I consider myself at least a well-informed amateur historian. I’ve studied the subject for, literally, decades, and of the books in my personal library, I’d guess a good half of them are concerned with one or another historical incident, accident or trend. I use that background to inform a lot of my own writing.
One of the cardinal rules of the historian is that one should never, repeat, NEVER evaluate an earlier period of history through the ‘filters’ of the customs, attitudes and morals of a later period, including one’s own. For example, it’s useless to categorize all slave owners as ‘immoral’ when, by the standards of their own time, what they were doing was not considered immoral at all – so much so that even the Bible does not condemn slavery, but encourages slaves to be obedient servants of Christ as well as their masters. George Washington owned slaves, and saw nothing wrong in the practice. Today, in a more enlightened time, we condemn it out of hand – justifiably so, as I’m sure you’ll agree – but we can’t expect people of a bygone age to see it our way.
That’s why any reinterpretation of a historic event, or legend, or fable by the entertainment industry has to be approached with dire suspicion. Those who may be ‘authorities’ in that industry are seldom, if ever, sufficiently well informed and/or qualified to evaluate history correctly. There have been innumerable lapses of judgment that have almost (if not entirely) ruined history ‘for the masses’ by deliberately changing events, cultures and rationales to fit modern sensibilities. (Remember ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade‘, where much of the action was switched from the Crimea to India? Or the myriad historical inaccuracies in ‘U-571‘, perpetrated in the name of increasing its box-office appeal?
A new version of Robin Hood, destined for release this year, is to reveal a rather different side to the beloved outlaw: a “seriously militarized anarchist revolutionary” returning from an unjust Crusade with PTSD.
The 2018 Robin Hood, played by British actor Taron Egerton, will see a hardened crusader believing he has been deceived into fighting for a “bull—t” cause, returning to England full of resentment.
There, as he observes a “fractured” society, he is moved to his famous ambition to steal from the rich to give to the poor after observing the inequalities in society.
Newly-released pictures show the cast, which includes Jamie Foxx as Little John, using bows and arrows which, the actor said, have been computer-generated to make them “rapid-fire, almost like an AK”.
The Sheriff of Nottingham, played by Ben Mendelsohn, is seen in a very modern steel-grey coat, flanked by a futuristic army wearing heavy metal armour and appearing to wield guns.
There’s more at the link.
Let’s just run down a few points, shall we?
- “The term ‘anarchist’ first entered the English language in 1642, during the English Civil War, as a term of abuse, used by Royalists against their Roundhead opponents.” That puts it several hundred years later than the Crusades – and makes it an entirely inaccurate label for Robin Hood.
- The Crusades were perceived by Christians at the time as righting injustice, not perpetuating it! (Muslims, of course, had a different perspective.)
- PTSD was an unknown term in those far-off days, although its effects were doubtless known. Life in medieval Europe was extremely dangerous from birth to death, no matter what one’s station in life. Life expectancy does not appear to have been much over 40 for even the upper classes – and it was probably significantly worse for the poorer, lower-status classes. Everyone would have been aware that life was uncertain at the best of times.
- “Bull****” causes” have existed throughout history, as has the judgment of those encouraged (or forced) to fight in them. The Crusades were often reassessed in that light by their survivors. So was the American Revolution, the American Civil War, even the First World War – see Smedley Butler, for example. That a mythical Robin Hood might have thought likewise is not surprising, and hardly worth trumpeting as a major new perspective on his character.
- Society was not “fractured” – it was remarkably cohesive, for its time. Class structure was, of course, dominant, and there was little or no social mobility. Today we regard that as an evil. In its day, it was regarded as being as natural as breathing.
- There was, and is, no such thing as a “rapid-fire bow” as described. Ancient China developed a rapid-fire crossbow, but it wasn’t very effective. The English longbow is anything but rapid fire, because it demands enormous strength and energy to draw and loose repeatedly. It took years to learn to use it properly. A top archer might loose six to eight arrows in a minute, for two or three minutes, but after that he’d be so exhausted that his rate of fire would drop significantly.
- As for the Sheriff’s period-inaccurate dress and his “army’s” equipment (particularly bearing in mind that Sheriffs did not command “armies” at all) . . . need one say more?
I can’t take this adaptation seriously, based on this report. It’s just another Hollywood mishmash, with no historical accuracy whatsoever. On the other hand, I’ll agree that Robin Hood may have had PTSD. He was an archer, after all, so of course he’d be highly strung!