Robin Hood ~ the return of a legend?

I’ve probably analysed all adaptions to death in my previous post, but here’s another update! (This doesn’t help the ‘nerd’ image in the slightest…)

*spoiler alert*

So what comparisons can we make?

This movie takes the darkness of the Russell Crowe version, combined with the humour of the TV show (Marian looks the spitting image of Lucy Griffiths). It delivers the action, the evil, and combines it with a lot of assassins creed. Riding horseback over rooftops, shooting 100 arrows a second, their modern outfits, buildings that look more eastern than medieval 🏰 … we know how unrealistic this is going to be, but that’s also what keeps us riveted to the screen. It isn’t going to be accurate. But we also know that RH didn’t exist in his ‘current form.’ RH is a great bowman, (my jealousy knows no bounds) and if nothing else, it’s good to have a heroic figure to believe in.

John takes over Azeem’s role in ‘Prince of thieves’, that of mentor and companion, Will Scarlet actually becomes the new sheriff (bet you didn’t see that coming!) There is no gang, at least not without a beginning and each has a story to tell. The dynamics have shifted between them, and they’re not the beloved characters you remember them to be.

The concept of RH to me isn’t just the rich robbing to give to the poor. It’s about the idea of justice, of doing what’s right, and caring for those around you. It might seem two dimensional, (he is a killer, and surely has done some terrible things during the crusades. Isn’t stealing from the law equally as deplorable?) But to this day, and what makes it such a popular legend to portray, is that it shares some important qualities~ of staying loyal (Robin & Marian throughout the time he’s at war), of friendship (in this case striking a bond with those you fight/ work alongside and having a common cause), fairness and sacrifice- death seems but a notion, if its fighting for what you believe in/ those you love.

Yes all versions have a bleak view on the corruptness of the church. The crusades were dark, horrific times and nothing is pretty about heads being lopped off, or peppered by a thousand arrows. They fight for a cause directed by another’s hand and it’s only upon his return home does RH realise the corrupt villains at his own door.

So isn’t he justified in taking action? To strike at the root of evil? No matter what face he wears over the years, he represents an ‘idea’, to stand up against tyranny.

All along it seems a tug of war between RH and the sheriff, of deception, both equally dependent on the other. So it’s interesting to see their relationship throughout the process.

For this movie, RH keeps his personae as robin of Loxley (rich Lord of the Manor) as well as his doppelgänger Robin of the hood. His disguise is never doubted and the sheriff trusts him all too easily. Which is what makes it so intriguing. You’re always waiting for that moment when he’ll be found out.

So what if you found a role reversal, with RH as the villain, the sheriff as compassionate, albeit flawed man caught between his duty & personal affairs who isn’t fixated on capturing Robin Hood at all but merely surviving and protecting his family-what then? 🤔

Overall, it did fulfill what I can only describe as the RH ‘criteria’ and pay homage to the essence of what he represents. The true core of it stays the same, no matter how modern or glitzily revamped the adaptations are. It’s easy to be a critic of the movie, but the reason it stays in people’s minds is down to one thing. Whether he existed or not, he’s been turned into a household name that inspires courage and imagination through the years … and that’s the true legend of Robin Hood.

“Barnaby Rudge”: A tale of violence

swirl-divider4Dicken’s review number 2, comes “Barnaby Rudge“. It is not as famous as his other novels, and quite understated. To give you an idea of what it’s about if you haven’t read it, firstly, here is a SUMMARY:

“Dicken’s first historical novel is filled with violence, looting and the terrible deaths of the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots that swept London in 1780. ‘Barnaby Rudge’ tells the story of Barnaby, a simple boy caught up in the riots, and the friends and family who are themselves affected by the strange events in Barnaby’s life, including kind- hearted locksmith Gabriel Varden, dim-witted and egotistic landlord John Willet and the brilliantly villainous Sir John Chester. This is an unforgettable novel of conspiracy, blackmail, abduction and Gothic melodrama.”

gordon-riots-newgate-prisonHere are some bite sized facts:

1. This is the 5th book Dickens wrote, after “The Old Curiosity Shop”. 

2. Like the rest of his works, it explores the inequality between social class. Ordinary citizens are seen to rise up and loot, steal, burn down houses and prisons; a total anarchy where they themselves perished- the poor, vagrants who have nothing to lose. (Those who are forerunners of the riots seem not to have a purpose for following the cause, in the case of Hugh and the hangman Dennis)

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“The Gordon Riots” by John Seymour Lucas

4. It is comparable to his later novel “A Tale of Two Cities” detailing the tumultuous period of the French Revolution and the danger of a disruptive society and mob behaviour.

5. You feel for Barnaby, a simple boy who takes comfort, joy and happiness in his surroundings. His loyalty and kind heartedness makes him a target. He follows his ‘assumed’ friend and does all he is bidden without question, hoping it will bring his mother and himself into the path of riches, and ultimately, a better life for them both. The story of Barnaby is very touching, and emphasises on how innocence can be corrupted by those with their own agenda.

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The rise and revolt of the people

 

6. Though”Barnaby Rudge” took me longer to read than “Our Mutual Friend” (and this can be due to other contributory factors)- I enjoyed it a lot.The beginning was quite captivating and portrays a ‘different’Dickens, a step away from the frivolity, and often comical vanity of the upper class. It creates a comparison between the peaceful, pastoral life versus that of the bloodshed in the streets of the city, sparked by the 1780 anti-catholic uprising. This was led by Lord George Gordon, leader of the Protestant Association of London. The riots were a wave that swept over London- the power of persuasion and word of mouth, growing out of proportion to make law abiding citizens rise up and revolt. The novel depicts violence fuelled by poverty and the influence of those in position who abuse their power.

7. Yet aside from all the violence and turmoil of the riots,this is a Dickens book like all the others,and his characters are no less developed. You come across characters like Sir John Chester who you really hate and whom you hope gets dealt the justice he deserves (but of course, this is a Dickens so ultimately, good always triumphs over evil) and relationships that always undergo a long, painful trial before the ‘light of happiness’ is finally revealed.

All in all, “Barnaby Rudge” is another satisfying Dicken’s novel, and the 5th one… that I have binge read over the summer!

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“Our Mutual Friend” Dickens


Finally, I have found time for a Dickens Review! I put these in small bite 20140804_144457sized chunks, for easy viewing…so here begins;

  • Summary as taken from the blurb of Our Mutual Friend: “Dicken’s last completed novel and one of the greatest books about London, ‘Our Mutual Friend‘ is a dark, enigmatic portrayal of a city corrupted by money.When a body is pulled out of the Thames, it is presumed to be John Harmon, drowned under suspicious circumstances before he could claim the fortune his father made from rubbish heaps. This mystery impinges on the lives of the naiive, hardworking Boffins, the riverside scavenger Gaffer Hexam, his beautiful daughter Lizzie, the mercenary Bella Wilfer and the doll’s dressmaker Jenny Wren, in a story of greed, death and renewal.”16

1. A dark story, it is considered one of Dicken’s most “sophisticated works”, though perhaps, one of his least well known.

2. The novel has a vast array of memorable characters which, through his wit and humour; you soon grow attached to.Though the language is less straight forward compared to his earlier novels, don’t be put off. The narrative is very well thought out and incredibly complex with intricate and unexpected plot lines. Compare the layers to an onion…

3. Death, intrigue, mystery, romance – it has everything. You are fooled along with a great number of characters along the twists and turns of a very complex narrative.Very satisfying as characters get their just rewards and no evil deed goes unnoticed, or unpunished. For me, the reading experience has to hold a variety of things, just like my favourite films. Action adventure mixed with fantasy and a bit of romance. It’s great how though Dickens manages to portray the worst of human nature in squalid London and the boundaries of social class- there is a particularly heart warming scene between John Rokesmith and Bella Wilfer that I always find myself going back to and just melts my heart (yup, I’ve bookmarked the pages)

OMF-Lodger-and-Daughter4.Like each of his books, there are some great characters- no matter what shape or form they take, from the devilish and hideous dwarf Quilp in “The Old Curiosity Shop” who delights in playing tricks on others and getting the better of them, to the one legged and villainous Silas Wegg who circulates the pages of “Our Mutual Friend.”

5.However one thing about Dickens most people notice, is that his female characters are often under developed. They either hold supporting roles, as spinsters, the frugal or the vain and frivolous, or proud mothers. Young females are all dignified, elegant, pretty who undergo some tragedy or suffering which make them all the more beautiful and heroic; sought after and admired by men of all ages.

6. The illustrations are wonderfully detailed. They really bring the characters to life and gives that something bit extra to your reading experience.

177.The novel exemplifies on the corruption money can bring, the greed it excites, and how it effects the lives of those it touches.

8.After finishing the book, I thought up a hierarchy of wealth of all of the characters in the novel, taking into consideration their fluctuating social position. This may seem a bit time consuming and superfluous, but the story made me think long after I had closed its pages,(often as I was lying awake at night) and it was my way of sorting through the vast array of characters in the novel. I don’t want to give away spoilers by laying it out in all its glory. So I will let you read it first…

(Follow for more bite sized reviews on “Barnaby Rudge”, “Nicholas Nickleby” and other Charles Dickens novels.) 

Bookilm Day 2: Childhood Fear of Witches?

600full-the-witches-posterLuke is a character you easily identify with as a kid, he’s loyal, adventurous, knows the difference between right and wrong, somewhat geeky with a wide eyed innocence.  Even if you can’t relate to him, you can understand him as Roald Dahl’s male protagonist.

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Luke in “The Witches” (1990)

So what happens in the film? Luke, after the death of his parents moves from Norway to England with his grandmother, who often tells him stories of witches. They go on a trip to Cornwall, with his two pet mice, but things start to take a strange turn. Chasing his escaped mice, William and Mary, he happens to be in a RSPCC board meeting- a room filled with women, but as he soon finds out, witches. They take off their wigs, their gloves, their shoes. He witnesses them turn a small boy into a mouse. He makes an escape, but unfortunately is captured and shares the same fate as his friend. But no, it does not stop there, and being a children’s film, the brave Luke must find a way to destroy all the witches, in the body of a small furry talking mouse.

The term ‘witch’ has all sorts of connotations, they are portrayed as old, crooked with gnarled noses, warts, hump backed and altogether really ugly. The witches in Roald Dahl’s books aren’t that different- they are bald, have square feet and no toes, blue spit, and purple eyes.
They’re not supposed to be nice. They are there to scare children senseless.

 

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Grand High Witch- Quentin Blake illustration

The book allows you to use your imagination in its full fledged form, but you can argue whether this fear factor is reduced, translated onto the big screen. Personally I don’t feel this to be true. You have to take into account this is a 1990’s film, using props with no CGI. As a kid, there’s something grossly realistic about seeing a woman peel her face off in front of the audience, showing square feet and purple eyes and gnarled and crooked fingers in all their glory.

For the longest time I believed my dad when he said witches were real and I had this fear and also constant anticipation of catching one in the act of smuggling away a child, or hunting them down, just like Luke does-I was captivated by witches, and wished to be a good witch with magical powers. Much like “Matilda” and her ability to move things with her mind, the stuff of children’s dreams.

So here are some points to consider.

a) The Grand High Witch- the worst of all the witches, is seen to have a pretty mask which covers her true form so as better to fool people with. Moral: Witches are always in disguise, just because they are attractive doesn’t make them more trustworthy. And let’s not forget when the Grand High Witch takes off her mask- it is the stuff of nightmares.

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Angelica Huston as The Grand High Witch

b) Luke is advised not to shower too often by his grandmother, in case the witches sniff him out, and clean children smell just like fresh dogs droppings- so keep a look out for women in the streets who are holding their nose when they pass you!

c) Witches are all women (though, if you look closely in the film, some of them are male, probably due to lack of members to cast)

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RSPCC board meeting (“The Witches” 1990)

d) They plan on setting up sweet shops all around England in order to poison children and turn them into mice so they can be squelched.

e) They commit vile and despicable acts of cruelty and show no remorse.

So what does this teach young, impressionable young kids?

“She might even be your lovely school-teacher who is reading these words to you at this very moment. Look carefully at that teacher. Perhaps she is smiling at the absurdity of such a suggestion. Don’t let that put you off. It could be part of cleverness….”

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Roald Dahl illustrations- which one is the witch

That they go around suspecting everyone is a witch- at least until the effects of the story wear off.
But it does draw attention to trusting strangers and accepting things from them. One memorable part is when Luke is playing in his tree-house, and a witch appears below and tries to entice him down with a bar of chocolate. Now, if Luke had not been wise enough, (and if the woman didn’t have purple eyes), well, we all know what might have happened.

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Erica “The Witches”

Perhaps another memorable in the story is of a little Norwegian girl named Erica, who after being kidnapped by a witch, appears in her father’s painting. However, not only does she often change position in the painting, feeding the ducks, or standing in the farmyard; but she also grows older. The years go by, until one day- being an old woman, she disappears from the painting altogether.

 

Erica vanishes into the Painting

Creepy huh?

We assume she has been killed by a witch, but her ‘presence’ in the painting makes it all so eerie and gives you goosebumps. Is it really her in the painting? Her ghostly echo is heard calling ‘Papa’ several times. Who would cause such torment?
All these thoughts spiral in a child’s mind. And the answer to that is witches. They are demonic and punish children for no reason at all.

But don’t worry, because as there are bad witches, there are also good witches that counteract their evil. Phew!

Just as well they aren’t real, right?

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Here are some good extracts from Roald Dahl, which can be good discussion points for students in class. What do they teach children? And does this apply to real life?
“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.
A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”- The Twits

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”– Roald Dahl

“I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.”– Roald Dahl

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.”– The Witches

Bookilm Day 1: The Spirit of Robin Hood

 

Most people remember the outlaw Robin Hood as robbing the rich to give to throbin-hood-clip-art-10e poor. Yet this is only on the surface. In fact, the earlier ballads told of him doing no such thing. It was only at the beginning of the 19th Century that he has become known for this, his skill at archery- his ability to shoot arrows from a great distance to land its target and being good with the sword. Though originally he is shown as a Yeoman, (a commoner who cultivates the land) later on Robin is portrayed to have lands and position as Earl of Huntingdon, which have been snatched from him by the eager and cunning hands of the Sheriff. In the versions that followed, it is said that Robin went on the crusades to fight in the Holy War for King Richard the Lionheart. His acts of courage and battle hardy skills are all contributing factors to appoint him the leader of the outlaws.

So what do we know about Robin Hood? At first glance he is considered loyal and brave;a good leader. He would lay down his life for his men, and they for him. He does not harm women or children and always comes to the rescue at his own peril, to save those about to be executed; or hung or amputated.

No honour among thieves? Seems there is- he punishes the corrupt and is saviour of the oppressed.

In this way, Robin typically signifies a ‘concept’, a martyr of the people, those who are too weak to look after themselves and are taken advantage of by those in power and authority. The stories tell of his adventures as he one by one recruits his men, from Little John, to Allen a Dale, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck and Much to name but a few, not forgetting his childhood sweetheart and heroine Maid Marian. In the retelling, their adventures often involve a fight in each chapter and the scrapes they get into, but Robin Hood and his merry men clad in Lincoln Green always triumph over injustice and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.

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Marian

The character of Marian is depicted a spirited and outspoken lady who, not only is good at fighting herself, but often disguises herself as a man in order to avoid detection in and out of the castle. She is seen helping those in need and acts as spy for Robin and his gang in Sherwood Forest whenever there is need.

It is interesting to see the changes made in the adaptations of the original ballad, from modern day TV series to films that tell of Robin Hood and his merry men. There have been countless adaptations which have featured the happy outlaw and cater for a modern audience.

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Robin & Marian (Robin Hood BBC TV Series)

For Saturday night viewers, those who remember the ‘Robin Hood’ series starring Jonas Armstrong (before ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ & the results show)- it is a family show that caters for a younger audience. Robin is in his mid 20’s, with the attractive Marian who, along with the presence of Richard Armitage as the sneering leather clad Guy of Gisbourne, was one of the main reasons I watched the show. When she left, the show introduced a variety of meaningless characters with a plot bordering on the ridiculous. They were there for the sake of being evil, but nothing could bring Marian back, and shattered all hopes of Robin and Marian being together like they should be. The show only lasted three seasons before it ended.

To act as a further comparison, later films (including Ridley Scott’s adaptation of the popular legend and ‘Prince of Thieves‘) reveal a mature Marian and Robin, supporting a different take on the ballad. A more accurate portrayal, in my opinion, of the stark and brutal reality during Robin Hood’s lifetime.

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“Prince of Thieves” 1991 film

There is no denying there has always been comedy in Robin Hood. From the fierce yet frustrated sheriff who is always duped by Robin, to the adventures of the merry men whose presence it can be argued; is to provide comedic relief; there is something to make it light hearted and enjoyable for all audiences.

The fluctuation of character portrayals can be quite amazing. Let’s take Guy of Gisbourne for example.

In Howard Pyle’s “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood”, he appears as a stranger in the forest who is killed within a chapter by Robin in a duel. In the 1956 version by Roger Lancelyn Green, he is the right hand man of the Sheriff of Nottingham, who tries to woe Marian and pursues her any chance he can get. In the 1991 Kevin Costner version (of which the sheriff is played by Alan Rickman and Richard the Lionheart by Sean Connery) Guy of Gisbourne is portrayed as the Sheriff’s cousin, whom he subsequently stabs to death when he fails to succeed in the capture of Robin.

 

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Ridley Scott’s 2010 film

Now we come to the the most recent film directed by Ridley Scott. Guy of Gisbourne does not even appear in this, and the Sheriff is portrayed as a snivelling and power hungry lacky of Prince John who hardly makes an appearance more than three times in the entire film. Perhaps this is due to the vast number of villains, with Prince John holding a prominent role, along with the new character of Godfrey.

Ultimately, whether Robin Hood existed or not matters little. The ‘idea’ of him has transcended time- a hero to represent and defend the people against corrupt lords and the law of the land, inspiring others with his spirit, to address the balance between the rich and the poor; issues which are important to this day.