Hello all, today we've got a bit of a treat for you. Neil Smith, author of the brand new 'Robin Hood', latest in the Myths & legends series, has given us a bit of an insight into his motivations and his experiences in writing the book. So without further ado, do read on!
By Neil Smith
Quick question: who is your Robin Hood? Russell Crowe? Kevin Costner? Maybe Jason Connery, or his famous father? Almost everyone has their Robin Hood. Mine is Errol Flynn, a result of watching Sunday matinee movies as a wide-eyed child in the pre-cable television days. There he was in magnificent technicolour, dispensing justice to the greedy Sheriff of Nottingham and his minions, while capturing the heart of the supremely elegant Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marion. This was indeed a Merry Olde England, with its jolly Friar Tuck, ebullient Little John, and its clean cut hero, Robin Hood. This was the stuff of childhood.
As I grew up, life intervened. Rarely is the cotton-wool world of childhood enhanced by life’s experiences: all too often we are faced instead with gritty realities. Studying for a degree in Mediaeval History did not help in that regard and the glossy Hollywood veneer was soon stripped away to reveal a much murkier English past. There were very few of the good guys, though still many bad ones, and in that world there did not seem to be room for a gallant bandit-hero who robbed from the rich to give to the poor. But that did not mean there was no Robin Hood, even if he was not my Robin Hood.
The Myths & Legends series from Osprey Publishing furnished me with the opportunity to search for the historical Robin Hood while still paying homage to the idealized versions found in popular culture. It proved a fascinating journey through the literature that has gone before and into the historical evidence. The legend is quite easy to find, stemming as it does from a few collected tales that are traceable to the Middle-Ages. It is not quite as easy to read though, and the most rewarding aspect of this project was to rewrite the legend in modern prose for a new readership – it is perhaps a surprisingly bloody tale: be warned! From there, I followed Robin’s trail out of the legend and into the myth and finally onto the stage and screen where Robin in all his guises now lives on for the most part. I did not find the ‘real’ Robin Hood and I am not sure that matters. I still have my Robin Hood, my hero for the ages, and he flits through my childhood memories like Errol Flynn through the majestic oak trees in Sherwood Forest. I hope then that through reading my book, you too will rediscover your Robin Hood.