This is not about the story of Robin Hood, that is, the sequence of events that made up his life. This essay is about the meaning of Robin Hood. That man, who, supposedly, lived, and the leader, who, supposedly, stole from the rich and gave to the poor.
I say, supposedly, for a reason. For a couple of reasons. Firstly, Robin Hood is a legend, not a fact. Like King Author, we don’t know if he lived, or who the prototype, that is, a man who actually lived, and became a legend, was. Legends can also be a compilation of individuals and events. It’s the stuff of bards wandering from village to village, and before that, from cave to cave, giving the news and entertaining folks. Yes, dear reader, before folks binged on Netflix, they talked to one another, and told stories. Long, complicated stories, just like a TV series.
Secondly, the byline of Robin’s story, the stealing from the rich idea, has a qualification. Robin does not steal to enrich himself. Theoretically, he doesn’t steal at all. He takes back to give back.
The one libertarian writer who got Robin so wrong was Ayn Rand. Then libertarians began to get him wrong, when they should praise and emulate him. Because a thief is someone who takes what doesn’t belong to him. That is not what Robin does. Robin targets the tax money. He takes back the tax money and returns it to those it was taken from.
Okay, it is now time for your history lesson, so that you understand this context. During the feudal period, (and this is the reason for the French Revolution) the noble class and the church paid no taxes. That is correct, boys and girls, those who owned 75% of the land did not pay a tax on it. The peasants paid taxes. The small farmer, the miller, the shop keepers, the midwife, indeed, anyone who earned their living paid taxes. This is not to say the nobles didn’t earn their keep. Nobles had to supply soldiers in the time of warfare, which was quite often. They also had farms, because they were responsible for quite a few people. So let’s be rid of our “all those horrible rich guys” ideas, as well as those romantic ones that nobles were, well, noble. Life is soooo much more complicated than that.
The idea of Robin Hood is one that does not hit us before the 18th century. Nonetheless, back in the day, when the Alpha males were into civilization building, it was the peasant who paid for the big infrastructures, the big wars, and the big church. All this bigness, however, benefitted the peasant as well. Smart peasants became rich peasants when the cities returned to their robust selves during the Middle Ages. So you can stop your bellyaching about how badly the peasants had it. Don’t forget, the nobles fought in their wars. In wars and plagues, they were vulnerable, like everyone else. Not like the elites of today, who send others to fight wars they profit from. Nonetheless, peasants were indeed paying too much in taxes.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Except that the elites do pay taxes in this present day. Perhaps, then, it is those who are the rulers who have not changed?
The real gem in Robin’s story is not, however, his taking the tax money back. It’s his willingness to take matters into his own hands. To organize and lead people, the peasants, so that they can take back a bit of their lives from a tyrant. That sort of organization comes from those Alpha males that some folks love to hate. I say males because it is rare for an Alpha female to lead a revolution. And don’t give me the “women are too busy with their children” malarky. In this modernist world, women do not have that many children, and there is a sizable chunk who are childless. No, revolutions are not a female thing. Writers, thinkers, co-conspirators, yes, but taking up the sword to lead?
The 1938 movie of the legend, titled, Robin Hood, has one of the best scripts written in this canon of the Robin stories. It was written by the team of Norman Reilly Raine, Seton I. Miller and Rowland Leigh. These three understood the purpose of the legend much more than those who write of the legend today. So I shy away from the most recent movies. Hollywood has become so narrow in its purview of the world.
Raine, Miller and Leigh wrote the language of insurrection. Fluently. Those conservatives, libertarians and traditionalists would do well to memorize this part of the script, which I quote below.
Here’s the setup: Robin Hood arrives at the castle of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Prince John and his friends, are feasting in the great hall. Robin carries the deer shot earlier in the day by a peasant. To shoot the king’s deer without his permission is a capital offense. Robin has saved the peasant’s life by threatening the life of Sir Guy of Gisbourn. That is why Robin shows up with the deer.
Errol Flynn as Robin is a treat. His way with the witty lines is unmatched by any actor today. Prince John is rather delighted with Robin of Locksley, perhaps because Robin is not a yes man? (Yes men are rather boring, are they not?) Robin is invited to sit and share the meal. He does. But he doesn’t change his attitude. At one point, during the conversation, the Lady Marian says, “You speak treason.” His response is, “Fluently.” And then, this exchange takes place:
What’s the matter? Have you no stomach for honest meat?
For honest meat, yes. But no stomach for traitors.
You call me a traitor?
You? Yes. And everyman here who offers you allegiance. What else do you call a man who takes advantage of the king’s misfortune? Now with this band of cutthroats you’ll try to grind out of every helpless Saxon a ransom that will be used not to ransom Richard, but to buy your way to the throne.
Let me ram those words down his throat, your highness.
No, later. Let him spout for the moment. (To Robin) And what do you propose to do?
I’ll organize a revolt, and never rest until Saxons in this shire are free men and can stand up and strike a blow for England and Richard.
Are you finished?
I’m only just beginning. From this night on, I’ll use every means in my power to fight you.
Substitute “Saxons” for “the people,” and “Richard” for America, and you get the picture. That we need a real Robin Hood today. Not someone to take over the government, or to be the new government, but someone who puts government in its place. And keeps it there. That’s who Robin Hood really is.
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