The name “Robin Hood” often conjures up a very specific image: A bow-and-arrow-wielding masculine man in green tights leading a group of merry men as they rob from the rich and give to the poor. It’s an image that has been reinforced through film for the last century, including 1938’s “The Adventures of Robin Hood” with Errol Flynn, 1973′s “Robin Hood” Disney cartoon, 1976′s “Robin and Marion” with Sean Connery, 1991′s “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” with Kevin Costner, and, who could forget, 1993′s Mel Brooks’ spoof “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.”
Whether or not we really need another interpretation of the most famous benevolent bandit of all time, director Ridley Scott has given us a new “Robin Hood” in the form of Oscar-winning Aussie Russell Crowe (AKA, the “Gladiator”). However, this new film, which opened in theaters on Friday, mostly forgoes the familiar folklore in favor of something more historically accurate.
“One of the core problems you’ve got when you are approaching Robin Hood is the last 100 years of cinema have over simplified this tale,” Crowe recently told the History Channel during two-hour special titled “The Real Robin Hood.” According to the TV show, which aired earlier this month, no one can confirm nor deny that Robin Hood actually existed. But researchers have been able to trace the character to one real man named Robert Hode, who lived in 1225. Unfortunately, he’s not the only contender for the title of the charitable crook. Another eight to 10 people, who lived around that same time period, were also referred to as “Robin Hood” (common nomenclature for any outlaw living in the forest).
More than a century after Hode, the first literary mention of “Robin Hood” appeared in a 1370′s poem called “Piers Plowman” by William Langland. A century later, the written character returned in 1492′s The Jest of Robin Hood, the first full tale to contain many of the modern elements.
Based on this historical evidence and other components, Scott pieced together his latest vision, which many of you may appreciate. In a quest “to create a realistic portrait of the mythical hero,” Scott delivers a Robin, who is more revolutionary than thief, and a Maid Marion, who’s a strong female landowner opposed to a damsel in distress. One can only hope that Cate Blanchett‘s Marion, who didn’t become part of the plotline until a play created in 1590, is historically true, too.
Though we didn’t ask for a new version of “Robin Hood,” it’s out there and it’s good.