Friday, November 16, 2012

Robin Hood

Plans are underway for a new £13 million Robin Hood-themed visitor attraction located in Sherwood Forest, near Nottingham.

Robin Hood, the cheeky, romanticised figure in folklore, with his band of merry men, 'robing the rich to feed the poor' is known all around the world and is the subject of many movies, TV shows, plays, books and ballads.

Sherwood Forest is the spiritual home of the 12th century English outlaw and locating the visitor's centre here, would put this legendary location back on the map and cement these past associations. The investment would also help towards future protection and management of this historic forest.

Ref: Robin Hood Memorial in Nottingham, Wikimedia Commons
'Discover Robin Hood' will replace the existing centre and will include King John's medieval castle and fortified ramparts, made from local stone and wood and complete with dungeons that visitors can explore.

Ref: B0412, North Auckland Research Centre
There will be a range of indoor and outdoor displays and activities (e.g. archery, wild food cooking demos), street performers, a maze with talking trees tournament field and an open-air theatre complete with actors in medieval dress to bring the legend, life and times of Robin Hood and his merry men to life.

If the proposal is accepted, the 17-hectare attraction would open in spring 2015.

Ref: AWNS-19400117-40-3, Sir George Grey Special Collections
The oldest references to Robin Hood date from 1228 onwards, when the names 'Robinhood', 'Robehod' or 'Robbehod' occurred in the rolls of several English Justices.

The early ballads clearly depict Robin Hood as a yeoman. Although the exact meaning of this term has morphed over time, it always referred to commoners and in the 14th century this included artisans (such as millers).
Ref: AWNS-19250910-53-1, Yeoman of the Guard, Sir George Grey Special Collections
The earliest surviving Robin Hood ballad is from the Childs Ballads. Entitled "Robin Hood and the Monk", it is part of the University of Cambridge Library: Manuscripts & University Archives collections. Written shortly after 1450, the ballad contains many of the elements still associated with the legend, from the Nottingham setting to the bitter enmity between Robin and the local sheriff.

The first mention of a quasi-historical Robin Hood is given in Andrew of Wyntoun's 'Orygynale Chronicle', written in about 1420. It includes the following lines (from 1283), which have little contextual explanation:

'Lytil Jhon and Robyne Hude
Wayth-men ware commendyd gude
In Yngil-wode and Barnysdale
Thai oysyd all this tyme thare trawale'.

Whilst there is little concrete evidence for the association of Robin Hood's origins stemming from myths and folklore (such as the Green Man of the Forest), his role in May Day games could suggest pagan connections.

Ref: Ephemera, Posters, Books, 1936, Sir George Special Collections
Whilst older version of the tales depict Robin Hood in a number of different locations, in modern versions of the legend, Robin Hood is said to have taken up residence in the lush Sherwood Forest in the county of Nottinghamshire and the association has stuck. From this time, people of Nottinghamshire have had a special affinity with Robin Hood, often claiming him as the symbol of their county. Being English, I can understand the desire to claim association with this fascinating figure who has persisted through time and whilst he has been adapted to fit in with our times, the core aspects of his legend live on.

Auckland Libraries has a range of Robin Hood related resources in its heritage collections, including books (Classic Catalogue) and a collection of documents, NZMS 1246, (Manuscripts Online)
which relate to the Loxley and Hall families and their supposed relationship to Robin Hood.

Ref: Footprints 04600, Waiuku rugby players in fancy dress, including one player dressed as Robin Hood, South Auckland Research Centre

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