The Forest Table

This picture was taken one morning, in 'The Forest Table’ restaurant in the Visitor Centre, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. Sherwood is my spiritual home. There are posters from the many Robin Hood films made down the years, on the walls all around, and this is the owner of this blog sitting next to undoubtedly the best version of them all!

I thought I would take this opportunity to thank some of my regular contributors and visitors for their help and support of my blog. I would especially like to thank Laurence for his recent input and fantastic picture strip, Albie, Neil, Mike, Geoff and Avalon for their regular comments and contributions (it really means a lot!). Also a special thank you to my 24 Google Blog Followers! Together I believe we have helped give Walt Disney’s ‘Story of Robin Hood,’ some of the publicity and recognition it deserves.

Well, I have now reached 525 posts on this blog and had 5,269 visitors last month. Many come to read my articles about the film and its production; others enjoy reading about the legend of Robin Hood and places associated with him. We have travelled many paths in the search for the outlaw and there are a lot more to come!

So if you are a regular visitor to this site or it is your first time  here, it would be great to hear from you. It can be information or a question about the legend, the Disney movie, its production, the actors and actresses, or comments about the blog, please get in touch. I will do my best to answer any questions you might have.

The More The Merrier !!

Picture Strip 29 : Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood

Part 29 of Laurence's very popular picture strip of Walt Disney's original movie the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952).

To see previous pages of the picture strip, please click here: Picture Strip.

If you want to learn more about the making of this wonderful film or the legend that inspired it, please click on the relevant subjects in the sidebar.

Henry VIII meets Robin Hood

Spring is my favourite time of year and in particular the month of May, when the celebrations begin to welcome the return of warmer weather.

May Day doesn’t appear in the Christian calendar, its origins are steeped in pagan tradition. The celebrations contain elements from the Roman Festival of Flora the Goddess of flowers and Beltane one of four major Celtic festivals. Taken from the god, Bel - the 'bright one', and the Gaelic word 'teine' meaning fire, we get ‘bright fire', representing the first day of Summer and the end of Winter. The thought of those long summer nights and a good harvest, with a plentiful supply of food to come, provided every excuse to celebrate May Day.

It was a tradition for young men and women to go out into the woods before sunrise in order to gather flowers and greenery to decorate their houses and villages with the belief that the vegetation spirits would bring good fortune and make the land fertile. Neighboring villages would compete to see who could bring back the largest piece of wood, which would be used as the maypole. Meanwhile young girls washed their faces with morning dew with the hope they would have radiant beauty for the rest of the year and made May garlands of flowers and foliage.

In 1480 the mayor of Coventry gives us an insight into the custom of ‘bringing in the May.’

“The people of every city – as London and other cities – yearly in Summer do harm to diverse lords and gentles having woods and groves nigh to such cities by taking of boughs and trees; and yet the lords and gentles suffer such deeds oft-times of their good will.”

The rest of the day was given over to various festivities. The villagers would take part in dancing on the village green, plays, archery and contests of strength. The highlight of the day was the crowning of the May Queen later the Maid Marian, the human replica of Flora. By tradition she took no part in the games or dancing, but sat like a queen in her flower-decked chair to watch over the subjects.

Maid Marian and the Friar with various characters from the May celebrations.
A shepherdess called Marian and her lover Robin have links with these village plays and pastourelles at a very early medieval period. Eventually the outlaw traditions merged with these games, plays and celebrations and gradually up and down the country Robin Hood and Maid Marian became interchangeable with the Lord and Lady of the May Celebrations.

In surviving churchwarden accounts we have the records of these ‘revels,’ 'sports,’ and ‘plays,’ of Robin Hood.’ In Croscombe, just outside Wells in Somerset, the parish records include ‘Roben Hodes recons,’ for the ‘sport’ or ‘revel’ of Robin Hood. The player of the outlaw paid the amounts regularly. The churchwarden’s accounts for Kingston-on-Thames mention the costumes of ‘Robyn Hode with the mores daunsaies, the frère and mayde Maryan.’ The Friar wore white and Marian was given a green cloth (Kendal) and a satin trimmed cloak.
Henry VIII and Katherine
It was during the early 16th century that the printing presses began producing editions of the ‘Geste of Robyn Hode.’ The popularity of the outlaw was now immense and this fascinating report from Edward Hall’s (c. 1498–1547), ‘Chronicle’ of 1516 shows that even royalty were invited to celebrate May Day with Robin Hood:
“The King and Queen [Henry VIII and Queen Katherine] accompanied with many lords and ladies rode to the high ground of Shooters Hill to take the open air; and as they passed by the way, they espied a company of tall yeoman, clothed all in green with green hoods and bows and arrows, to the number of two hundred. Then one of them, which called himself Robyn hood, came to the King, desiring him to see his men shoot, and the king was content. Then he whistled and all the two hundred archers shot and loosed at once, and then he whistled again, and they likewise shot again; their arrows whistled by craft of the head, so that the noise was strange and great, and much pleased the King and Queen and all the company. All of these archers were of the King’s guard and had thus appareled themselves to make solace to the King. The Robyn hood desired the King and the Queen to come into the green wood, and to see how the outlaws live. The King demanded of the Queen and her ladies, if they durst adventure to go into the wood with so many outlaws. Then the Queen said that if it pleased him, she was content. Then the horns blew till they came to the wood under Shooters Hill, and there was an arbour made of boughs, with a hall and a great chamber very well made and covered with flowers and sweet herbs, which the King much praised. Then said Robyn hood, Sir, outlaws breakfast in venison, and therefore you must be content with such fare as we use. Then the King and Queen sat down, and were served with venison and wine by Robyn hood and his men to great contention.”

This account shows that by the Tudor period Robin Hood was not only associated with unruly and often bawdy May celebrations, but had diversified into a genial host and had began to prepare the grounds for later theatrical productions.

Martitia Hunt as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine

Martitia Hunt (1900-1969) on the set at Denham Studios as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine in Walt Disney’s ‘Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). Playing the part of the mother of the crusading King Richard I and his scheming brother Prince John, she found herself the linchpin of a divided kingdom, a part, the elegant Martitia was made for.

To read more about the tall, stately, velvet voiced actress please click here: Martitia Hunt.

Some Images of Sherwood Forest

Albie is a regular contributor to this blog and is lucky enough to live near legendary Sherwood Forest. He regularly cycles along the paths of that beautiful woodland and often sends in stunning pictures and information Here are two links to his popular Youtube pages, ‘Albie in the Woods’ and ‘Albie on Tour. ’

Here are just a few of his recent snaps, including a carpet of bluebells amongst the ancient trees and two experimental panoramic shots (3 shots stitched together), which gives the viewer a  feeling of actually being on the forest path. I am sure you will agree that these are fantastic images and certainly make me want to visit Sherwood very soon.

Here is a link to a lot more images and history of Sherwood Forest.

Picture Strip 28 : Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood

Part 28 of Laurence's very popular picture strip of Walt Disney's original movie the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). This is one of my favourite scenes. I wish I could have carried Joan Rice (Maid Marian) across that stream!

To see previous pages of the picture strip, please click on the label below.

If you want to learn more about the making of this wonderful film or the legend that inspired it, please click on the relevant subjects in the sidebar.

Google Problems

My post of the next edition of the picture strip from yesterday has completely vanished! This was something to do with Google. I am sorry for anyone that has left comments and I will re-post it today.

Guy of Gisborne

 Richard Armitage

In the recent BBC Robin Hood series created by Dominic Minghella and Foz Allan, one of the best loved and enigmatic characters was that of Sir Guy of Gisborne played by Richard Armitage. Like Basil Rathbone before him, in the classic Hollywood blockbuster The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Armitage played the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham’s evil henchman who secretly is in love with Maid Marian. Thus an intriguing love triangle is formed between him, the beautiful Marian, and the outlaw Robin Hood. In his leather clad outfit, Armitage’s portrayal of the dark, complex and mysterious knight was in my opinion one of the best I have seen. But the BBC series didn’t stop with just Sir Guy though, and even introduced his sister!

Another hugely popular interpretation of Guy of Gisborne was accomplished by the late Robert Addie, in an earlier TV series of the 1980’s, ‘Robin of Sherwood’. Like Rathbone before him, Addie was an accomplished swordsman but also a competitive archer and a very experienced horseman.

Basil Rathbone

There may have originally been independent medieval tales of Sir Guy in circulation, and elements of his death may contain links to pre-Christian tradition. In the archaic and very violent ballad ‘Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne,’ (c.1475) he wears ‘capull hyde, top and tayle and mayne.’ This appears to be a complete horse’s skin and indicate a symbolic link to an ancient Germanic horse deity or ‘man-animal’.

In this surviving medieval ballad, Guy of Gisborne is a bounty hunter who attempts to capture Robin. But the outlaw foils the attempt and kills him brutally, by beheading him, sticking his head on the end of his bow, disfiguring his face and gouging out his eyes!

We are of course at the mercy of what has survived down the centuries. The Scottish poet, William Dunbar (1460?-1520?) wrote in his 'Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins' in 1508:
'Was never weild Robeine under beache,
So bauld a bairne as he;
Gy of Gisburne, na Allane Bell,
Off thocht war nevir so slie.'

     Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne

A fragment of a genuine medieval Robin Hood play is written on the upper half of a half sheet of paper (8’’x10’’) containing household accounts from East Anglia dated May 1475-August 1475 and is kept at Trinity College, Cambridge. This verse play of twenty-one lines is possibly founded on the ballad of ‘Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne,’ unfortunately the villain is not mentioned by name.

But where is Gisborne, and who was Sir Guy?

Professor J. C. Holt in his groundbreaking book ‘Robin Hood’ (Thames & Hudson Second Addition 1988) agrees with the great ballad collector Francis J. Child, and suggests ‘the villain takes his name from a village known as Gisburn (Gisburne), ten miles from Wyresdale, to the east of Bowland Forest.’ This is seven miles from Cltheroe on the borders of Lancashire, which seems far removed from other sites associated to the legend.

But many years ago I stayed in York, quite near St. Mary's Abbey. It was while I was there that I bought a book on the many once magnificent Yorkshire Abbeys and discovered that the town and priory of Guisborough was once known as Gisborne!

Guisborough/Gisborne Priory

Robert de Bruce (d.1141) a Yorkshire baron founded the priory in 1129 for canons of the order of St. Austin on the south slopes of the North York Moors and dedicated it to St. Mary. All through its history the Bruce’s and their dependants were strong and generous supporters of the priory and many family descendants were buried there, including another Robert de Bruce, (1210-1295) the 5th Lord of Annandale, known as the ‘Competitor’ who by 1300 was claiming the crown of Scotland. Robert was son of Robert Bruce, 4th Lord of Annandale and Isobel of Huntingdon. It was his grandson, also known as Robert de Bruce (1274 –1329), who did become King of Scotland, and was the legendary victor at Banockburn.

The connections between Robin Hood and the Scottish hero Robert the Bruce are numerous and the Bruce family held the Earldom of Huntingdon for a long period.

Sadly, in the reign of Edward I (1289), the monastery was accidentally destroyed by fire, when all the books, relics, and goods were burnt.

The attractive market town itself may possibly have been built on an old Roman settlement, as many remains have been found in the area. The Domesday Book mentions three manors and a church in ‘Ghigesburg,’ and although Saint Nicholas Anglican Church has the de Brus cenotaph, today it contains nothing older than 1500.

In the year 1195, the town is known as 'Giselburn', indicating the name’s original meaning, 'rushing brook', from the words 'gisel burna', the town being sited on such a stream. Robert de Bruce’s brother William became the first prior and the name Gisborne appears to have been used sometimes as an alternative for Guisborough.

The first recorded spelling of the surname is shown to be that of Walter de Gisburn (also known as Walter Hemingford/Hemingburgh an Austin canon (c1280 – 1350). In 1302, he was sent with two other monks by his prior to confer with the Archbishop of York as to some disorders that existed at Gisburn.

Walter wrote the history of the Priory of St Mary's, Gisburn, during the reign of King Edward III. In most manuscripts of his chronicle he is described as Walter de Gisburn he was certainly at Gisburn in 1297 (Chron. ii. 130, 131), and was sub prior in 1302.

He writes:

“[1129] in that year was founded our house at Gysseburne by Robert de Bruys.”

And again:

“That he should be buried in our house at Gysseburne, next to his father.”

Gisborne Priory

At the Dissolution, Guisborough Priory was looked upon as the fourth richest monastery in Yorkshire, forty nine miles from York. From a manuscript in the Cottonian Library it is said:

.... “the prior kept a most pompous house, insomuch that the towne, consystinge of 500 householders, had no lande, but lived all in the abbey."

At the dissolution the annual revenue was to the amount of £628. 3s. 4d.

And in the priors Will he writes:

......."all my half year's pension which was due unto me at the feast of the Annunciation last past out of the possessions of the late Monastereye of Gisborne dissolved."

One of the benefactors to Guisborough or Gisborne Priory was the Lascelles family of Lincolnshire and a Picot de Lascelles gave to the Priory, sometime before 1229, a bovate of land at Aylesby in Lincolnshire.

A John de Lascelles was steward of Sherwood Forest and on the 7th July 1277 it was he whom, according to an enquiry held in 1287:

“...came to Salterford and there found Robert the Monk and Robert of Alfreton with bows and arrows; and he seized them and took them to Blidworth to hold them in custody until the morrow. And later that night twenty men armed with bows and arrows came to where the aforesaid men were under arrest, broke down the entrance to the building, sorely beat a certain Gilbert, page of the aforesaid John the Steward, who was keeping guard over the men, and released them from custody. Later all the aforesaid men attacked the chamber where the said John de Lascelles lay and broke the doors and windows of the said chamber. In which matter an enquiry was made by the foresters, verderers, regarders and other officials of the forest.”

They were too late and by the time the jury met, three of the accused had fled into Yorkshire, five could not be found and only a handful were captured. Perhaps Lascelles arranged for the three that had escaped into Yorkshire to be hunted down by a hired mercenary from Gisborne Priory or village, perhaps someone known as Guy?

‘I dwell by dale and downe,’ quoth Guye,
‘And I have done many a curst turne;
And he that calles me by my right name
Calles me Guye of good Gysborne.’

'Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne' (c.1475)

Ó Clement of the Glen (2010-2011)