Escape your life for a little while — come play in mine.

Leave Robin Hood alone!

Posted by Lissa on March 16, 2009

Ed Morrissey and Ace are having themselves a little discussion about whether Robin Hood was 1) left-wing; 2) right-wing; 3) capitalist; 4) socialist; 5) evil; 6) pragmatic, etc.


With all due respect to The Altar of Ayn Rand, I think she got this one wrong. Her character Ragnar Danneskjold opines that we must rid the world of the memory of this “hero” who stole from the productive rich and gave to the undeserving poor.  But even he admits that Robin Hood’s “rich” were rich through taxation and exploitation, not production.

Come now, haven’t you all seen the Disney Robin Hood? (“Oodle-lally, oddle-lally, golly what a day!”) We could make that movie the Official Evil Conservative Showcase Movie, it’s got everything!

Powerful state/government figures being corrupted with power? Check!

Those with powers of taxation using them mercilessly to deprive the public of their hard-earned wealth? Check!

Showing that the poorest are hit hardest by greedy government? Check!

Hell, we’ve even got Second Amendment rights — the right of the people to resist tyranny with bows, arrows and swords! Check-checkity-check-check-check!!

If you read the book, it gets even better. The Earl of Locksley, like so many others, was a target of king because his estate was rich; as a result, he was unjustly deprived of his land and station. He refuses to go gently into the good night, instead retiring to Sherwood Forest to live as an outcast and an outlaw. But when he steals from “the rich,” he does not target barons and lords who rule their people well, nor millers, nor tradesmen. He targets what Randians would term “moochers” — sheriffs, monks, abbots, folks who suck money from the helpless but productive people they rule.

What, exactly, is not to like about this?

Hmph.  Ed and Ace must be fox-haters or something.

Full disclosure: I went through a period, some twenty years ago, in which I watched Robin Hood at least once a week. To this day, you can put the movie on mute and I can supply each line, voice by voice, verse by verse. I do a mean Prince John.

and P.S.  Yes, Ed, we can agree that Kevin Costner was the worst Robin Hood EVAH.  In other news, the sky is blue, puppies are cute, and chocolate is delicious.


5 Responses to “Leave Robin Hood alone!”

  1. Alan said

    Yeah, that whole “stole from the rich” line is wrong. Robin Hood stole from the government and gave the money back to the taxpayer.

    I have no problem with that.

  2. Mike said

    I think the semantics of whether he stole from the rich or the government are beside the point since the groups were then effectively the same. I think the problem with applying that story in modern America is that, with rare exception, today’s rich didn’t get that way by oppressing the masses. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be how most people view things.

  3. Rob K said

    Well said! I noticed that some time ago myself. Robin Hood is a libertarian hero fighting corrupt, oppressive government.

  4. tisdone said

    Have any of y’all had a chance to catch the BBC version of Robin Hood from ~2006? It also is shown on BBC America … though I picked up Season 1 from the local library a few months back, and just got the email that Season 2 is ready at my library to pick up now.

    Anyway – they do a great job of exploring the motivations of Robin as an agent of freedom, not just stealing from the rich. There is also heavy play of the “yes I could kill the sheriff, but then who would be sent to take is place” theme -better the evil we know and can manage than the certain doom of a replacement.

    The Sheriff is so delightfully evil that you can’t help but admire him, if you’re into that sort of thing. And even better still, Marian could kick your butt this way or that with her eyes closed, she’s not just there to look pretty and swoon for Robin.

    While they have taken some liberties with the original Robin Hood plot – I think they’ve done a fabulous job of weaving a create series out of it.

  5. Brad K. said

    One reason for the ‘folk hero’ status Robin Hood won, was his continuing devotion to his king – Richard the Lion-Hearted – while the king was away to the Crusades. In the king’s absence, corrupt wannabes trashed and cashed in everything they could get away with, allowing for the fact that they commanded the army.

    The church at the time was the Christian church. The same church that took the festival of the full moon after the vernal equinox that all the rustic “poor” people celebrated – and delayed to the next Sunday, calling it Easter. This church *only* served the wealthy, in the cities. The few true service-oriented faithful – like friar Little John – were disparaged and outcast by the temple-based church. That is, the moneyed-churchmen that Robin Hood targeted were true social and economic parasites – with a great deal of armed might at their disposal.

    When the rightful King Richard returns to England, Robin Hood renders him full honors, having helped resist those that would have overthrown the rightful king. And Robin Hood was honored and forgiven (by some).

    The simple, facile metaphor that Robin Hood stands for today – gack. “Steal from the rich, give to the poor” doesn’t begin to cover the actuality – resisting corrupt and subversive political moves by unscrupulous tyrant wannabes. The metaphor sucks. The actual story is idyllic and troubling.

    Both sides – the Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin Hood could be said to act as terrorists. One big difference is that the SoN left a much wider trail of bodies, the other is that Robin Hood was patriotic to his King; the Sheriff was loyal to his mob boss.

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