Robin of Sherwood

on Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Legend of Robin Hood, the folk hero who robbed from the rich to give to the poor and hid in the forest of Sherwood with his merry men and who had a thing for Maid Marion is a well known and well loved story. It's appeal is in a hero that fights against oppression and wins despite the odds. Is this character real? Probably, but it is hard to perhaps distinguish truth from legend now. And what about the enigmatic name, "Robin Hood"? Well, the squirrels say that one day he divesting one aristocrat of all his money and effects and some say even his clothes. However as he turned to disappear into the forest, the aristocrat shouted after him, "The sheriff will catch and hang you one day, you dirty robbin' hood." The rest as they say is history.

Needless to say, there have been numerous versions made on film and TV on this legend. But which was the best? Well, for me, clearly the worst was Kevin Costner's "Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves". The reason for that was cleverly delivered by the Robin Hood (played by Cary Elwes) in Mel Brook's comedy version "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" when he said, "Unlike other Robin Hoods, at least I speak with an English accent."

However, I have to say that in my opinion, the best Robin Hood version ever is a little known British TV show called "Robin of Sherwood" which was telecasted originally between 1984-1988. This series lasted just three seasons but it was a magical head above all the other Robin incarnations. Robin was played by Michael Praed (and later by Jason Connery, Sean's son).

What made it stand out was a combination of gritty realism, artful fantasy, alternatively bright and then dark and brooding cinematography, a clever melding of pagan beliefs into the legend and strong development of characters. In this version, Little John, Frair Tuck, Wilf Scarlet and the others are not just background props but have interesting stories of their own. This version also introduced for the first time the character of a Saracen brigand called Nasir. An idea clearly pinched for Morgan Freeman's character in the "Prince of Thieves".

Finally, the one thing that had me glued to my TV every time this show was on was the music. The haunting and atmospheric music was something I had never heard before and it was soul captivating. This was my introduction (and many others too) to the Irish band "Clannad". In fact, the show's original soundtrack, Legend, was released in 1984 and won the BAFTA award for Best Original Television Music and was pretty much the beginning of Clannad's rising star.

Clannad is certainly worth another post but for now, honestly, look at these three below and tell me which is the best looking Robin. Then, go on to watch the video which will introduce you to some examples of the type and quality of characters and cinematography in the series, "Robin of Sherwood". I will warn you that the first 30 seconds may be a bit disturbing as it shows how dark and brooding the series can get but if you get past that stage, I think you will really enjoy how the music so complements the scenes. Enjoy "Robin of Sherwood" with music by Clannad.


dana wyzard said...

Men in Tights. I vote for that one due to the fact that I hate "atmospheric" music.

Dr.John said...

I like any and all Robin Hood movies. I think the English one was probably the best.

Joyce's Ramblings said...

I watched Robin Hood but I don't think it was one of the three you picked. I always liked Frier Tuck and hated the sherif. (My spellinghas not improved with age)

cabcree said...

ha, ha. Men in Tights was funny in its own weird way. Better Cary Elwes (where is he anyway?) than Kevin Costner any day.

Not seen a lot of the different versions. I've been following the latest BBC one. Not superb, but not bad. I love the sheriff in that one. He's a good bad guy...if you know what I mean.

I think I saw a cartoon one...

citizen of the world said...

Guess what? I'm a descendant of the King John that Robin Hood targeted. I'm not proud of this, but it is kind of interesting.

Ruth W. said...

The music is awesome in this version, but I must say I liked the movie "Robin and Marion" with Sean Connery the best.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Men in Tights! That was one funny movie and they did look good in tights. Ah, we disagree on atmospheric music but that's okay.

Dr. John,
If you like folklore, you would have enjoyed how old Celtic and English legends were interwoven into the Legend of Robin Hood. One of which involved Herne the Hunter.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Well, we are all encouraged to hate the Sheriff but in Robin of Sherwood, evil as he was, we were also able to understand his motives and his own problems. That made him more than a two-dimensional villian.

Actually, never heard of Cary Elwes before or after that movie! But he was rather funny in it.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

That is fascinating. He was from the House of Plantagenet. I would be curious as to what you family name is and how it is traced to that House.

Glad you liked the music. Of course it is hard to compete with the likes of Sean Connery and the cocept of an older Robin was good too.

blackcrag said...

I know this version as I watched it as a kid when it first came out. If I remember correctly, Will Scalett wielded two curved short swords.

While I accepted the Herne the hunter association for this particular series, historically, England was well and truly Christianized for several centuries by the time of Richard Lionheart and the usrper Prince John.

Also, having read the actual legend of Robin Hood, there was no mention of pagan influences, though the presence of Friar Tuck and the fact Richard III was fighting the Crusades at the time empahsizes the Christian influence.

As far as the name goes, I read somewhere Robin Hood earned his name by wearing a hood to conceal his features, thus, "Robbing Hood." We can only assume the slightly more modern term 'hoodlum' derives from Robin Hood.

I also heard Robin Hood was a noble disposessed of his lands by Prince John; he was an Earl of... Shropshire or something, I believe.

I don't agree with the inclusion of a Moor in either series or movie as this is not true to the surviving legend. But then, due to the undoubted racism of the time, this might not be surprising.

Lastly, if you enjoy Clannad's music, follow Enya's career. She was a member of Clannad, and split for a successful solo career soon after this series.

I think I'm done now.

Robinhood said...

Sir, You forgot Earl Flynn

Proxima Blue said...

My favorite is the cartoon version where Robinhood and Maid Marion are both red foxes.

Hope all is well!


Proxima Blue said...

Oh yes, by Disney of course.


the walking man said...

I'll have to agree with Proxima Blue, that particular version was played incessantly in our house and is still at times quoted.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Wow. You know your stuff. You are probably right that during that period, Christianity predominated but it is not impossible for the earlier druidic beliefs to have survived as they still do today in parts of UK. However, the main point is that it was fun to learn about these older legends. As to the curved swords, I think those were used by Nasir the Saracen. Wilf's weapon and M.O. was a dagger to the throat.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

My apologies for leaving out Errol Flynn and indeed the Walt Disney Fox and many others. I was trying to focus on the very different types of leading men who played Robin and I guess you are right in correcting my omission.

Proxima And TWM,
Please read my comment to RobinHood above. I refuse to include an animation of a red fox amongst the leading men, Sorry.

Jo said...

I found that music scary...! I saw a re-run of a British version of Robin Hood starring Richard Green. He was the best Robin Hood.

the walking man said...

See red fox, see red fox stealthily hunt. See smart squirrel run like gazelle.

kat said...


just the other day I said oh no I need that address!

I had deleted all my Bear correspondance sent you and between my fairy godmother and me....old history...don't hang on to it... even though you appreciate your own expressive writings etc...

and then realized I lost the address completely!

geewits said...

No no no. The best version of Robin Hood was the Errol Flynn movie from 1938. And the best spoof was the hilarious (and remarkably short-lived) TV show "When Things Were Rotten" which was a Mel Brooks TV show and ran for only 12 episodes which apparently I was the only person that watched.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Sorry, don't know that Robin.

Squirrels and foxes are friends....not so much.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

It's good to bury the bears and move on.

I have some fuzzy but happy memories of the Mel Brooks version too.

kat said...

wise squirrel you are in many ways

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