Few characters, historical or fictional, have endured as long as the legendary figure of Robin Hood. His popularity, in my humble opinion, can be put down to the essentially simple fact that he is still relevant in a world where the gap between rich and poor is not only still visible, but in fact growing.
The concept of a charismatic brigand who robs from the rich and gives to the poor has even been translated into policies dubbed Robin Hood taxes. With an increasing number of billionaires, most of whom are evading their tax responsibilities, it's easy to see why.
Of course the character of Robin Hood isn't without controversy. He was, whether real or fictional, technically a criminal. A violent thief in fact, guilty of multiple armed robberies resulting in many deaths. He was, however, also a proto-revolutionary. Taking in refugees and fugitives to form his band of 'Merry Men', Hood effectively led an uprising against the nobility which oppressed and exploited the peasantry. Above all, Hood represents a challenge to both the feudal and capitalist concepts of property and ownership.
In many ways, therefore, Robin Hood is reminiscent of the very real freedom fighters of the 20th century. Labelled criminals and terrorists by the establishments which sought to suppress them, they were instead viewed as heroes and liberators by the masses.
Hollywood, of course, has had its say on the character on multiple occasions. It is very telling that he is often depicted comically (be that Disney's fox-led animation or Robin Hood: Men in Tights) or presented as a noble who was unjustly robbed of his inheritance and was simply fighting to get it back (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). In many ways, this illustrates the power Hood still holds, and the fear of the rich and powerful have of allowing a more serious and true-to-character portrayal being presented on our screens.
Of course there have been such portrayals in media, from Robin of Sherwood from the eighties through to the 2010 film starring Russel Crowe, although even those detracted somewhat from the revolutionary aspects of the Robin Hood mythos. The sanitised, Batman-esque, Robin of the BBC's mid-noughties version, who refused to kill, is also testament to the fear the establishment has of depicting violent struggle to overturn injustice.
There have been many lesser-known retellings which I haven't mentioned, some of which have been more true to the crux of the tale of Hood's resistance. Where Robin Hood has come into his own, however, is in the influence seen in other fictional characters and stories. The most noteworthy of these are the masked vigilante Zorro, DC's Green Arrow and even more than this, Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. The latter, literally a symbol of the resistance, was involved in the violent overthrow of a regime in which power, wealth and freedom was unequally distributed.
Robin Hood has lived in our imaginations for generations, and I am in no doubt that he will remain the archetype of the heroic outlaw and rebel with a cause for generations to come.
Rise and rise again until lambs become lions.
- Robin Hood