gritty realism or not--it beats the pants off the later Robin Hood films. Kevin Costner's Robin Hood couldn't have gotten an IT team to follow him if he offered free doughnuts, but it's easy to see why men followed Errol Flynn. Flynn's Robin Hood was charismatic, as a man leading a rebellion/guerilla movement in the woods needs to be. The whole movie is just plain fun.

My only regret is not to have seen it when I was eight. I would have loved it and spent hours afterward swashbuckling with a pretend sword. And I was a girl! Imagine how much fun a little boy who'd seen it would have. (Assuming he's not already jaded from years of video games and the cynical, crude, and oh-so-ironic programs and commercials on contemporary TV.)

Another, small thing about The Adventures of Robin Hood is that they remembered something I've been saying for years: Merrie Olde England was Catholic England. Religion is treated more respectfully here than it would be in any contemporary film. Yes, the Cardinal is in cahoots with Prince John and Friar Tuck is a hothead, but Friar Tuck is on the side of the good guys, at the beginning we see a priest or monk shown among the few willing to stand up to the oppressive Normans, and Robin Hood recruits Friar Tuck because he's out looking for a priest to tend to his men's spiritual needs. There's a few "by'r Lady"s scattered in there. More important, when the Merrie Men want to determine whether Maid Marian is really sincere, they ask her to swear by Our Lady--clearly, a serious oath to them.

No, this isn't a religious film; it's not even a serious film. It's just lighthearted fun from a time when religion was considered a normal part of life (there in the background, even if it wasn't up front) and Hollywood didn't automatically sneer at religious people, and which happened to depict a time when England was still Catholic.

If you're still with me, here's a little more Robin Hood fun from The Real Mother Goose, copyright 1916 by Rand McNally & Company:

Robin Hood and Little John

Robin Hood, Robin Hood,
Is in the mickle* wood!
Little John, Little John,
He to the town is gone.

Robin Hood, Robin Hood,
Telling his beads,
All in the greenwood
Among the green weeds.

Little John, Little John,
If he comes no more,
Robin Hood, Robin Hood,
We shall fret full sore!

* mickle = big

This rhyme was accompanied in the book I have with a fullpage illustration of Robin hood kneeling before a cross praying his rosary (i.e. "telling his beads"; "beads" refers to the physical beads of the rosary, but also to the older "bede", meaning prayer). You can see a small version of this picture online here.

No comments: