Robin Hood & The Civil War: A Strange Juxtaposition (Part 1)

“Robin Hood” – BBC 2006-2009 (Photo from IMDB)

This summer I watched Robin Hood (2006-2009 from BBC), and I liked it so much that I watched all three seasons. Twice.

ECW is not the place to review my favorite TV shows, so why on earth am I mentioning this?

Because as I sewed through episode after episode as part of my evening routine, my mind picked apart the series’ plots, considered the legends, and picked at literature or film portrayals of the Robin Hood legends. I wondered if Robin Hood legends had any direct ties to the American Civil War…and then I started thinking about how legends are formed and evolve through the years and how that happened with accounts and stories from the 1860’s.

Eventually, my simple evening entertainment morphed into a complicated consideration of fact and fiction, charisma and reality, legend and memory, and finally, how that legend and memory can be twisted and twisted to fit the mood of the moment.

I recognize that hundreds of years stand between Robin Hood (if he really existed) and that much of his story passed through oral tradition or limited literature for a significant portion of that time. The Civil War is much closer to us and much more definite information exists in primary sources. But I still think there are lessons that can be drawn from looking at a more distant example of fact fading into story, story into legend, legend into—dare I say it—a form of propaganda.

It’s taken time to figure out how to get some of these ideas on paper or blog screen, and I’m still thinking through some of the details. However, it seems like a good moment to share, get some feedback, and approach a new angle of Civil War era culture and the study of memory.

Over the next few days, I’ll be posting some of the references to Robin Hood in the Civil War era, how people viewed his story, and where the legend stood at that time. Then, I’ll dig a little deeper into the ideas of legend, memory, and how they are changed through the passing of time using Robin Hood as a starting illustrative point and circling the ideas into how we view aspects of the Civil War.

Yes, Robin Hood and the Civil War is a strange juxtaposition. It’s a bit of a tangent and a mind stretch at times, but I’m finding that approaching our favorite old topics from a new angle can be enlightening. I’m thankful I spent part of my summer evenings watching Robin Hood because it helped me find a different path to think about individuals, stories, and memory that I needed for a Civil War biography project I’ve been working on.

Tally ho! And I promise there will be plenty of Civil War history and ties to the war.

To Be Continued…

Just in case you need a refresher on the story of Robin Hood—outlaw archer who is usually rescuing someone, robbing someone, or feasting in England’s Sherwood forest, here are two video clips.

The first is from The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland (1938) and it’s my all-time favorite version of the “classic” tale.

Then there’s the version I watched all summer. Robin Hood (2006-2009). Just make a little mental note of the differences in just these two depictions. We’ll circle back to that thought later in the series. Click here for a trailer.

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