Chuck Jones Artwork

I fancied some light relief after a fortnight of computer problems. So here's some classic artwork from the master of animation, Chuck Jones (1912-2002). Jones brought to life 300 cartoon films for Warner Brothers and during his career gained three Oscars and an Honoury Oscar for lifetime achievement.

Above are two of his wonderful Loony Tunes creations, Porky Pig as Friar Tuck and Daffy Duck as Robin Hood taken from Robin Hood Daffy, which was released on 3rd August 1958

My computer is now thankfully sorted out!

Fairbanks's $250,000 Castle

This is Nottingham Castle, built by 500 construction workers for Douglas Fairbanks's Robin Hood (1922). On his return to the film set, after a visit to New York, Fairbanks asked if the castle was "big enough to look realistic," but he was not prepared for the gargantuan 90-foot edifice, covering 10 acres-the biggest see ever built in Hollywood, that awaited him!
As he approached the massive film set, he shook his head in disbelief, saying that his character-Robin Hood-would be swallowed up by such a monstrosity. He immediately canceled the production.

It took a lot of persuading by the producer Allan Dwan, to convince Fairbanks that he could use the gigantic scenery to his advantage.

Players Tom Thumb Cigarette Card

I was pleasantly surprised to see this on Ebay recently.

It is a Players 'Tom Thumb Cigarette Card' depicting Robin Hood. The artist was obviously impressed by Walt Disney's film version of the legend and decided to base his illustration on Richard Todd's portrayal of the noble outlaw. The artist must have had very good taste and a lot of talent. I wonder if any of the other characters from the film were used.

If you know of any more, please get in touch at

Jonas Armstrong Meets Some Ghosts

With more twists and turns than any of the paths through old Sherwood Forest, the third series of the BBC’s Robin Hood is reaching its conclusion over the next few weeks. The average audience of approximately 3.24m in the U.K. will not only see the dramatic siege of the village of Loxley but the return of King Richard to rally his forces against his scheming brother, Prince John.

Amidst the bombardment of Byzantine fireballs at Nottingham Castle, fans of the series will also witness the ‘real’ Sheriff of Nottingham (Keith Allen) return from the dead with his well equipped army and a pledge to finish-off Robin Hood (Jonas Armstrong) once and for all.

This is just one of a whole quiver-full of surprises that viewers will be treated to, in the finale of this rather disjointed and unpredictable take on the medieval story. The BBC are desperately trying to keep the last episodes of this series a close-guarded secret, but it is already common knowledge that Jonas Armstrong who plays Robin Hood will leave the show after three years. It is also believed that another ghost from Robin’s past-Maid Marian-played by Lucy Griffiths will also make a surprise return for the finale.
To read more about the BBC’s Robin Hood series and a whole lot more, I recommend

Are you a fan of the series? Please let me know what you think of this modern take on the ancient legend.

The Robin Hood Ballads

The way was long,
The wind was cold,
The minstrel was infirm and old,
His harp, his sole remaining joy,
Was carried by an orphan boy.

One of regular visitors to this site, Adele Treskillard is a modern day minstrel and author who sings with her group, known as Wren’s Song She has a keen interest in Robin Hood research, particularly with the evolution of those early medieval ballads about the outlaw and we have had long discussions vie email about their content. So I have decided to post an article I did for a Robin Hood Forum many years ago about the ballads concerning his exploits and the many other forgotten outlaw tales.

From our warm, centrally heated and double glazed homes, it is almost impossible to imagine what life was like for our medieval ancestors. On those dark, freezing cold evenings there was no doubt very often little to do except talk around the fire or sleep. So the minstrels (from ‘ministralis’ meaning dependant) who were kept by the great landlords must have sometimes been treated like our ‘pop’ stars of today.

Merry it is in halle to hear the harpe,
The minstrelles synge,
The jongleurs carpe.

Their ballads can be best described rather like modern day ‘soap operas’. These ‘talkyngs’ held the beliefs and aspirations of those who told the story and were created to entertain. This is important to remember. Like our modern day ‘soaps’, they did not survive if they were not popular. When the minstrel told how Robin hanged the sheriff or cut him in pieces, they were not describing a historical event, but we can be sure they were the vain dreams of many men gathered around the fire.

The violence of those early Robin Hood ballads is ruthless:

John smote off the munkis hed,
No longer wolde he dwell;
So did Much the litull page,
Ffor ferd lest he wolde tell.

And could you imaging Hollywood allowing Errol Flynn to do this to Basil Rathbone?
He tooke Sir Guy’s head by the hayre,
And sticked itt on his bowes end:
‘Thou has beene traytor all thy life,
Which thing must have an ende.’

Robin pulled forth an Irish knife,
And nicked Sir Guy in the fface,
That he was never on a woman borne
Cold tell who Sir Guye was.

That is not the Robin Hood I grew up reading about. Little John even shoots the sheriff in the back!
But he cold neither soe fast goe,
Not away soe fast runn,
But Litle John, with an arrow broade,
Did cleave his heart in twin.

Like many Robin Hood enthusiasts, I try to pull those early ballads apart, scrutinize the names and try to fix them into a historical context. But, by the time the existing ballads of Robin Hood came to be written down, the outlaw hero was already a figure of traditional narrative.

His world seems to be of the later Middle Ages, but he doesn’t seem to belong to any particular year or event. He has no ancestry, he remains impersonal and illusive and perhaps this is the key as to why his popularity has lasted for eight centuries. Robin’s legend is unique, because it exists without its text. His story can be manipulated to become anything, from a yeoman, disinherited nobleman, or a native Saxon fighting evil Normans.

So what evidence is there to suggest he ever lived? No one ever said they saw or knew him. No surviving chronicles exist that prove he existed. The early chroniclers-centuries later- only seem to use references from the ballads. So we come back to the work of those minstrels and entertainers for any evidence. But did the audiences of those early Robin Hood ballads, in their wealthy household, or market place or tavern, even care if this outlaw ever lived?

Whoever wants to hear more must open his purse.
My biggest disappointment, when I first started reading about the Robin Hood legend, was to discover how much of his story appears to have been ‘borrowed’ from other outlaw ballads. This led Professor Francis Child (1825-96) the great American Philologist, in his monumental ‘English and Scottish Popular Ballads’ to describe our hero as ‘absolutely a creation of ballad muse.’
There is indeed striking similarities between the stories of Robin Hood and the ballad heroes of an earlier date. The legend of Fulk Fitzwarin survives in a single manuscript, probably of the reign of Edward I (1239-1307) and contains at least two almost identical stories that later appear in the 15th Century ‘Geste of Robyn Hode’. Fulk’s brother John confronts ten merchants and the truthfulness of their answers determines whether or not they keep their goods.

In the ‘Geste of Robyn Hode’, Little John and Much stop the two monks and do the same. Later on Fulk Fitzwarin and his men ambush King John in Windsor Forest, where the King begs for mercy and swears to restore to Fulk his entire inheritance. In the ‘Geste’ King John’s role is played by the Sheriff of Nottingham, otherwise the story is substantially the same.

The tale of the Saxon outlaw known as Hereward and the Potter is almost identical to the ballad ‘Robin Hood and the Potter.’ The only difference is that William the Conqueror has become the Sheriff of Nottingham. This story-line also appears in the 13th Century ballad of ‘Eustace the Monk’ (c.1170-1217) who also flourished during the reign of King John. Eustace lives in the forest with a band of men and through many disguises the outlaw manages to trick and ridicule the Count of Bologne and lure him into the forest, where he is ambushed but eventually freed. Victims are brought to Eustace’s camp and asked how much they carry. If they tell the truth they are allowed to keep it, if not the outlaws keep the difference.
Sound familiar?

Always in these outlaw legends the champion of justice is the master outlaw. In the ‘Tale of Gamelyn,’ probably written about the middle of the fourteenth century we have the familiar outlaw code:
Whil Gamelyn was outlawed, had he no cors:
There was no man for him ferde the wors.
But abbots and priouris, monk and chanoun.

The audiences of the middle ages seemed to thoroughly enjoy stories of concealment and trickery. Fulk disguises himself as an old monk, a merchant and a charcoal burner. Hereward is disguised as a potter and a fisherman. Eustace the Monk wears the clothes of a potter, shepherd, pilgrim, charcoal burner, woman, leper, carpenter and minstrel. William Wallace became a potter, pilgrim a woman (twice) and a beggar. Robin Hood dressed up as a potter, butcher, beggar, shepherd, old woman, fisherman, Guy of Gisborne etc. These became the stock-in-trade tales of those early entertainers.

Some of the Robin Hood ballads seem to have changed very little and probably remain close to their medieval originals, others are not. Out of thirty-eight poems and songs published by Francis Child between the years 1882-1898 only five surviving ballads and a fragment of a play about Robin Hood seem to originate from the middle ages.

So for me, starting out on my historical quest for the ‘real’ outlaw Robin Hood, this was all a crushing blow. How much of his legend has even a grain of historical truth? Even the story of the firing of his last arrow seems to have been lifted from ancient mythology. The search was going to be a lot harder than I thought!

So my look back at the early outlaw ballads was a reality check. But I have continued my quest for the truth behind the legend of Robin Hood. It has opened up many doors into various aspects of the rich tapestry of our nation’s history. On this web site I will continue to post about the Robin Hood Places, Robin Hood History and of course the Robin Hood Ballads. But it must never be forgotten that it was those many mysterious, anonymous, often-illiterate minstrels and entertainers; the touring ‘pop stars’ of their time, that first spawned the countless incarnations of the legend that we know today.

I will finish with a proverb from c.1400-25 that is a warning to all those who join with me, through this web site, on the long and winding trail of the greenwood outlaw:
For mani, manime seith, spekith of Robyn Hood that schotte never in his bowe.Please click on the Labels Robin Hood Places, Robin Hood Ballads and Robin Hood History for more information.

Spanish Press Book

I saw this on Ebay recently. This was the Spanish press book that accompanied the release of Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood in 1952.
A big thank you to Azul Maria, who has very kindly translated the cover for me into English, it reads:
" The best legend of yesteryear...into the best movie today! Straight to the audience's heart!"
Azul Marias's very intersting blog is at

Crowe as Robin

Many of my blog readers are, like me, eagerly awaiting the release of the latest Robin Hood movie currently being filmed over here in England under the directorship of Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. Let’s hope we are all not too disappointed!

Here is the latest Hollywood gossip courtesy of the Daily Mail:

“Russell Crowe has been working hard to ensure that the pounds don’t pile (back) on while he’s playing Robin Hood in the new movie.

The film’s producers have thought-fully installed £80,000 worth of gym equipment in one of the three Winnebago trailers he’s using on the set of the film about the outlaw famous in folk tales for robbing the rich to give to the poor.

The converted motor home is full of weightlifting gear, a cycle machine and other fitness paraphernalia, to keep Crowe looking lean in his Lincoln Green.

The actor dieted and trained for several weeks before shooting started six weeks ago. ‘Russell’s a professional. He knew he was cast to play Robin, not Friar Tuck,’ one wag on the set told me.
For what was initially labelled a ‘difficult production,’ work on Robin Hood has (so far) been relatively smooth and executives at Universal in Los Angeles have been delighted with the footage that has been speeding its way back to them on a daily basis.

Shooting was to have begun last autumn and among many problems was a script that no one liked. Someone who saw an early draft told me it was one of the worst he’d read in years.
However, various people have toiled away on it, including Tom Stoppard, who gave it a top-to-bottom polish that left everyone happy-particularly Crowe, director Ridley Scott and leading lady Cate Blanchett.

The Oscar-winning actress joined the film after a red alert went out from Crowe and Scott when Sienna Miller withdrew from the project and Kate Winslet and Rachel Weisz were found to be otherwise engaged.

Shooting continues until early August and includes a two-week French invasion segment that will be filmed in Pembrokeshire.”

Joan Rice at Middle Pond

This is my first-and much treasured- picture of the gorgeous Joan Rice as Maid Marian, taken at Middle Pond at Burnham Beeches possibly during the filming of the Whistle My Love sequence for Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood (1952), sometime between April/June 1951. Below is the picture of the same area taken on my visit there on 30th April 2009.

Burnham Beeches Hotel & Forest

My wife and I have just got back from a fantastic week-end at Burnham Beeches Hotel in Buckinghamshire, where we have visited a couple of the locations used for filming Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood in 1951. The weather could not have been any better and I thoroughly recommend the Burnham Beeches Hotel, which was fabulous. The web site for the hotel is here:

As we approached the outskirts of the forest early on the Sunday morning, after a hearty breakfast, we noticed many mobile homes and caravans parked in a field near-by, with signs marked WB everywhere. Later when I asked an elderly couple how to get to Middle Pond and Mendelssohn's Slope; they informed us that Warner Brothers were filming the latest Harry Potter movie at Mendelssohn’s Slope and some of it was sectioned off!

It didn’t bother us at all, there was plenty to see and the forest was beautiful. We walked along what is known as Lord Mayor’s Walk to Middle Pond where Joan Rice and Richard Todd walked, accompanied by James Hayter and Elton Hayes singing ‘Whistle My Love’. I have a picture of Joan leaning up against some trees next to this pond and very little seems to have changed in the past 58 years!

It was the hottest day of the year, so when we reached Victoria Cross, the cafe was a welcome sight. But I was keen to move on, to see if I could recognise any more parts of the forest that might have been used as locations by Walt Disney’s film crew. So after refreshments we set off for Mendelssohn’s Slope via Halse Drive and Victoria Drive.

Some of the ancient trees were absolutely stunning; I must have taken nearly a hundred pictures. The forest canopy shielded us from the fierce heat of the sun and the bird’s serenaded us, as we walked along the winding forest paths.

Soon we turned into a track known as Victoria Drive with Mendelssohn’s Slope on our left hand side. I was told, by Jeremy Young, a Keeper at Burnham, that this was a location used by Disney for Robin Hood. The path was far more narrow and the tree canopy far thicker. I wanted to try and find the old ancient tree that Archie Duncan (Red Gill) hid in, when he shot Robin’s father. There are a couple of contenders, including Druids Oak, but I am not sure. There are so many massive gnarled old trees; it is very hard to identify THE TREE in ‘real-life’. A lot of this part of the forest did seem familiar but I intend to re-play the movie tonight to take another look and go through my photographs to compare.

We went back this morning (Monday) for one last look around, trying to imagine Walt Disney with Richard Todd and Joan Rice walking these same paths, all those years ago. Ahead we saw the security men with their walkie-talkies and high-visibility tops keeping the public away from the filming of Harry Potter. In part of that particular area the forest path had been covered in large plastic matting with heavy cables and generators. As we turned up Mendelssohn’s Slope I peered through the trees and caught a sight of some of the film crew busily moving equipment around. We eventually reached the top, but as we sadly left the shade of the forest canopy for the last time, I was sure I heard the faint shrill of a whistling arrow flying through the air!