Is it possible to have too much Robin Hood?
Some might think so, but Stephen Lawhead is not one of their number.
He envisioned an entire trilogy devoted to the subject–the King Raven Trilogy: Hood came out in 2006, Scarlet was released this September, while Tuck is due out in 2009 (the gap due to a serious illness).
So what can be said about Robin Hood that is new and different–three books worth, no less? Stephen Lawhead wondered what era would best support the legends as we know them, and searched through history to find a time period and political structure for that purpose.
He uncovered the England and Wales of the eleventh century under the reign of William the Red, and tossed aside Sherwood Forest for the march lands of Elfael in Wales. In Lawhead’s words:
New rulers of the realm (the Normans) meant strange new laws in the land. One of the most hated was known as Forest Law–a set of highly questionable legal codes designed solely for the benefit of the crown-wearer and his cronies, and not at all confined to “forests” as we understand the word (areas of dense woodland), but could encompass large tracts of grassland, marsh, and moorland. Entire villages were razed and burned to the ground, sometimes because the settlement occupied land that the king, or members of his court, had identified as prime real estate for hunting. Other times destruction was inflicted as punishment for an infraction–such as rebellion or treason–by the local lord….
All of a sudden it was a serious crime to trespass on royal land, and the hapless victim caught within the royal forest precinct faced losing a hand or an eye at best, or if worse came to worst, death by hanging.
Does that begin to sound like the backdrop for the Robin Hood story that we know? Backdrop, yes. But the story takes some serious turns from the Walt Disney version my kids had memorized in the 80s. For one thing, there are no talking foxes. (Who knew?)
In research I’m doing for my own work-in-progress, Sebastian, I’ve been studying castles. Sites like this one teach not only a lot about historical castles but about the time period Lawhead writes about: William the Conqueror. Truly this was a volatile period in the history of the British Isles and I can appreciate anew his choice to play Robin Hood upon that stage.
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