Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Robin Hood legend lives on within us all

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ~Anne Frank

I have to admit something. I'm a Robin Hood fanatic. Ever since I saw the Errol Flynn version on television, lying in bed, home sick from school, I've been hooked. I went back and discovered the Douglas Fairbanks rendering. Despite poor reviews, I enjoyed the Kevin Costner "Prince of Thieves" (despite the film being dubbed "Robin of North Dakota" by critics, who panned Costner's lack of any kind of an English accent) during the early 1990's. I laughed hysterically, with my children, for Mel Brooks' satire of "Men in Tights". I became an avid watcher of the BBC television series, and loved the newest adaptation of the legend, starring Russell Crowe. Already a fan of Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo, and The Three Musketeers, I ravenously read Robin Hood le proscrit. Whether or not Robin Hood is a person based on historical fact, a purely invented character, or a folk hero lying somewhere in between, the ideals, values, romance and inspiration never fail to capture my own imagination. Based on the legend's popularity, I can only fathom that I'm not alone in this fascination.

What is it about the Robin Hood legend that inspires us? Of course, Robin's skill with a bow & arrow, his love for Maid Marian and his loyal band of Merry Men are the stuff of dreams. But, I believe what remains enthralling about the legend is the philosophy of helping those who can't help themselves. The Robin Hood ballads, which became popular in England by the 14th century, had their basis in fact; a time of misery, disease, poverty, starvation and over-taxation to support the Crusades had left England depleted financially, morally and spiritually. That a figure, real or metaphorical, would arise to help isn't surprising. How many people, in modern times, find comfort and excitement with more contemporary superheroes, like Batman or Superman? Just like these comic book champions, Robin Hood bravely protected the weak from the strong, the poor from the greedy, the persecuted from the tormentors. I believe there lies within each us a grand desire to have this kind of loving protection. The thought that there is a person, out there, lurking in the shadows, waiting to spring forward to keep evil at bay, is both comforting and reassuring. We want to know that, even if we don't see our protector, he is out there, simply gazing over our lives and will be called to action if we are being subjected to tyranny.

Of course, there are brave men and women who do just the Armed Forced, as Firefighters, Police Officers and Teachers. And yet, we know, as much as we'd love for there to be a REAL Robin Hood out there in the Sherwood Forests of our daily lives, the chances aren't great that this magical champion will hear our cries and come running if we're in trouble. The fact is, we must all learn to be our own hero or heroine. When life is unfair, when we're filled with doubts and low self-esteem, when we are overwhelmed by fear, we need to tap into our own inner Robin Hoods, draw our bows and shoot the metaphorical arrow into the source of our pain. Does this mean that we'll never be afraid again? Definitely not. We will be frightened, we will be lonely, we will feel burdened, hurt and in anguish. Those feelings will all be valid and understandable. But, true strength lies in knowing that we can experience pain in our lives, and still be able to face our disquieting situations with a 'due sense of right purpose'. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "A hero is no braver than an ordinary man. But, he is braver five minutes longer."

Can we do this? Can we stand up for our beliefs and not allow the maltreatment of others, or ourselves, for five minutes longer? Can we face down the beastly Sheriff of Nottinghams in our lives with a certain strength in our eyes? I believe we can. I believe that, lying inside each one of us, however dormant, rests a Robin Hood. I rest assured that we can each become empowered to protect others. I place my confidence in the goodness in mankind triumphing over the evil. I maintain that we each contain the tools, the skills and the aptitude for making the world a better place...even if it's only own our small corner.

The Robin Hood legend is fascinating. It's powerfully captivating, it's deliciously romantic and it's strikingly relevant today. But, we must always remember not to wait for Robin to come save us. Conversely, we must take up the mantle and be Robin Hood for others.